I walked into Family Court with my two week old foster baby.
I’m immediately struck by the crushing sadness and anger that is around me. People in Family Court are immersed in brokenness. There are parents there who are angry that their children have been taken away. There are spouses there who are fearful that they might have to face an abusive partner. There are foster parents there who are feeling overwhelmed in their role for the day. There is just so much hurt and sadness.
I settle into a chair with my foster baby and wait for the familiar faces of my case workers to show up. It is important to me that I connect with the baby’s parents, but I like to have the case workers make the introduction on the first day. My case worker shows up and as we look for the parents I realized I had been sitting just a few feet from the mom.
“Oh, is that my baby?” She asks. “Yes, it sure is!”
I reply as I pick him up and hand him to her. Because for me, this is bridge building step #1. It IS her baby and she needs that reassurance from me that this case is not about me vs. her. We’re able to have a lovely chat while at wait. I affirm that we are here to be a part of her support system. How can we help? I assure her that the baby is receiving lots of love and care in our home and if she’s able to receive him back home, he will be a happy and healthy infant ready to transition to her care.
We have our hearing where it is determined that the baby will stay in my care for now. I give the parents some time to say goodbye to the baby following the hearing. There are many tears and my heart is broken for their situation.
It is not until a week later that I hear news that means it’s unlikely she will be able to parent this child. And my #1 priority is that he is safe and loved in a good home. But I also want to communicate her dignity and worth to her. Jesus values her as much as He does this child. Her value is no less than my own in the eyes of Jesus. So I create a picture book of memories of the first few weeks that the baby is with us. I find out her address and mail it to her. I don’t want her to miss out on those sweet moments of him as an infant. I also create an album for dad, who faithfully does visits each week, even though he is not in a place to be able to parent this baby.
Eventually a loving relative is found that is able to parent this sweet boy. We are filled with grief at his leaving, but at the same time so thankful that he will be able to be raised with his biological family. I’m able to communicate his schedule and needs with his new home and they still send me a monthly update so we can see him growing. We still talk about him and miss him, but this was a beautiful privilege to be a small part of one of many who loved this little guy.
We had no idea what we were jumping into as we entered the foster care world, we just knew that the needs were great.
We felt it was important that we were opening our home to children that needed one and not simply trying to add children to our family. I think back to our first placement of 3 siblings. I knew that we wanted to connect with their parents, but we were totally unfamiliar with court and how that worked. So I purchased a photo album and would send it each visit with updated pictures as well as a note as to some of their recent activities. This was a small step, but the dad was so grateful and communicated that to us.
We’ve had 4 sibling sets in our home and each of their situations have been different. Kids are always in foster care because the adults in their life have made some really bad choices. Our first priority as foster parents is always to ensure the kids are safe and loved. Visits with first families put kids into an emotional spiral. Foster families hate visits because of the horrible ways it affects kids in care. I get it. I understand it. We’ve experienced the huge sugar highs, broken promises, and roller coaster of emotions. We’ve learned that this is part of the process that we can’t change and adjust our schedules to allow kids the time of adjustment and emotional upheaval it will create. I John 4 has always been a highly convicting passage for me on love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7
We understand that sometimes parents cannot be allowed contact with their kids because of the abuse they’ve allowed. But we also understand that many situations involve these parents being in a broken spiral themselves. Do we truly understand what poverty, lack of a support system and addiction does to a person?
We don’t condone any action that compromises the safety of children, but are there ways that we foster families can make a difference in their lives as well?
Too often, foster care has simply become the free path to adoption. If you enter the foster care world, it has to foremost be with a heart of compassion for the entire family. Do not go in with the intent to save children or idea that you’re better than other families. Go in with a desire to see Jesus work miracles of restoration! And maybe that looks like adoption, but with continued building bridges with the first family. Our world is broken because of sin. WE are broken because of sin. It is only through the miracle of grace that we stand in a position to help others. May we never forget our call to love and humility.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:11-12
There are many reasons that people step in to be foster parents. Compassion must be at the top of the list. There is often this misnomer that kids in foster care are not loved by their first families. Of all the kids we have fostered, ALL of them have been loved by their families. That love may have looked different than it does in our home, it may not have meant the kids were safe. That love may not have been able to overcome addiction or mental health challenges, but there was love. Kids that end up being adopted through foster care have an inherent need and right to know about their first family. Making positive connections right from the beginning is so vital.
Will it be awkward? Probably. Will it always be perfect? No. Will there be growing pains and uncertainty? Yes.
Take small steps, gestures of love. Leave the outcome to Jesus and see what he does!
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:18-19
Kelly Hughes and her husband have been foster parents to many children since they began that journey in 2014. Two have been adopted into their forever family. Their desire to live out a mission of love has resulted in creating the Foster Love Project, a nonprofit that provides free resources for kids in foster care.