This past month I met with a foster dad to talk about some of the difficulties his family is facing with their foster children. This particular family is open to the idea of adoption, and their commitment to these children has been inspiring: they’ve remained consistent in contact with the birth family, reached out for various counseling and therapy appointments, scheduled doctor’s visits to supplement the extra needs that their children have – all things that don’t really come to mind when talking about being a ‘foster parent’ causally. Fostering a child is more than just having a child in your home because, at least for a time, there are extra appointments and needs that have to be addressed.

In our meeting, this father revealed that they’ve had some significant frustration with ‘the system.’ Purposely leaving details vague, I was able to listen to this loving father express his angst about injustice in the foster care world: social workers who are overworked and underpaid, turnover, messages left, uncertainty in if someone will actually reach out to help and feeling often alone in the fight to simply love a child well and protect them. After some minutes of listening, he simply asked: “what are your thoughts about this? What should we do?”

The injustices that exist in the matrix of foster care and the spider’s web of red tape that surround the life of a child is enough to make any truly compassionate adult angry. I shared with this dad about the time I felt that I was not being listened to in a foster care meeting and became frustrated. “It’s right that we would be frustrated and want to act on behalf of the children we care for; this is true love and we do not want to see these children fall through the cracks.”

What our conversation turned to after that was what the role of a foster parent is. Similar to the role of any parent or person in a relationship, there is only so much we can do. In the world of healthcare or business, we have our roles to play. “Stay in your discipline” is the marching order of professionals, and in some ways this applies to foster parents as well. Our discipline is to keep our child safe, loved, growing and do our best to work with our social worker to bring about a better future for this child.

We have to sometimes step back from aggressively pursuing options and simply rest in the (already difficult) task of loving children who have had a tough start. When the opportunity is plainly laid out for a foster parent to advocate for their child, by all means, they should take that opportunity. The aggressive pursuit can sometimes exhaust and distract us from our primary goal: to see a child safe and loved in our home that wasn’t there before.

This dad told me he left our meeting encouraged and thanked me for helping him get off the hamster wheel they felt they were on. Foster parents are amazing people, I feel privileged to be able to support these parents with what we’ve learned.

By: David Chapdelaine

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