My experience as a foster parent is limited. We have cared for only nine children and, by the providence of God, we adopted one of those children He placed in our home. During these past four years, though, I have learned that foster care and adoption involve transition and change. And, usually, loss too.
Even though I know it comes with the territory, I don’t always feel prepared for these changes.
- I hurt with fellow foster parents who are heartbroken for the kids who have left. I hurt with foster families who are doing all they can to allow a child with challenging behavior to remain in their home.
- I hurt for birth families who are struggling during the separation.
- I hurt with children who are away from their birth family — whether temporarily or permanently.
The losses are real. The pain is real.
Sometimes I feel completely surrounded by hurting people.
Even in adoption, I know it is not win-win. Our beautiful daughter has been with us since birth. I realize I have that privilege to raise my feisty girlie because her first mother doesn’t. She will always be regarded with respect in our home — I feel a deep debt to her as I raise our daughter. Yet there is a void in our daughter’s life and in her birth mother’s life.
I can’t imagine the sorrow (sprinkled with comfort, in some cases) that a birthmom feels when she sees her child loved and cared for by another woman. That struggle could become unbearable. (I know each adoption is different. The circumstances and agreements are different. Some children enter a new family after relinquishment, others after removal by the state. I’m not an expert. But I am calling us ALL to feel with and hurt for one another.)
Hurting people often act in fear. They do or say things that they wouldn’t otherwise. There’s a common saying: “Hurting people hurt people.” And it’s true. Foster families (both the caregivers and the other children in the home) endure it often. Although it still hurts, understanding WHY a person is behaving a certain way helps us to empathize.
“Everyone needs compassion, a love that’s never failing / Let mercy fall on me …”
I don’t respond well to accusations, snide remarks, or rude behavior. YET I know I could be that person making those remarks tomorrow (or today) if I let my focus shift away from what God has done and is doing and onto myself. I could easily be the anxious one.
In these challenging times, God calms my spirit and reminds me that He is sovereign:
“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.” –Isaiah 54:15-17
God is the Sovereign One! He is with me. He cares. My well-being is His concern.
I like what Matthew Poole’s commentary says: “Both the blacksmith that makes all warlike instruments, and the soldier that uses them, are my creatures, and totally at my command, and therefore they cannot hurt you without my leave [i.e. permission].”
My pastor just finished a series in Esther. He put it this way: “Esther affirms the providence of God. Nothing just “happens” in life. In fact, if just one event could occur outside of the sovereign influence and care of the Lord, then we could not trust Him. But it can’t. The Lord is in control of everything” (Seeing God When You Can’t See God, February 1, 2015).
Even in transition. Even in change. Even in the midst of loss, God cares.
Understand this: That difficult person in your life is placed there by God. “His life, his strength, his skill, are all in my hands, and he can do nothing which I shall not deem it best to permit him to do. . . . I bare [i.e. confirm that I] made him, and he is wholly under my control and at my disposal” (Barnes’ Notes).
Life, in general, often involves loss, death, estrangement, removal, change. We cannot escape heartache in this broken world.
I am learning to let myself fully feel loss and to grieve with / for my children and their first families. I don’t always do it well. But I know we can learn from one another. We can listen and remind ourselves that God is at work in and through these circumstances. One day He will make everything right again.
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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.