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

  1. I wanted to give thanks to all your foster parents who are taking in foster youth! I know it can be demanding as they are coming to your homes with chaotic backgrounds with no sense of discipline and possible respect but you all can be the difference or the change they need. As an emancipated youth, I’m in awe of what you all do for children in care and how you all can take in youth and call them your own. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    On a different note, with your experiences taking in youth and dealing with the foster care system and judicial system, what do you see that could be changed for the better. I’d love to hear your stories! Please share or contact me through!

  2. Christina

    Thank you for sharing. The world needs more homes with this perspective. My husband and I are just brand new at this. We got our license in DEC and our 15 yr old boy came to us through other means six months prior. When people say “wow, that’s so nice of you guys. You’re doing such a great thing”. I don’t really understand, wouldn’t they do it too? The answer, sadly is no. So many families, so many homes. So many children of God who don’t know he cares. Our boy is legally free. We will finalize the adoption soon. There have been tears of heartache and joy. I’m sure they are not the last. We have seen him grow and change our home would be so empty and quiet without him. I can’t imagine not having him here. Congratulations on your placement and I hope all works out for the best. You are such a blessing to the children who come into your home and it is reciprocated as you feel they are a blessing to your home. In serving others we serve our Lord.

  3. penny clark

    God bless you and all foster and adoptive parents!
    I am a mother who’s children were placed in foster care and later adopted.
    While it’s true that a lot of bio parents don’t care, I myself got caught in addiction.
    I am thankful my children have been given a life I couldn’t give them.
    But make no mistake, I love them and think of them always.
    I am not the same person I used to be. I am clean and sober and have a good life today. I am a Christian and my hope is when God knows the time is right I will be able to see them again.
    Kudos again to you and all others out there who open your homes and love the children!

  4. Rachael

    As a case manager for foster care, I love what you have written! It is not something that “anyone” can do, but there are so many who can and don’t. One thing I am trying to challenge families in this year is looking for the reasons why each child is in your home. In what ways is this child growing and teaching your family as well? We have so much to learn from them too!

  5. Megan

    Wow!! God bless you!!

  6. We have been foster parents for almost a year. We thought we could help these children. My husband is a psychologist and I am a RN. The first foster child we got was almost 11 years old. He set our house on fire and almost burned it down. It took five months to get it fixed so that we could take in foster children again. We didn’t quit or give up, and hopefully he will finally get diagnosed right and get the help he needs, which he wasn’t getting before. Our goal is to give them a stable home, free from chaos, drugs, alcohol, and the abuse that was part of their daily lives prior to foster care. We are now on our second foster child and it is working out much better. It is work. It can be very frustrating at times because these children have had no parenting prior to coming to our home, but we love doing this and helping them.

  7. Reesia

    My hubby and I have been foster parents for 9years and are adopting child #6. We feel very blessed, not easy and very much like riding a roller coaster… And will be sad to drop our license this year because the state of Washington only allows 6 kids and I know why, it’s hard and takes a lot out of you. Thank you for posting this!! I wouldn’t trade what we have done these last 9years for anything!

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  9. Thank you for sharing! It was very encouraging to me as my husband and I begin foster care classes on Monday.

    It seems we may have a lot in common; my husband is a farmer and we have 2 young biological children. 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing.

  10. Jessica

    Thank you so much for writing this piece! My husband and I will be going to our first Foster training this morning. I woke up before my family and decided to scroll through my Facebook. Someone shared this story and I opened it. Reading your blog was like a hug from God. We have seen God’s finger prints all over this journey, and we can’t wait to start loving on “the least of these”. God is oh so good! Thank you again!!!

  11. Runnergirl

    This is a beautiful testimony. Thanks for sharing!
    My mother, who is a product of the foster care system, posted this link on her fb page today. She is also a social worker….as a child, having foster children in our home was just what we did. It was normal. They were family, no different than us, other than their wounds they brought along with them.
    I am so grateful for the relationships that fostering brought our family over the years. I am also grateful for the ” normality” that sharing our home was to us. We were taught to share the gifts God gives us….that includes your home, your parents and so much more.
    As an adult, raising my own kids, I see how fostering changed my heart for the broken, under served and underprivileged.
    Thanks again for sharing your heart!

  12. Frank

    My experience as a foster child, I was 7, and my brother was 8, we were placed in a foster home because, were staying with friends of the family, with 5 children, I also had a older brother who eventually stayed with the family friends, when the State stepped in and said were too many to be given the proper care. First, we lost our bio mother when she passed in childbirth. Our father was never able to do anything for us. He so blamed himself for the death of our Mom. The foster family, were good, mostly, farmers, though, it was all new to us city kids. We were not perfect kids, but had not received the care and training we needed. I found myself very confused and upset about the whole foster home. I was put into a strange environment, with no or very little contact with other family, uncles n aunts. I felt very isolated. I felt I was punished for things I didn’t know about. It was home n school day after day, no other activitys. Never received the help I need in school assignments. Never rewarded for good things done. We ended up attending a Baptist church with neighbor kids, which was the only good thing. I was there until I graduated from HS. I couldn’t wait to leave, soon enough. I didn’t know anything about the system and how it worked. I could write a book about this, but will stop with this. I am 68 now and I still have trouble facing bqack at some of the things. Thanks for letting me vent.

  13. This showed up in my fb news feed at the perfect moment in my life. I’m not a foster parent, but I am fostering my cousins toddler as she is unfit to do so. I’m curious, what effect do you think this will have on your children? I’m only asking this to look for words of wisdom in my current situation.

    • I’d be lying if I said I’d never worried about that, but that said I believe God has led us to this place and I trust He knows all the needs my children have better than I do. I hope it is a living example everyday of faith in action. And if it’s sometimes a living example of how God carries us through hard times, well, they will need that too.

      • Julia

        Just for the encouragement of both Meredith and Kelly (on the question of how your own children will be affected by you doing foster care)…..You can specify that you only want younger children if you are concerned about influences on your own young children. That’s what I did, and I feel, looking back, that our foster care experience was one of the best things I could have done for my own (older) children. It opened up their world and made them much more compassionate and caring towards the needy in society. If God would call you to foster older children, I believe He could supply the grace for that, too. But I would definitely be very cautious, because some of these kids have serious problems and would not be safe around young children.

      • Susan B

        I was a single foster parent for over 15 years, adopting 6 of those children, adding them to 3 grown adopted children that had been privately adopted while I was previously married. I too, have always thought that God led me to the life of raising other people’s children. Foster children, sometimes referred to as “orphans of the living”, need every opportunity we as a community can offer. Many people are able but are just not willing to give up their personal lifestyle, and parenting another’s child is beyond their understanding or willingness or perhaps both. Fostering becomes a way of life that others can’t understand. It becomes a part of you and takes over your identity as well as your freedoms, but if you were really meant to travel down this life path then you love it. I regret letting my license lapse after the adoption of my youngest who is now 6 years old and actually am considering going through licensing again. There are just too many children out there needing a safe place as well as too many who have languished sometimes for years in the foster system and are looking for the permanency of an adoptive family.

    • debbie

      Meredith-I posted a blog about your question. Feel free to read.

    • Andy Bunce

      dont fret over your own children – it is such a valuable learning experience for them, we have fostered 40 children and have 4 of our own ..2 of our own are now involved in fostering/adoption themselves I think that answers the question in full..i have been touched by God 44 times I am so privelidged = good luck and the more love you give – the more you get…fondest regards

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  15. Laura

    My husband and I answered the call to be foster parents 4 years ago. We prayed for 1 child under three…. HA! We now have 4 kiddos! 7,5,3,and 2… Only God knew what we could handle. Oh and we are expecting one the old fashion way! How blessed are we!

  16. Liz

    I just became licensed today to be a foster parent! Thanks for your blog. Such truth. I don’t even have a placement yet and my heart is already broken for all these children. My hope and prayer is that I will be able to provide love and joy that is needed while they are away from their parents.

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  18. Melanie

    I appreciate foster parents so much. They truly don’t get the credit they deserve. However, not all bio parents are bad. I called CPS to have my children checked on. I made that “mistake”. Their father took them from me two days after being released from the psych ward. He had threatened to kill himself and I. I was worried about what his thoughts were on our children… I am now living the nightmare that is DHS. My oldest daughter is three years old, and has been sexually abused somewhere while in the state’s care. I have done nothing wrong, but try to look out for the safety of my children–it is my job!! First, my daughter accused her father. He was cleared. Then, she accused her daycare provider. She was cleared. Now, I am under the microscope. I know I will be cleared, but I went from being a full-time stay-at-home mom to not getting to see my children. I would do anything for them!! Foster parents are a God-send for children in need. They truly are, but there are those out there who are not. I was in foster care myself, and I have seen it during respites. My foster parents were AMAZING, but respites were not always so… God bless your family for you have been given a gift.

  19. tammy

    Thank you for this post! My husband and I are foster parents and I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote!! God bless you!

  20. debbie

    Love your blog. I too am a foster parent and share in your feelings. I was also a foster child and am soooo thankful for my foster parents. I also recently wrote my own blog. It is my first ever blog, so I don’t have any followers so I would love to share it with you and your followers. I hope that is ok.

  21. Stephanie sweet

    Myself being a foster kid is hard. Here you are in a strangers home. These people open up their home for you to feel safe and have someone love you. I couldn’t have asked for a better foster mom. She didnt treat me like I was just another foster kid who will eventually leave. She treated me like family. Even though I have aged out of the system I know if I ever need help who I can go to. She has been there when I had no care in the world left and was there for me when I proved to my entire family that I can amount to someone. If it wasnt for her I never would have graduated and be the women I am today. She stepped in and was like a mother to me.

  22. Shelly

    I have often thought if I don’t do this where will these kids go? Heartache isn’t mine to have. If I only get a day or 4 years; I want to give them the best they can have. Great article.

  23. Bless you!

  24. I loved this. I am a current foster parent/blogger and I’ve written a lot about our experience. This is really what I needed to hear today 🙂

  25. Cindy

    Wonderful thoughts. I am a former foster parent who adopted a wonderful little girl who we had in our home for three years before she became ours. Your article touched me as I remember feeling all of those feelings while she was in our home. We are truly blessed to have gotten to keep her and my older biological children have said it was the best experience of their lives. I pray for all those children and foster parents out there that do welcome children into their homes. God chooses us to reach out and help and when you do it is the most rewarding experience ever. Thank you for sharing.


  26. Victoria

    I work for CPS in my state. The thing that we struggle with the most in my area is foster parents who are willing to stick with kids when they are not what they expected. When they do the things you talked about like having no table manners or having severe behavioral problems. To those that commented about not being unwanted this is what we consider hard children to place. Those that may be considered to be unwanted by potential foster or adoptive parents.
    Being a foster parent is one of the hardest things anyone can do in life. And finding those who are in it for the right reasons and not the money is even harder.
    I found your blog heartwarming. Continue doing the work you do for those children in need and know that even us caseworkers appreciate the work that true loving foster parents do for the children that we also call our own in way or another!

  27. Robyn

    Thanks for the post! I am also a foster parent and have recently started a photo blogging project that includes images of all our children. Our foster baby is very much “one of ours”, so she is included in this project. It’s a challenge to keep her confidential at the same time. It’s nice to find other blogs about fostering.

  28. Brandon

    Your article is good however not all parents are less than steller. See my wife and I adopted a boy who has turned out to have a severe mental illness. The problem with that is when it is a severe as my sons there is very little to no help. When then the child becomes suicidal and homicidal where do you turn? In our case we turned to DFCS in order to keep him out of the DJJ. Unfortunatly to get kids help with illnes such as “odd and severe cluster B traits’ the only option is for him/her to get put back into the system until he/she either changes or gets in enough trouble that a judge will institutionalize them. You see our struggle has been a hard one! But the one thing that remains true to your article is love!!! However love is not always making them happy! Sometimes it is letting them figure it out while still supporting and offering help.

    • Jeanette Kent

      I think that the greatest gift you can give this child is your unconditional love. I think that you will be there for him when others will not be. At some level, I believe that God will allow him to realise this. That is a huge gift that you can give him. You have his best interests at heart and he will be the best he can be, because of your unconditional love. Thank you and may God Bless you for giving love so willingly to this child. It must be very hard.

  29. Norah Savard

    Janinne….I am the President of our Foster Parent Association in our region in of Ontario Canada and I would love for the same permission.

  30. Ykamp

    Thank you, I’m a product of foster care and have a great life because someone like you took me in!

  31. Jennifer

    Not all foster children are UNWANTED. I admire what you are willing to do but please understand that you do not always get a foster child from unloving parents. Sometimes the parent may be mentally ill and other issues other than not loving or wanting their child.

  32. Peg

    You have put into words what my husband and I went through. We were blessed with a sibling group of three and they were older. The older they get – the less people want them. No one wanted all three – people would tell us that “you don’t know what you’re getting into” are you sure you can “handle” them… Well – no one knows what they are getting into – even with bio kids. Things happen – life happens. My husband and I often talk at night as we reflect about the day and when our kids say something that implies that we are strict or they never get to do what “others” in their class do…we reflect on where they would be today if they were not with us. Something that at their tender age they cannot wrap their head around. We do know one thing – they continue to teach us everyday and we are blessed to have them despite the challenges.

  33. Very touching. Thanks for writing. Beautifully written! Cheryl

  34. Kristina

    I know you do not know me, however I just wanted to say that I think what you are doing is wonderful! You are changing each child’s life by showing them that some people do care! My Mother fostered for 9 years, and growing up in that environment made me realize that there is so much more that a family can do. If you have children of your own it will teach them about sharing, and truly loving another child that is not family, but is still treated as one. I know the challenges that you face when you first get them and how hard it is to say good-bye. You are truly a blessing to all of those children!

  35. Dea Knight

    We’ve only fostered one child. However, my husband and I adopted a child through DSS. Words could never express the thanks and love I have for the foster parents that held and comforted my baby until she was born from our hearts. There is no doubt in our family’s eyes these special individuals truly do the work of the Lord.

  36. Angie k

    I’m reading this as my 10 month old foster baby is on my lap. I have got to be his mom since birth and I fear the day that he will go home. All I can do is love him while I can and I cherish every day he is here.

    • Your comment touched me the most. We became foster parents after the loss of my oldest nephew. What we discovered from his death, God is the only one who knows how long you will have any child in your life. Hold on to that thought, love like today is all you have.

  37. Susan

    Thanks for posting. I’ve fostered for 12 years, through good, bad and ugly. It’s always worth it because each child’s life is worth it.

  38. We are thinking of doing foster-care some day, but I also have a lot of fears that you addressed. Thank you for sharing and for being willing to share God’s love with these little ones.

  39. Jeannine

    I was in a few foster homes and a shelter home when I was young. Thankfully not because of abuse or neglect. My mom was single trying care for two young children with help. i remember the day she sat us down crying explaining that she loved us with all her heart and as soon as she had a job she would do what ever she had to do to get us back. But she had no job and could not take care of us. She did it for us because we were evicted for not paying rent and she had no where to take us and no way to feed us. While I was in foster care I had a wonderful foster home first. They took extra special care of me and my brother. Then the system found my brothers father and sent him to him. Worried I would rebel they sent me back to shelter home till they found me a new foster home. Which well was bad. Scared I called Sara my first foster mom and asked if I could spend the weekend with them for a visit. Not allowed but staying at my friends house across the street may be doable. Thankfully it was. I went and told Sara what had happened at my 2 foster home they put me back in shelter home but then found a family to foster me. After I got to go back with my mom. I told her about Sara who was my mom when she couldn’t be. I was allowed to call and visit after that. For Sara and Doug I prayed for them to be able to have a child of their own I knew they would be wonderful parents. And one day when I called Mom Sara she told me they were going to have a baby. I was so happy for them. I even sent them a dress for their new baby girl.
    To All You who really want to help children believe me the love you give these children out of your heart we remember and feel the love you give us forever. You will always be in our hearts. I have two children of my own who are grown now.

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  41. Connie Binstock

    I was a foster child…. and I am now a foster parent and 1 of my foster kids is a foster parent now…yes there is a lot of heartbreak but when you look at that smile it makes it all better.

  42. I did foster care for 10 years and had 6 kids in my home at a time. This is aGreat article that is well written, unless you have been a foster parent then you can’t understand all these feelings. I took care of older children middle school/ high school children adopted 3 .they Are all young adults now some with children of there own. There is heartbreak and joy with foster children no matter what. You hold them in your arms while they cry and you cry with them. I have kids that were my foster children that still come to me when they need things. They know they can count on me and my family. I loved each and everyone of them as if they were my own!

  43. Karilee

    I was the biological child in a foster family. My world was one of many comings and goings of brothers and sisters. It was normal for me to go to school and find out that Luke is gone and then waking up the next day and Mike is now there. I do not know how my parents did it. But I want to. I dream of being a foster parent so much and I know God will be there with me.

    • heather

      Thank you for your post. I have worked as a therapist with foster children for a while now. I have three of my own biological children but still feel that my husband and I could be helping more children. we have often thought about becoming foster parents but wondered the impact it would have on our family. It is heart warming to hear your story.

  44. Kristin

    Thank you for this. I’m a foster parent and I thought that way once. But here I stand with 5 kids 🙂

  45. I am a foster parent to 2 beautiful little girls. It’s a hard reality that we could loose them one day. I pray God rains His blessings on these girls and keeps them from that horrible life they once lived. Thank you for sharing. It’s a common feeling and reality we all share as foster parents. We are the light of Jesus in these children’s eyes and I focus each day being Jesus to my girls. Blessings 🙂

  46. Nell

    Thanks for the inspiration. My husband and I will one day have our family via foster and adoption. We chose this route years ago and often get questioned on our choice. Our friends and family are very supportive of our decision but its so rare to find insight from someone ahead of us on this journey. Thanks 🙂

  47. Jenifer Hart

    My children were in foster care for 18 months. I am so grateful to the people who cared for them when I could not. I got my act together and now my kids are back with me. I am still Facebook friends with with the wonderful people who stepped up and helped me to become the mom I am today. Without their help, I don’t think things would as good as they are now.

    • Nicki

      As a foster care worker it is so good to hear your story Jennifer! I applaude you for being able to not only do what you needed to get your children back, but also realize that the foster parents were not your enemy like so many biological parents believe. Foster parents are there to care for the children. They can make great allies to the biological parents and great supports. God Bless and I pray that you and your children have a blessed future!

  48. Veronica

    I am so so sorry Carli. I hope and pray that your nieces are taken care of with love beyond measure!

    I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. I was abused and put in a group home for only a week. It was a huge group home where they had a school and cafeteria as well as cottages. We couldn’t bring anything from home and had to wear their clothes with jail-like stamps on them. Group home are extremely temporary and you only get staff members who work shifts. I was 12, but I remember everything from that week. Kids telling me their stories, love and care from staff. My parents cared and weren’t treating us badly. There were just hurt older siblings who were taking it out on the younger ones.

    I guess through my struggles and meeting others who had it worse I’ve had such a burden for kids in foster and group homes. I got my degree and am applying to work in a group home to show the love that I remember receiving. I hope everyone who doesn’t want to bring a child in their home, but feels a tug on their heart would pray to understand how they can fill this need to help. We can donate money, clothing, etc. we can volunteer. There are many ways we can help! There are also CASA workers. I had one who gave me my first college application. CASA is an advocate appointed by the court. You can mentor kids and give them hope to better their lives!

  49. Myra Veblen

    Well said! My husband & I have been foster parents for over 20 years and we have experienced a lot heartbreak but also much joy!

  50. Janinne

    Kelly, I hope you see this comment amongst the many included here as it contains a heartfelt request. I am a county social worker in another state and if you were to grant permission, I would love to have your touching essay reprinted in our local weekly newspaper during foster care month. We are constantly recruiting good families to be foster parents and the most common excuse I hear for not becoming a foster parent is “it would hurt too much to send them home”.

Penny for your thoughts

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