At some point, all foster parents face the reality of packing up suitcases with accumulated clothes, toys, and mementos. They watch as caseworkers pull into the driveway. They look into the faces of children whom they’ve tucked into bed for a bunch of nights in a row . . . and they say goodbye.
The crazy thing is that they usually sign up to do it again. Why? Because they understand “the power of the parentheses.”
In almost every fostering scenario, there is a beginning and there is an end. There is the day the fearful kids arrive wondering who in the world these people are and why they can’t just go back home. There is a varying number of “in-between days.” And then there is the day the kids are packed up and either sent back home or to a place of permanency.
The arrival day is the first parenthetical mark. The departure day is the closing one. Those “in-between days” are what I want to tell you about—the days that make up the space between the parenthetical marks. Those are the days, whether hard or easy, that compel foster parents to sign up and do it all over again.
Within those marks are the opportunities to show children, maybe for the first time, what a two-parent home looks like. It might be their first opportunity to see what a family dinner looks like. It might be among the few times they’ve felt safe when tucked into bed at night. It’s possibly the only time they’ve actually been tucked in. Perhaps it’s the first time they’ve been taken to church.
Many times, inside those parenthetical marks, they first hear about a heavenly Father who will never, under any circumstances, leave them. And, usually, they’ve been left a lot. That’s why foster parents endure the pain and uncertainty of giving kids back.
So, regardless of the distance between the opening and closing parenthetical marks, what happens in the middle matters a ton. The peace offered there is life altering. The picture of what a “someday” could look like casts vision for their future. The beginnings of a relationship with a heavenly Father who never wavers is a complete game changer.
THIS is the power of the parentheses. It’s why we do it again.
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Sandra is a Georgia native and has lived in the Atlanta area since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1988. She married Andy that same year and they founded North Point Ministries in 1995. Sandra’s ministry passion is promoting foster care in the local church. Much of her time these days is spent in seminary classes through Dallas Theological Seminary, working on various writing projects, and continuing her involvement with Fostering Together – the foster care initiative at North Point Ministries.
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“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).