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. Monica

    I also work in the foster care system supervising Foster
    Care Workers in Canada. I also would like to share your story in our internal community newsletter with other foster parents. Its a fabulous story! You capture so many aspects so well. Can you give me your permission?

  2. Heather

    My mom did respite for foster kids and her best friend was a foster parent I baby sat tons of foster kids and since I was a teen I have wanted to be a stay at home mom for my own children while I am also a foster parent. And I know way too much about what happens to those kids and that is why I want to do it, sometimes other foster patents don’t even want them, there are some foster parents who abuse them and treat them just as bad or worse than their bio parents. Those kids need the good foster parents the ones who will love them and would care for them for free, the parents that would adopt them all if they could. I am not a foster parent but in a few years after my husband and I buy our own home were going to go through the process.

  3. Great article. Thanks for sharing and opening up your home. It is an inspiration and I hope that I can do with our family soon. Thanks,

  4. betty

    I was foster child growing up and I appreciate everything my foster parents did for me and my sisters. I still talked to my foster mother until the day she passed away. I still love both my foster parents for all they have done for us. This post is great 🙂

  5. Melissa Sisco

    As a foster/adoptive parent, I understand every word! We have had 7 foster children in our home and were fortunate enough to adopt three of them, but 4 did leave our home. Some were easier than others. But we loved each one! We care for special needs children. All of our children were labeled ” hard to place” Our foster care journey has recently ended with our third adoption which was final on May 2, 2014.

  6. Tara

    This is it! you have put to words my thoughts, heart, and what we are and WHY we want to do this! Thank you.. so now whenever they ask I can send them here- b/c this is it!~

  7. Michelle

    Thank you so much for your story. I still have tears rolling down my face from reading it. We recently adopted one of our foster kids, and on the day it went through, I was in tears. The worker couldnt understand how I could be happy for us, but so unhappy for her bio parents. Its great to know that there are people who feel the same way about their kids as we do. Keep up the great work. The world needs more people like yourself and the many other carers who have commented ❤ xx

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  9. Markus

    Wonderful blog about foster care! I particularly appreciate the comment about the bio parents, who the children still love, no matter what, even though we don’t want to acknowledge that the parents deserve that love. We currently foster a 14-year-old girl (our first placement older than 10 years old). After she was placed with us, her mom did something very stupid which will keep her in the confines of the legal system until after our foster daughter will become an adult. It’s easy to condemn the mom for what she did. But the bottom line is that her daughter was sitting on our couch crying, heartbroken about what she had done. It puts a very human face on these events.

  10. Sheli Novak

    Right this minute…I am in the NICU of a very large hospital holding my 1 month old foster daughter.Hubby and I were introduced to her when she was 3 days old.We haven’t left her,taking turns when we couldn’t be with her together. Our home is three hours away.I miss my five adult children and my seven grandchildren. I want to dream big dreams for her. But….only God knows what lies in her future.His plans for her are yes and amen. I am called to this moment. I must keep in mind everyday that the God I serve loves her more than Hubby and I. I am thankful for this journey.

  11. Pingback: National Foster Care Awareness and Appreciation Month | Region 2 One Church One Child

  12. Love this post!! We began our foster care journey last January. Our first placement (baby boy, 3 days old when he came to us) arrived almost three weeks ago.

  13. LOVE this post! We started our foster care journey last January, and have had our first placement almost three weeks.

  14. Monique

    O my! I love this post more than you could ever know!

  15. After reading all of the wonderful stories and comments, my biggest question is why do we call this the heartbreak of foster care, I challenge everyone of you that say i can’t, to step and say that I can. I invite everyone of you to share my wonderful story of hope, commitment, and love. feel free to visit my fb page to see all the wonderful success stories and my beautiful family.

  16. Connie Dodd

    Being a foster parent for over 23 years adopting 16 + children all races.the journal has been long, sometimes lonely sometime discourage but if u ask me today if i would do it again my answer would be Yes Yes Yes thank you for sharing this with everyone a blessed foster/ adopted parent 16+
    Connie Dodd

  17. Reblogged this on myfullemptynest and commented:
    Beautiful and true words.

    “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.

  18. Pingback: The Heartbreak of Foster Care | Murphy's Law Translated

  19. I’m also a foster parent. Thank you for helping to address this issue. I agree with you 110% – it’s not that people *can’t* do it, it’s that they choose not to. And that’s OK. It’s a valid choice, one I understand. But to continually say you couldn’t do something really undermines the efforts of those who do choose to do it.

  20. Pingback: The Heartbreak of Foster Care | Carolyn Bennett Fraiser

  21. My organization’s blog for the month of May is focusing on caring for vulnerable children. Would you be willing to let us re-post The Heartbreak of Foster Care?

  22. Kristen Fuchs

    Been a foster parent for about 7 years now. We first did it to adopt but those options fell through when the choice to send the children back to their bio parents was “in their best interest.” Of those, our first foster son has now come back into custody and placed with therapeutic foster family. We are asking to be able to have a visit with him so he knows we never forgot him or gave up on him. His mother is the one who never turned herself around, not him, a 14 year old who just had to deal with what she dished out. Other placements we get to see about 4 times a year or more. We are almost like that aunt and uncle in their lives that is a mainstay. So you are not always giving them up, you sometimes get to share loving on them for years to come. It just means setting aside your judgement of their parents and working together during the foster duration, so you always maintain a strong relationship if/when they go back. Currently we are fostering a 14-1/2 year old girl, never thought we would agree to a teen but she has been a delight to have in our home and a real experience for us to learn about what it is like to deal with driving lessons, boy craziness, and the latest “gasp” trends. Wow, but each day brings blessings and a closer bond. If you have never considered fostering, decide if it is for you. Yes, your heart will be tugged and you will face heartache a time or two. If you truly can’t handle that, maybe it isn’t for you, just remember, you are not the one who was taken from all you know and put into a strange environment, you are the one who is there to make that displaced person feel comfortable amidst all those changes. It sure beats your own family overstaying a visit at your home. 🙂

  23. Tracy Atkinson

    First I want to say thank you for offering your love, compassion & home to a child in need. My story is the other side. I am the biological parent. I got mixed up with drugs & the wrong ppl and my kids were removed from my care. I won’t tell my entire story, but in the end, how I struggled isn’t important. The first foster home for my daughter was a joke. I had to get her car seat out of storage because at 16 months old, they had her in an infant carrier. A stellar parent I wasn’t, but my kids weren’t abused. I still provided their basic needs. The environment in which I did it though left much to be desired. The second family she was placed with were a total Godsend. I still keep in touch with them. I love them. When I got the news that they were gonna let me have my daughter back (after a year in treatment, no arrest record & no parenting classes needed either) I was still in my sober living house. I cried & cried. The girls there were like, “oh, she’s so happy she’s getting her daughter back. ” “No”, I replied, “I am sad that her foster mom is losing her”. None of them understood. But I knew. I knew what it was like to love that little girl and then lose her. My heart broke for them. It’s been 2 1/2 years now. My daughter & I & my husband are thriving…. and sober…. and saved. Our daughter , 4 1/2, does ballet, cheer & t-ball and church. It was the best thing that’s ever happened to us. My dream is to go back to school to become a social worker to help families & children like we were helped. Just wanted to say that not everyone who loses their kids continues to screw up. And some foster parents & social workers truly are God’s angels in disguise! #savedbygracethroughfaith

    • Kelly

      Thank You for your side. Everyone makes mistakes and hopefully can learn from them to better themselves.

    • Connie Dodd

      After working with women on the street for many year I know that every women that is drug addicted, homeless has a story to tell the reason i know this not only i have nurture and loved their children but i have fallin in love with them. 3 years ago i lost one of my young women I call her my daughter because we shared 13 years together she died in my arms thats why I know that every women that walks the streets has a story to tell but im so thankful and blessed to be a part of that story In Honor of My Daughter Nikki
      Connie Dodd foster / adopted parent of 16+

  24. I was a foster child from birth until 5, and I only wish I could thank those 3 families that took me in, but due to laws I cannot. Because I cannot tell them, let me tell you how special you are. I didn’t have a great experience in my last foster home, but I am still so appreciative because the alternative would have been so much worse. People like accuse foster parents of just doing it for money, but they don’t understand that there really is no money. Thank you for all of us foster kids out there. You are special people!

    • Jules

      I’ve been a foster child now youth for a decade now and I can’t say I shared similar experiences. I was verbally and mentally abused, locked out of my foster homes for absolutely no reason with no where to go my personal belongings would be stolen. Diaries/memories were tossed in the trash with no regard to my feelings. I was in about 12 different foster homes and I can honestly say none of which were a good experience for me, learning experience but not loving at all.

      • Kira

        Sorry to hear that, Jules.

      • Kelly

        I am also so sorry to hear that. I hope you have a support system where you can discuss this and get into a better place. everyone deserves to be cared for in a safe place.

  25. Only another foster parent can really understand what we go through and the blessings that it provides for us…those blessings overwhelm the amount of heartbreak and sadness that we experience alongside of our foster kids. This blog post is spot on…it’s the hardest, most bestest thing we’ve ever done…and we know that we couldn’t do it without God’s help.

  26. Rhonda

    Thank you for your dedication to those amazing kids who God leads to your life/family/heart. I was a foster parent for 5 years and then adopted a sibling group of 2 bio siblings. My husband and I then adopted a 17 year old girl 1 day shy of her 18th birthday who will be 30 next month. This past Valentines Day 2/14/14 we adopted our last child, a 16 yr old girl. Between bio and adopted we have 6 amazing kids between the ages of 16 – 31. All of our children are very protective of each other, love each other unconditionally and it is awesome as a parent to see children who are of different races and racial make-ups boldly tell ANYONE, “This is my sister/brother”. My oldest child tells people about our family, “We look like ‘we are the world’ but it works for our family.” I am so fortunante to be facebooks with the majority of children who were placed in my home as foster children – every mother’s day I get multiple emails, cards and messages from them telling me thank-you for caring. THAT is the biggest reward from being a foster parent to us!

  27. there is heartbreak with biological children too. They grow up an leave home or make choices you do not agree with but that child who was fostered can know that for a time someone loved them. I recently attended a graduation where a student thanked her foster mother for never giving up on her even though she had dropped out of school. She is now ready to succeed

  28. Darlene

    Been a foster parent for almost 29 yrs now loved almost every moment of it.I’ve had 172 kids in my home and hope to be able to have 172 are even more.God has blessed me to be able to share my home my heart my every thing to these children.I do know this is my purpose on earth.So if anyone has this on their heart to become a foster parent go ahead pick up a phone . If it’s not for you then you can always say well I tried.May God bless anyone who makes a difference in any child’s life.

  29. Raye

    I’m not a foster parent but I was a foster child. I had my heartbreak leaving a home. When you leave something that isn’t desirable and are put in a home where someone gives a crap about you and than you’re torn from that and given back to your parents who screw up again and put you back in another home it sucks. You wonder why foster kids are so reserved sometimes, scared, don’t like to get attached it’s because we go through a lot more at a young age than most people should. We see things we shouldn’t, we get treated in ways we shouldn’t but sometimes it takes people who are willing to give that love and support to flourish us into young productive adults who end up having a normal teenage life and become outstanding adults. Here I stand after graduating out of the system with a 4.0 in college obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. I got placed with someone who encouraged me to be active in high school, I played sports which my foster mother went to almost every game of mine. I made honor roll and was rewarded for good behavior. I got to be a normal teenager, no worries of what the past had dealt me because I was taught that I could make my own future regardless of where I came from…foster home or not. I just wish there was more people out there who did do this for kids like me. I am the impact that you can make on society. Instead of getting on drugs, being low income and depending on the government, I am on the path of success because someone decided they could do it and that I was worth it!

    • Amy

      What a great story Raye! Thx for sharing!

    • Darlene

      Raye really touch me so proud of u.

    • Angela W.

      It is so rewarding to hear that just one foster child has good things to say about their foster parents. We adopted 5 siblings. Four of which have not gone in the direction we had wished for them. They went the direction of their biological family which is not so desirable. Hopefully the baby, which is currently into sports and is on the honor roll, will rekindle our faith. That we made the right decision to adopt. This journey of adoption has definitely been a challenge and at times regretful. My only hope is that he will accomplish as much as you have. I

    • Jagee' Valentine

      Raye, Thank you sooooo much for sharing a positive result of foster care!! I too, had a foster Mom and Dad that encouraged me, strengthened me and shared their love. I was put back into the same home I was taken from. My fosters didn’t have any rights to me. My bio mother refused to let me see my fosters and kept us apart. I kept in touch with my foster parents up until the day God took them home. I know without a doubt because of them, I have self-worth and have also finished school, have 2 degrees and now am working on my Masters. I think of them everyday and know that regardless of all the negative publicity out there…there are some wonderful and I think more, than not; wonderful foster parents who are the very reason many of us survive. I am so thrilled to see someone else post something positive. Thank you and continued success to you!!!

  30. Sue Bedrossian

    We started fostering in 1987. We have done traditional foster care and, more recently, have hosted through the SafeFamilies model. We have adopted 7 of our foster children. Heartbreak? Yes. Fuller, richer lives? Yes. Missionaries in our own home? Yes. Blessed beyond measure? Yes.

  31. Janinne

    I’m a foster home licensing worker and we are constantly recruiting more foster families. Would you consider giving permission for us to have your post printed in our county’s weekly papers? It’s wonderful.

    • Sure Janinne! Thanks for asking!

      • Janinne

        Would it be possible to get that specifically in writing from you? We are eager to give you proper credit, so perhaps you should provide the wording. If that would not be too much trouble… Thank you so much — your blog post on fostering is so very powerful. I get so tired of people saying they’d like to foster but wouldn’t want to “give them (the kids) back”. My snarky answer, which I do actually say out loud sometimes, is “It’s not about YOU.”

  32. Lisa

    My husband and I are almost licensed Foster parents and I’m so excited for this opportunity. I look forward to helping out and loving as many children as we can on this journey. Thanks for the post.

  33. Paige Wise

    This is something i have thought about doing for a long while. How does one get started on the right path to be able to open their homes to a child in need.



      • Amy

        sincerely, a 2yr foster family on heartbreak #3.

    • Amy

      Depends on the state you live in. Most have Foster Family Agencies that work with the county Child Welfare Offices. I believe it’s much better to go through an FFA with their amazing support.

    • Sherry

      If you contact your local Dept. of Human Services, they will give you a licensing worker who will be thrilled to help you. If you prefer, just google “foster care agencies” and your city and you’ll get a list of local agencies. Often your church will have a service they work with or can recommend.

      I have been a foster parent for 2 years now. Honestly, it is not easy but is amazing the difference it can make in a child’s life.

    • Hi Paige…First of all, thank you for considering the idea of foster care. I imagine the process may vary from state to state, but I would start by calling your local Department of Health and Human Services and finding out when their next informational meeting is regarding foster care. From there, you will most likely have to complete some foster care training (ours consisted of a 24-hour course…usually offered as three 8-hour classes or eight 3-hour classes), a home study, interviews, review of financials, etc. to obtain your foster care license. It is a little bit of a process to get licensed, and your license is good for 2 years (at least that is what it is in my state). Re-licensing after 2 years isn’t quite as extensive…I think we had to do a new water test, interview, and proof of further education (which can consist of approved books/movies read regarding foster care, classes, etc.). Good luck!

    • Julie jeffries

      Contact your cities local department of social services. Tell whoever answers the phone that you’d like to learn more about becoming a foster parent.

  34. For those that also have biological children, we have one biological child that was 6 years old when we began fostering. What worked really well for us was that we referred to it as “babysitting”. We weren’t sure that at 6 our son would grasp the concept of fostering, but he knew that babysitting is a temporary thing. Our first placement turned out to be temporary, but we have since adopted one and are on our way to adopting a second. Now that he is 9 he completely gets how it works, and he is beyond amazing with the kiddos we take in!

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  36. Deborah

    As a foster parent I didn’t cause whatever may have happened to these children… I can’t fix whatever may have happened to these children. I can only love them for whatever period of time God gives them to me for. And that is my mission.

  37. Jacke

    I’m so proud of you and Noel. I know you both will be great foster parents. Jesus will never give you more than you can handle. I will pray for your whole family, Love Jacke

  38. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I worked in the system for 34 years and for a large part of that I recruited and trained foster parents. You have spoken the true “heart” of what I attempted to convey. Sadly couples were more likely to walk away because of the pain they might experience. At other times it was a competition with the biological parent. All too often, forgetting the treasures, miracles and love they have to offer for days, months or years. Gifts that could change that child’s life forever. Thank you again.

  39. Michelle

    Thank you for sharing your heart and giving me encouragement today. As I say goodbye to one of our little girls whom I have had a year now and send her to her forever home, my heart is overwhelmed with joy for her and a sadness to have to let her go. Foster care will come with many emotions for the child and the foster parent, but in the end God has such amazing things in store for both. Most people could do foster care, but most choose not to because they simply don’t want to be bothered with the emotional things that go with it. I have done this for 4 yrs and am almost 40yrs old now, I always ask myself why did I wait so long to do this. I have had 20 kids come through my home and have adopted 2 of them. My heart is overflowing with LOVE! Thank you for sharing!

  40. Jan Campbell

    I just came across your post via FB. I have recruited and trained foster parents for 22 years now and although it’s so hard to see what has happened to these children, I love working with the foster parents! I can easily say that I have met some of the kindest, purest of heart, people who do this most important task. These children are our future too and their healing begins when they find a place in the homes and hearts of people who help them feel safe and loved. Thank you so much for what you do!

  41. Brandi

    Wow, wow, wow……. awesome, awesome post!

  42. Amy

    From one foster parent to another, your words were perfectly spoken. Thank you for doing what you do!

  43. Howard Coleman

    As a Paramedic I love when I have the opportunity to come in contact with foster parents and children. I was a product of a foster home and it was the best thing that could of happened to me. It takes a special person to welcome strangers into there home. I love to tell my story, If it was not for social workers, and foster parents I would not be the man I am today, so I say to each one of you thank you and if there is ever any thing I can do please let me know

    • You already have, Howard. You made it through the system. You are a success story. On top of that, you now have a job where you are helping others. That is enough to give any foster parent the motivation to continue to do it!

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  45. Lacey

    Someone commented earlier that she feels awkward when she is thanked for being a foster parent. I feel the same way. People will talk about how awesome we are to be able to do that. When I think about what we were blessed with I would do it over and over again with heartache and all. We have four amazing children that we were able to adopt. We are in our mid thirties and adopted our daughter when she was 16. She is now 21 and we are already grandparents! Our others are 2, 4, & 5. They were each placed with us within being a month old so we have been blessed with the baby years and all. Don’t get me wrong…it is not always peaches n cream but it is all worth it. Our daughter has biological family in the picture which complicates life. She was not raised with our standards of life but we just take one step at a time and make sure she knows that we are ALWAYS here.

    Some people have commented on their fear of how their family will take them fostering. While our families have not understood our ups and downs they have mainly been supportive. We did hear a few times that we probably shouldn’t take another kid. So we didn’t tell anyone when we asked for another placement. We would just show up one day plus one.

    Some people have also commented their concern for the effect it would have on their children. I loved the post that someone commented that you are teaching your children to accept and give. It will teach life lessons that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to show them. I think if you are open and start off slow then you would more than likely be ok. Everyone knows their children so if something doesn’t work then try a different way. You can decide what age, gender, and race that you would be willing to take.Maybe if one age doesn’t work then another will. Our children are still a little young to understand that they are adopted. Our 5 year old asked last year who gave us our 2 year old. We have had her since two weeks old.

    I love reading all these posts. It makes me want more. Maybe in a few years we will have a bigger house, relicense and take more!

  46. Lee Leatherwood

    This is totally “it”. People say “I couldn’t do fostering because I’d just get too attached.”

    What a cop-out. Does that imply that I must be cold-hearted and don’t get attached? Hardly! But that’s not the point! So a child has to go to a shelter because I am afraid of getting my feelings hurt? Every child is as important as my child. And your child. Don’t they all deserve a warm bath and a soft place to land at the end of each day? Heartbreak is part of life. I love this article so much. I am a single mother of 3 biological daughters and I currently have 4 foster children, ages 1-18. I’ve had over 35 foster children over the years. God bless you and your family!!

  47. Thank you for this blog. As a fellow foster parent, you have been able to express your thoughts and feelings in a way that I have always wanted to when asked the same questions. Although I appreciate it, I find it awkward when someone thanks me for being a foster parent. As hard as it sometimes can be, it doesn’t even register on the scale compared to how difficult it is to be a foster child. And when someone tells me that they couldn’t do it, I always think to myself that if you are a good parent (and know how to write things down), you would be a good foster parent. People don’t because they are afraid of getting hurt, but once you realize that it isn’t about you, it’s about the kids, the worries of getting hurt become a non-issue. You are helping those kiddos out and showing them how family life should be, even if it is just for a day, a week, a month, or a year. And you are teaching your own children how important it is to help others when they need it the most. These are lessons that can’t be taught from a book or test.

  48. Kandy Carnes

    So very true. I say the same thing all the time when people ask how and why we do it.

  49. I just sent this to a Ugandan couple who is fostering one of our little boys who cant go home- it will be the perfect encouragement to them. Thanks! Until every child has a chest to rest his head on, Kristen

  50. Pam

    Been foster parent for over thirty years have adopted 9 raised group A B C about to adopted three have had many placements shad many tears laughed so hard and long survived first dates new driver graduation High school and college attended weddings watched my adopted son adopt his first child lost many of a nite sleep said many prayers washed cleaned more then most Seen many doctors long talks with teachers but loved it all . very thankful for a wonderful husband father who has been there ball games everything

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