Why I Wish I Never Became A Foster Parent
by Kara Curfman, Foster and Adoptive mom and Post Adopt Case Manager
Our journey began simple enough. After 15 years of feeling led to foster parent, my husband finally decided the time was right. We had three biological children (a term that becomes "normal" when you foster and adopt) and life was good. The ads say that nothing special is required, just love and a home. We were on on our way. If only I had known. I was so so wise, or so I thought. I thought I knew things, I thought I had seen things, I thought I was worldly wise and knowledgeable. I had no idea. No idea at all. I was not prepared for what was about to happen. No one can be. Oh, we went through the training, lots and lots of training. We even went above and beyond and read books (a sampling are displayed here). Yep, you heard it here, we read books, because we all know that books make you knowledgeable. Ah, the myth of it all. Who could be so prepared like us? Ahhhh....the pride we felt.....there was no humility at all and yet we THOUGHT becoming foster parents was all about humility. Little did we know, humility was about to walk a long road with us. A long and lonely road with God walking with us, his presence closer than ever before, but still sometimes silent and He let us take it all in. His broken world, His beautiful broken children.
The call came in. Oh the excitement, the joy. It didn't occur to me the loss that was occurring in that very moment. I mean I read about it and could quote quotes about it, but I did NOT know. The loss that would span a lifetime. A lifetime of searching, a lifetime of delays, a lifetime of unexplained heartaches that will manifest themselves in many ugly ways throughout that lifetime. How could I have known. Did I miss a lesson, a step, or maybe a book? Did I forget something? Could I have listened more, read more, studied harder? Could I have just walked away.....
You can't UNSEE what you have seen. There is a very raw, honest, wounded part of me that wants to go back and unsee it all. I want to go back before foster care and change my choices. I want to take up knitting and go to carefree lunches with friends, give to missions and maybe even take a mission trip, but not, not, not walk the road that is foster care, to take care of the invisible orphan. That title, "invisible orphan" is so very clear to me like a fresh stream in the mountains running over rocks and singing all the way down.
Invisible...yes they are. They are all around us. They are tall and skinny and cute and plain. They are blonde and black and mixed and young and teenagers. They laugh and smile and cry and take things in like the rest of us, but they are not like the rest of us. They have seen things that no child should see. They have done things that no child should have to do. Some know it and some do not even have a clue that their life is different. They hurt just like you. They are in your neighborhood, at the mall, in the doctor's office and yet you don't see. Their families often have long generational habits that cause ugly things to happen over and over again and they have no idea that it is not like that for everyone. They are broken.
The crazy part is the heart I now have for the bio parents in this journey. Some have never been taught. Some have never been given a chance. Some live in fear and neglect and abuse and now they are doing exactly what they know. I want to hug them, I want to shake them, I want to teach them a different way, I want to punch them. How can you process those kind of emotions?
I wish I hadn't heard the gut wrenching scream of a mom who just heard the judge terminate HER parental rights of her baby. HER baby. Never to see her again. I still hear her screaming. I can't forget it. I can't forget that the day I became a mom again, she lost everything. I also can't forget the many cases where justice was not served because too many people were too busy to see that child, just his case and it was just another case in lots of cases. He was nothing more that just a case, not a child, not a precious, breathing human being who never asked for this.
Is it normal for a 12 month old to be able to open jars and eat the contents in under 3 minutes? Is is normal for a 2 year old to carry her infant brother to the closet and hold him under blankets to protect him because she is afraid for their safety? Is is normal for me to want to hold them all and yet run so far away where maybe the images will disappear. I wish I could "unsee" it all. How would I be different? That's the tough question! I HAVE SEEN IT and now I am different. I am worn, I am tired. My patience is thin when it comes to trivial whining from adults who can't get the car in front of them to turn fast enough or the mom who is angry because her 2 year old is an embarrassment to her because he spilled his chocolate milk on his shirt before she was going to show him off to her high school friends. I can't do many normal things any more, because what is normal to me is not normal to others. I know one of my daughter's will never be like other children and neither will I because of her. I will love richer, applaud small wonders, laugh at silly things and cry over the injustice, true injustice that visited her crib at birth. How can I be happy I'm a foster parent? How can I not want to turn back time and be innocent? Oblivious?
I'm sorry if I stare at you when you complain about potty training, or teething or sleepless nights. I want to be sympathetic, but I just can't muster it up (please note that I am not in any way making less of your situation....I go through these as well...they are normal struggles...please know my heart is just often heavy) I want to tell you about holding a child as she shakes violently, staring at you with helpless eyes as the cocaine makes its way through her system. I want to tell you about the mom who stays up night after night after night as she waits to hear about her 11 year old runaway who can't seem to shake the demons of her past long enough to receive real love. I am not walking away from your conversations because I don't care....I just have children who need me in ways I can barely give and yet God has granted me strength for one more day and I need to go and hug away the past.
Should YOU become a foster parent? That is between you and God. I wouldn't trade a day of my life. I can't go back. I can't "unsee" any of it. I'm glad I'm no longer innocent, but the weight is heavy, very heavy. I will always tell you I'm not strong enough and I'm not, but my God has been carrying me down this lonely, heart wrenching road for a long time. I do see joy...joy in things that I wouldn't have expected. Joy in the trivial, in the mundane. I cherish the little things and the quiet people who fight as warriors for these children and go unnoticed in the day to day. Do I wish I had never become a foster parent? I have to be honest and say that I wish I hadn't seen the things I've seen and yet I would have missed my children. How can I reconcile that? There is no way to do so. I march on, faithful, resolute and ready to face tomorrow armed with the knowledge that my God has never left me. My family stands battle-weary, scared, but ready. We've lost friends, confused people and left people staring in our wake, but we march on and we love our life, our children, both forever ones and ones we only stood in the gap for for a time. They all have made us who we are and we are better than before, we know how to love richer and see joy for what it is. March on Warriors!