The only good foster parent is one who doesn’t act like one.
I remember being at one of the hearings a few months ago in Juvenile Court that would decide the fate of our foster son. Our son’s court appointed attorney (the Guardian ad litem [GAL]), a friendly guy came up and introduced himself. He recognized that we as foster parents had more than a passing interest in what happened inside the courtroom. He approached us a number of times to explain what was happening. After a long afternoon of negotiations some of which were rather tense, some decisions were made. Unfortunately none of which could be shared with us at the time. But he did have a talk with us after the proceedings were finished. He let us know that this would be a long, hard process that could drag out for some time. He advised us to be patient and then told us to prepare ourselves for the possibility that our foster son could possibly go home. I think he was concerned that we were so attached to our foster son and that the possibility of adopting him was just as big as the possibility that he might go home. I wish I could remember his exact words but it was something to the effect of: don’t love him too much because you may have to eventually give him up.
It was an odd request. How do you disengage yourself from loving a child? Is there someway to love less so that it doesn’t hurt quite so much if you lose him? I exchange affection with my son everyday in many ways. It’s in the way I hold him and the way he hugs me; it’s in the way I help guide him and keep him from falling when he is so daring and the way he comes waddling towards me calling “daddy” with his arms out to be picked up; it’s in the way that both of us daddies have the practice of taking him to his crib every night and giving him a kiss and pat on the head before laying him down and leaving the room. What an odd thing to consider–trying to push him away a little. “I’m sorry T, but Daddy can’t hold you right now, I need to scale back our parent-child relationship. Don’t call me Da-da so much, and stop hugging me when I pick you up.”
I know what he was trying to say to us–guard your heart because you could have it shattered in this very court-house. All good intentions aside, his role is to look after the best interests of our foster son. If he were honest, what he wants in his role as protector of our son is that we as his care-takers and foster parents, love him with unfathomable depth; that he is our every breath; that he is constantly in and on our minds; that we love him as if he was our own; even if he is not. That is what every foster parent’s role is–to allow oneself to give and take love as if you would have each other always. Can you imagine an instance where a child deserves less? Isn’t that one of the deficiencies within the foster care system, that there aren’t enough foster parents willing to give all, even if a child is destined to return home?
The reality is that the only good foster parent is one who puts their whole heart into the job. Those who don’t–I question their motives for taking on foster children. What is it that these children need most of all–a safe place, proper care and immense love. It isn’t a matter of possession, of him being ours or theirs. It is that he is with me right now. I am his Dad–foster maybe–but still Dad. I love him that way and have no intention and no means to do otherwise, even if the court says tomorrow, that he is no longer my son.