A few months ago, I had a chance to speak at a church in the Memphis area. After the service, the church graciously hosted a luncheon and invited the congregation to attend and learn more about foster care. Many came for lunch and the discussion that ensued.
One dad stood up toward the end of the discussion and valiantly admitted, “I’m afraid. I feel like this is what I am supposed to do, but I am just terrified.” Tears quickly sprang to my eyes. Gosh, I’m crying right now even as I write this.
Because I know exactly how he feels.
This crippling, panic-inducing fear when you feel like you are supposed to do something really hard but you just don’t know if you can. I’ve felt that fear. As I accepted a placement in the middle of the night. As I held an angry, grieving child. As I’ve sat through endless court dates when the outcome was unknown and the future unclear.
Fear and foster care are woven together from every possible angle.
Children placed in a foster home are afraid. Case workers making life-altering decisions for children are afraid. Foster families who say “yes” are afraid. Birth families striving to change their lives are afraid. Families who are considering foster care are afraid.
There is so much fear because there is so much unknown.
Perhaps you’ve been considering becoming a foster parent and the panic you feel has been paralyzing you from taking action.
We want to sit in this emotion for a bit and tackle it head on. What are foster parents afraid of? We had the chance to survey about 30 foster families and their responses may align with the thoughts you’ve been having as you consider this journey.
The top 3 things that foster parents are afraid of are -
- A false accusation from a child in care about you or your spouse.
- Not being able to handle all of the requirements of foster parenting.
- Something happening to your biological children.
Can you relate? Have these been the fears you’ve been afraid to admit?
So how do foster parents overcome these fears? What advice would they give to someone who is considering this journey?
Well, grab your coffee, get comfortable, and imagine you are sitting in a room with a group of foster parents. Here is their advice to you as you consider your next steps.
Several families encourage us to love birth families well.
Lynne Miller says, “Support the birth family as much as possible and love them well. It is good for the kids to see that relationship and for them to know they have lots of people who love them.”
“Don't get into foster care to adopt. Get into foster care to love and support families and stand in the gap,” says Jes Tanaka.
Many foster families highlighted the importance of gathering your community around you so you have the support you’ll need.
We love this quote from Melissa Owen, who says, “Take a deep breath, gather a loyal tribe, you can do this.”
Jennifer Cavett says, “Always be on the same page with your spouse and build your village before you commit to this journey. If your family is not around or not supportive, dive in with your local foster parents by volunteering at the closet or group meetings before you’re licensed.”
We love these two pieces of advice that don’t negate the fear you may be feeling, but instead choose to focus on the fear the child may be feeling.
“When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need guidance and please learn to begin to say ‘no’ when setting boundaries for yourself and for the children to foster. Also, keep your heart open to what lies ahead. The children are often more afraid than you are,” from Lauren H. Bauler.
Danielle Bernard says “I read a blog post that talked about not letting the fear of loving a child that may leave deter you but rather drive you. It made me realize I’d rather take on the hurt of a child leaving if I meant they would have a safe, loving home they could come to when they needed it most. That my thinking was really backwards, I was concerned about my feelings of loss if they would leave, rather than their feelings of loss they would be feeling. I still send the blog post to people today that say I’m scared of fostering for those same reasons.”
And finally, imagine these amazing foster parents patting your shoulder, looking you in the eye and giving you this advice.
Laura Stiffler says, “I think we just saw the need and wanted to be a part of the solution. We wanted to make an impact on the life of a child or children.”
Annette Grubb encourages us by saying, “Don’t ignore the calling. Not everyone is meant to foster but many are and let fear stop them!”
“Our interest in finding out if our fear was true or not for ourselves outweighed assuming a wrong possibility.” An anonymous foster parent shared this important piece of advice.
“We as adults have the ability to choose whether or not we enter this foster care world and face these fears. A child, however, does not have a choice. Who is better equipped to shoulder these burdens?” from Robert Printz
“Don’t let your fears get in the way of one of the biggest blessings, children don’t only learn from us, but they teach us as well,” from Kimberly Tharp
Foster parents KNOW this journey is hard. Their fears are real and oftentimes simmering just under the surface. However, as this group of foster parents has shown us, it is possible to live in both fear and hope. To focus instead on the opportunities, the gift of time, the relationships and the new journey ahead.
Fostering is hard. And it’s okay to be afraid. But, as foster parent Danielle Bernard says, “Do it! The kids are so beyond worth it and they need you! Don’t let your fears stop you from helping, let that drive you!”