You have permission.
It’s okay to say it’s hard.
It’s okay to say that sometimes you just feel like no understands what you are going through.
Guess what. It’s even okay to say that sometimes, you simply want to stop, that you can’t do it any more, that you are just don’t want to be hurt again.
Yes, foster parenting can be difficult.
You see, I have been a foster parent to over 60 children over the years. Foster parenting, without a doubt, has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I can not imagine a more difficult and challenging life style. I have lived the life of a foster parent. These children have been as young as 27 hours old, and as old as 18 years of age. Some have stayed a day, while others have stayed up to two years. I have had up to 11 children in my home, and at one time had 7 in diapers.
The outside world does not see the many challenges and struggles you may face on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis. Your friends and family don’t truly understand or appreciate what you are going through. Others see the children coming in and out of your home on a regular basis, and most find it a wonderful thing you are doing, but also may find it a little odd or strange, and question why you do it.
You will often find yourself exhausted, both mentally and physically, and feel drained. There is very little money available to help you, and you may not be reimbursed for all the money you spend on your foster child. The job will require you to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no time off. You will probably feel overworked and under appreciated. You will work with children who are most likely coming from difficult and harmful environments. Some of these children will have health issues, some will come with behavioral issues, and some will struggle with learning disabilities. Many times, the children you work with will try your patience, and leave you with headaches, frustrations, disappointments, and even heartbreaks. There is a reason why many people are not foster parents, as it is often too difficult.
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There have been those times where my heart has broken when a child left my home. There have been those moments when I have questioned whether or not I was making a difference. There have been those times when I have grown frustrated with the system, as I have had to stand by and watch some of the children in my home go back to environments and situations which I knew that were not healthy or safe, for that matter. To be sure, I have also watched my wife’s own doubts, and her desire to no longer foster, as her heart had been broken numerous times, as well, from the many children she had grown to love, only to see them return to homes where the children were once again placed in jeopardy.
It is the same for so many foster parents who have shared their stories with me. I have heard from foster parents who lose sleep each night for weeks and months on end, trying to calm and soothe a baby born addicted to crack, heroin, or meth. I have heard from foster parents who have been yelled at on a daily basis from foster teens who are so emotionally upset by their own experiences that they take it out on their foster parents. I have heard from those who have been told one day they could adopt their foster babies, only to be told another day that the baby would return instead to a biological family member the child had never met. The stories are countless, the stories are heartbreaking, and the stories are never ending. Surely, there is no earthly reason to be a foster parent. So, why do we do it? For many, like my wife Kelly, we are answering a call.
It is okay to say that it is hard. It is okay to say that you can’t do it anymore. It is okay to step away for awhile and take a break; say not to a placement; allow yourself time to recover and fill that cup back up again.
Yet, if you are like me, you continue to care for children because the need is so strong. After all, there is a child in need, right now as you read this, who is in need of someone to say, “I care. I will take care of you. I will love you.”
When we care for children in foster care, and bring them into our homes and families, we help to change their lives. Yet, at the same time, our lives are changed, as well; changed for the better. I have become a much better person for each child that has come through my home.
Do I sometimes want to say I can't do this anymore? Yes, sometimes I do. Yet, there is a child who needs me. There is a child who will make me a better person at the same time, as well.
And, there is a child who needs you. Right now. There is a child who needs you to say, "I will help you."
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