“Let me talk about this with my wife, and I will call you back,” I said to the case worker, before saying goodbye to her. It was just past dinner time, and we had received a call to take in three children into our home. For some time, Kelly had been telling me that she was tired, and did not want to foster anymore, due to a heart being broken over and over.
“That was Lisa, the case worker, on the phone. She wants to know if we can take a group of three siblings into our home,” I told her, with a nervous smile on my face. I was unsure what to expect from my wife, and I was not so sure that I was prepared to have nine children under our roof by the end of the night.
“How old are they?” she asked, with a small sigh escaping her lips.
“There is a ten year old boy, an eleven year old girl, and a thirteen year old boy,” I replied. With the information I received from Lisa, I then told Kelly what I knew about the children. The three came from a home that had no electricity, water, food, or plumbing. The parents were on drugs, and there were drugs in the house. Moving from home to home, and from city to city, the children were seldom in school. Violence, sexual abuse, and psychological issues were just some of the challenges the children faced. The youngest boy was full of anger, the sister was passive aggressive, and the oldest was the worst behaved student in his school. Yet, these were all children in need, and all needed a home this night.
Being a foster parent might just be the hardest thing you ever do. Yet, being a foster parent might also be the most rewarding mission you ever undertake, as well. There are those who say that foster parenting is “Heartwork”, as it is a job that takes a great deal of commitment from your heart. There will be moments when you are exhausted, worn out, and frustrated. At the same time, there will be those moments when you are filled with laughter, joy, and love. Foster parenting will bring you all of these emotions, and so much more.
Perhaps you have the desire to help out children who suffer from abuse or neglect, Maybe you feel compassion for children who face malnutrition or even drug related problems passed on from a mother’s addiction. Possibly, your heart goes out to those children who are rejected by those who were supposed to love them most: their parents. After all, you feel that every child deserves the right to be in a healthy and supportive home, and most importantly, every child deserves to be loved unconditionally. As a foster parent, you have the opportunity to help these children in need. When you foster a child, not only do you invest in the future and well being of a child, you are also changing the life of that child.
After a short discussion and a prayer together with my wife, I called the caseworker back up, informing her that we would be happy to have the children come and stay with us for awhile. Yes, it would be busy once again. Yes, we were a little tired. Yet, we were both anxious about the newest arrivals to be placed into our home, and into our family. After all, each placement is different, and each placement is special to us. To be sure, there have been those placements that have been more difficult and more challenging than others — placements that have left both my wife and I weary and exhausted. At the same time, every child that has come into my home has helped to make me a better person, and has helped my family to be a stronger one, as well. For this, and for the many children from foster care who have come to live with me, I am most thankful, and am a much better person for each child that has come to live with my family, and in my home.
Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert on foster care. He has been a foster parent for 15 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to foster care agencies, child welfare organizations, and legal firms, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe, and Stable Home and writes for several publications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.