The Heartbreak of Foster Care

I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently: lots of funny looks and tiny head shakes. Its not something I write about on the blog, but since there’s interest, I’ll answer. People don’t get why I’ve opened up my home to a foster child.

I understand that. I really do. And maybe I can explain it to you and maybe I can’t. I went through a process to get here myself. Basically it boils down to this.

Love is always worth it.

But to open yourself up for heartbreak? People tell me “I couldn’t do that.” Well, I’ve said that too, so coming from the other side, and with no malice, let me just say, yes. Yes you could.

We choose not to.

The heartbreak of foster care

I mean, there’s nothing glamorous about it. You voluntarily allow a child into your home whose parents are probably less than stellar. They come with lice (or worse). They don’t know how to eat at the table properly. They probably cry for parents you wish could be locked up for decisions they’ve made. It means child services in your home, scrutinizing you in ways no one does for a biological child.

But take a second to consider the alternative.

The Heartbreak of foster care

Where else would they be? A fellow foster parent recently posted to her Facebook page “We don’t do it because we aren’t afraid of heartbreak, but because we are afraid of what would happen to them without us.”

Pretty much.

Foster kids are generally at the bottom of the social ladder. Who really wants these kids? Less than a week after the ink dried on our license I was holding a five month old in the middle of the night, tears streaming down my face as I both fed him a bottle and scrolled through my Pinterest account looking at pictures of Prince George. Just a few months apart, but the world ADORES the Prince of Cambridge. No one wanted the tiny life in my arms.

He literally was “the least of these.”

foster baby

In the hard moments that’s what I cling to. This little guy isn’t just a foster child. He’s my little piece of Jesus, right here in my house.

But apart from all of that, people still want to know.

Will I get my heart broken?

It already is.

His tiny smile and great big losses. The phone calls for another child who needs a home. Every news report. Every Amber alert. All heart breaking.

If he goes back to his bio parents I’ll cry because I will have lost him. If we adopt him I’ll cry because he will have lost his bio parents.

Heartbreak is really just part of living.

But hopefully I’m teaching all my kids a really important lesson. Be compassionate. Take care of those who are weaker than you. Share.

kids and foster child

And love.

Because I’ve looked into the eyes of an unwanted child and I know.

Its always worth it.

Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 419 Comments

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419 thoughts on “The Heartbreak of Foster Care

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  1. Pingback: Life On the Web – May 8, 2014 – Lutherans for Life

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  4. Pingback: Love Is Always Worth It

  5. Tina Frisby

    Hello Kelly, I am glad I found your blog post about the heartbreak of foster care. I am a foster care worker in Kentucky and trying to come up with a great training opportunity for our foster parents because we have been struggling in the area of heartbreak and the emotional attachments and some of our families becoming a barrier to reunification efforts. I want to really come up with a different training and thought about a panel of foster and adoptive parents who have a lot of experience in this area to speak and answer questions etc. Would you care if I use your blog as part of my training and share with our foster parents because I really feel they will benefit from it especially since you are living it everyday unlike myself. If anyone has any suggestions that would also be beneficial please reach out to me as I am open for suggestions and my heart is with all of our vulnerable children…..that’s why I do what I do…..for each of them!!!! Thank you.

  6. Bellami

    Thank you for this truley words and the Motivation. I think so too – its always worth it. Lots of greetings from Germany

  7. Laurie Hendricks

    We took in a friend’s child when CPS took them and he couldn’t adapt to another foster home and DCS thought he’d do better with people who already know and love him, and he is. But he cries for his parents, and I’ve learned things about his home life that have changed how I feel about his family, and I’m torn between wanting his family whole so he can be home again and not miss them terribly like he does now, and dreading his going back to his family and losing the huge distance he’s come at home and in school since he’s been here.

  8. Brooke W

    Foster care is heartbreaking and its hard to stay positive through the process. I found looking up uplifting quotes on adoption has helped, maybe if I can share some here you can tell me what you think: Foster Care Slogans

  9. Our hearts are already broken – YES! Thank you for this post – it’s a simple response to those who don’t understand. I’m so grateful for the church I attend – we have 80 foster and adoptive families and that number is always growing. But even here where our chosen ministry is so celebrated – it is still misunderstood. I don’t think even foster parents can truly understand what our fellow foster parents are facing – the work is too diverse. Couldn’t imagine doing this work without Jesus!

    And I always add – every child deserves to have someone who is brokenhearted for them – and although I am not strong – I will choose to be stronger than the child whose heart is more broken than mine will ever be.

  10. dianne

    I am having a difficult time. I adopted two beautiful girls when they were 6 and 9 raised them with my whole heart. Loving ever min of being a parent even through the bad times. Now that they are 18 and 21 they have moved out and are living with their bio mom. They no longer call me mom and when I am with them I feel that I am so unimportant. Can anyone help me through this emotional loss and on top of all this my mom passed away in Sept. I am very much alone …I raised these kids alone and I have no family …Help!!!!

    • Amy

      Dianne… Are you on FB? There are so many support groups there with people who have gone through things just like you. Here is my email if you would like me to guide you to a few. Hang in there momma. Your love and dedication I’m sure is not far from these kids everyday thoughts. They are just trying to navigate themselves through a crazy world they were put in as young children through no fault of their own. I hope you are able to reach out for more help and guidance soon.

  11. We are glad for your experience. We are in the middle of fostering to adopt. The child is a blessing in our life. Parenting has been easier than I thought. However, foster system was the worst experience in our lives. We were convinced to do foster and adopt. As many foster parents know you get hours to make a decision and take in a child. We did that and are happy with him. The frustration is the system. We were constantly misinformed of the termination of parental rights. We were told they were going to be complete 2 months. Oops! Did we say terminate, we ment to say file. We’re told he was at 15 months in foster care. Oops! That was not true. They considered him in foster care for 6 months. We found it out through his lawyer GAL. We were never told about the lawyer and DFCS never told the lawyer about him being brought into our custody. Then our DFCS case worker quit and we found out she never filed our emails when there were issues with the biological mom not making phone calls and visitation issues. We were accused of preventing visits. Luckily we documented by email and by logbook. We always have a black cloud over our head about reunification. When you read the report of the family background there is history of neglect and abuse. So it is not just the loss that we may experience if termination does not happen, it is the fact of what he may go back to. The chances are still on our side, but it has been a nightmare. People really need to understand what they are getting into, understanding that foster parents have little rights, not always getting the truth( they may mislead information to get children into foster care system) and the pain you may experience if reunification. Just educate yourself before you foster. There are reasons people adopt only, go oversees and foster houses are in demand. This comment could go on, but read comments and blogs: good and bad! If we have to give up our foster child, it will be the last foster care at our home. I am glad you do what you do. I unfortunately am not one that could be given a child and give him back to neglectful and abusive family.

  12. I know the frustration of foster care. We quit after 28 children then a small miracle happened. You can read it

  13. Jackie

    We had our foster license for 3 days before we got our first call. (it was over a weekend so their offices were closed) They brought our son to me and asked if we wanted to adopt him too. I thought they were teasing me since it was our first placement…they weren’t. 9 months later we adopted him. When his sister was born she was placed with us too. We waited 1000 days to adopt her. It was full of ups and downs, stress, crying, praying and finally she was ours to keep. Fostering was definitely worth it. We have two beautiful healthy happy kids and wouldn’t trade them for the world.

    • So happy for you. What a nightmare. We are going through foster to adopt. The parenting was easier than I thought, but the foster care system is so bad. It causes us more stress than we have experienced. I hope we will get to adopt and I am happy for you. God Bless!

  14. zsc215

    I also grew up in fostercare for 12 years. I learned to cope and strive by finding a passion, which is rap music. I actually just released an Ep, with a song that I made to really just express myself on that subject, and being abandoned by my mother. I am posting it here becasue the reason I made it, aside from “ventin” is to speak to/for people that have been in similar situations. That being said if anyone comes across this post and is interested, check it out hope you like it

  15. Hi Kelly,

    Loved this post. I am working on a project that actually uses a farm to help foster kids. We would love for you to check it out! Let me know what you think!


  16. Lynn

    I am a foster-adopt mom and despite all the mistakes their bio mom made, she still loved her kids and lost them. I had the bittersweet experience of knowing her and experiencing her pain during the whole foster-adopt process. My blog may be of interest to you:

  17. I enjoyed your post- because I could really relate to it! I recently started an adoption blog too, check us out at Hope to read some more new posts soon!

  18. Reblogged this on The Foster Life and commented:
    This is spot on. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children.

  19. It’s time that our government reformed the way CPS is funded so not so many children are thrown into foster care. 90 percent of the money paid to states REQUIRE the children be removed from their homes. It would be so much better if a priority was put on strengthening families and letting children stay in their homes, if at all possible.

  20. mocamom1

    So much love and compassion emanating from these posts….
    Foster parenting IS heartbreaking, but worth every moment of it.

    My husband and I fostered, with the intent to adopt, a beautiful little ball of energy. Unfortunately reunification occurred and our hearts broke, although we always kept in touch.

    Now, 14 years later, I am once again this beautiful young woman’s foster mother, doing it solo now, and once again, I find myself bracing for the heartbreak as we’re working toward reunifying with her biological mother this summer. I take comfort and joy knowing that I’ve given her the best experience I can. She is a resilient young woman and I’m proud to be a part of her life.

  21. Jarrod

    Thanks for the blog. We love being foster parents. My wife and I were foster parents before we were biological parents. The child in our care at the time was largely involved in big brother classes as we prepared for our biological arrival. There have been only a few placements since then, because all were long term with us.
    The first ending in adoption (after 2years) with another family and another ended abruptly as she decided to leave and go on her own. That is actively one of the hardest things to sit and watch. This placement was for a little over 2 years. The sad part is that the leaving motivation came from her being in a codependent relationship. All of the research points to early development of trust and social learning being affected by abuse of any kind at early ages. It’s easy to wish for punishment of the initial offenders, but with the mindset of understanding that things happen for reasons, its easier said than done. Particularly with regard to mental health, which is under wraps within this nation. It’s such a problem that people do not know how to address it. We hope and pray that our little grown up can maintain at least the bottom of Maslow’s. Best wishes to you guys and thanks again for sharing your experiences. Bridging lives is so rewarding, we have no regrets for our decision to be foster parents either.

  22. You are an angel. Believe me when i say what your doing is so wonderful. I was a foster child and the only people who were ever parents to me,accepted me into their family were a group home administrator and her husband, believe me without them.i would be nothing but another statistic they gave me so many things i could not even begin to share with u everything. So thank you for everything you’ve doing.

  23. Amber

    I love this! My sister in law and brother in law had just signed their docs and a week later got a call to take not one not two but 3 siblings. The home they had just placed in had decided it was just too much for them. Lice, 4 year old and 6 year old peeing their pants, rashes so bad they burned, 4 year old couldnt talk and be understood. The agency said to her we could separate them if its too much too soon….was it too much too soon….I’m sure but the thought never crossed their minds to say no. This was one week before Memorial Day. They were 4 6 and 6 months. Now they are 5 7 and 1 year ( on the 12th). There are horrible circumstances for the two girls and there is no certainty of them going back to their bios any time soon. I’ve watched my sister in law cry because she thinks of them being taken out of her home….she has begged to keep them against all rules when they are suppose to rehome after certain things come out from their bio parents life. It takes a special person, family, community to foster these children and I cannot be more thankful for the decision they have made to be fosters. We are currently reviewing paperwork to do the same. These children have experienced love, nutrition, fun, but above all the kindness of a stranger. You my dear are a blessing!

  24. I am so proud of my daughter and son in law who have taken on fostering along with raising their own 3 dear ones. They have the love, balance, intelligence and Spirit to offer little ones what they need in a topsy-turvy time. I am blessed to be my daughter’s mom and her step dad and I will help her in any way we can to assist in this ministry. All children who will pas thru their doors will have been touched by Christ’s love and given His message of hope and salvation by witnessing the life of their foster parents.

  25. Pingback: Hope | Let's Talk About Foster Care

  26. We enjoy fostering and it has been such a blessing to us. We have had 16 blessings come in our home. Some were reunified, some were not, but all are full of hurts. We keep telling ourselves. They didn’t choose this outcome.

  27. “Love is always worth it” Amen.

  28. I myself was a foster child. By the time I was 6 I had been in 8 different foster home. Never finding the “FOREVER HOME” that I so badly wanted. All the other homes would say they could not handle me. Yes I had issues. But really what foster child does not? All I can say is I thank the Lord above each and everyday that I found the family that I did and when I did. No matter what I did or how I acted (trying to get back to my bio mom. Some kids do go through it). My mom sat me down one night and told me “No matter what you do or how you act you are here and I am here. I will not give up on you. You are my child and I love you. You will never be sent away again. This is your home.” It took that for me to really understand what I had and where I really wanted to be. I’m now 40 yrs old and I came to live with them when I was 6. It has been the best 34 years of my life. With out them only God knows where I would be. I’m now a proud mom of 2 wonderful children. I am a full time bus driver. Fostering a child that is not your own by blood is very hard. You give your sweat, tears, love, and time. I TRULY AM THANKFUL FOR EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU!!! You do not get enough recognition that each and everyone of you deserve!! GOD BLESS YOU!!!

  29. I am a foster mom. And I don’t think my FD is on the bottom of the social ladder. She may have been, but not now. While she is with me I expect excellence from her, I raise the bar, I make sure she gets to see her counselor, attends a developmental preschool, I welcome advice and intervention, I make sure she is fed, clean *spotless*, and loved. I work on her letters. Her speech. Her routines. Her manners.

    I don’t know what the future holds for her – but as long as I have her I will only expect excellence and help her to get there. If she transitions to someone else I will be their biggest support and cheerleader. I will welcome them into my home and support them. I am not only raising the bar for her – I’m raising the bar for MYSELF. As a foster mom and advocate. Fostering has it’s sadness and downsides. But there is also victory and great reward. ❤

  30. Tabitha

    Not every child in foster care is unwanted – some have parents who need to get some issues (like severe depression and deep poverty) straightened out. And as one of those parents, I have to say I am SO thankful for the foster parents who are caring for my kids while I can’t. It’s hard as hell to only see them a few times a week. It hurts that I’m only partly involved for my daughter’s potty training, my son’s transition from rolling over to crawling to now almost walking…

    But because their godparents (that’s what we’ve decided the relationship will be once they come home, so we’ve started referring to them that way now) chose to open up their home to my two little ones, my daughter IS learning to potty, my son can now crawl and walk, and they are healthy in a way they weren’t before they were put in care.

    So yes, from a biological mother to foster parents everywhere – thank you. Thank you for caring for our kids when we can’t. Thank you for loving them when they’re going through the hardest time in their lives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Kristen Fuchs

      Thank you for sharing from a biological mother’s perspective. As a foster parent, I know you are missing out on milestones, so I take pictures. When the children have a visit with you, I don’t judge you or belittle you, instead, I put myself in your shoes and wonder what it must be like in your situation. I encourage the child to express their feelings, give them space, and I am there to lift them up after this emotional post-visit time. I try not to outshine you, one up you, instead I take on a role like a Godmother, Aunt, or that best friend that you entrust your child too. I share parent, to show the child I am giving you respect and to continue to keep you moving in that direction to work your case plan. In the same breath, I won’t cover for you and will disclose information to case workers if you are falling short or putting your child second. All the while I make sure your little one(s) are cared for, loved, respected, and treated like I birthed them myself.

      • Amy

        Wow Kristen! I, a Foster Mom, was going to respond to Tabitha too, with heartwarming gratitude for stepping forward. But I didn’t have the words. Girl you hit it out of the park! So I will simply say, Thank You Tabitha for supporting your Foster Family and sharing a piece of your world with us.

      • Jill

        Awesome response. Love this!

  31. AnotherMother

    We are foster parents in Texas. We have loved 8 bonus children in 23 months. We have felt the losses with you. We have 3 currently. I feel their losses, too. Thank you, from one to another, for being willing!

  32. It is even in the end, when the grieving has subsided, you find out just how really strong Christ is, and how much we just seen all that breaks his heart, but then also makes it rejoice.. As a fellow Foster Parent, my husband and I can attest to so much what you shared in this post.. Thanks for the gentle reminder in my tears reading this.

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