I Could Never Do That

I Could Never Do That (Saying Goodbye to a Foster Child)

(re-posted from original post in Tidewater Parent, April, 2014)

By Autumn Schacht

I was speaking to a fellow foster mom recently who was in the process of having one of her little ones return home to be with their biological family member. The little boy had been part of her family for nearly a year. During that time she was “mama” in every sense of the word. She tucked him in at night, snuggled him, kissed his boo boos and loved him as if he were hers. She was there when he first sat up, learned to crawl and cheered him on as he took his first steps. And now she was saying goodbye.

When we talk about foster care or having to say goodbye, the outsiders’ response is usually, “Oh I could never do that. I could never love a child and then have to give them back.” That thought alone of having to possibly say good bye is what keeps most sane people from starting this journey. No one wants to purposely inflict pain upon themselves and their family, or do they?

What makes us so different? Do foster parents have a different heart or mind set than the average person? Do we love differently or feel pain differently? When you cut us do we not bleed? We are just like everyone else. We love the same. We say goodbye the same. And feel pain just like you would. The only difference is that we believe a fundamental truth, that there is purpose in our pain.

When we say yes to a child in need, we are saying yes to loving a child unconditionally for whatever amount of time God entrust that child to us. It may be a few months, a few years or a lifetime. We say yes to the laughs, cuddles, the joys and yes even the pain. We agree to love with reckless abandon. But why?

Because there is purpose in our pain. It is not about us or our family. It is solely about them. Some of these children have never experienced love. They have never known what it feels like to be held and comforted during a thunderstorm or a bad dream. Some of them have been neglected, not knowing what it is like to have an abundance of food readily available for the taking. Some have been physically abused or abandoned. They have never had someone sing them to sleep, give them advice, give them hope. At the end of the day that is what we are offering, hope. Hope to a child in need, no matter what the future entails. The time they spend with us they learn about love, giving and receiving. They learn that there is still good in the world. That they are safe.

If the day should come that we have to say goodbye, we trust that it all had meaning and purpose. We trust that we instilled love, hope and trust into their little lives and that they will take that where ever they go. That somehow the months or years that they were loved and taught by us will heal them, carry them, and encourage them in their future. We look for the joy in being part of their story, their testimony.

Sure it hurts. It hurts us, our children, friends and family. We grieve for months after they leave. Sometimes we never fully heal. But we do it again, over and over. Maybe we are just gluttons for punishment or maybe we can see a bigger purpose in all of this and it makes every tear and heartbreak worth the pain.

So yes we feel pain just like you. We bleed, we fall apart when they leave, but most of all we love with reckless abandon in hopes that it is all worth it.

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