May 1, 2014 | Faith

Power of Parentheses Photo“How can you endure giving kids back after they’ve lived with you?” It’s a good question. It’s often asked. And the answer is, “It’s really hard.”

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.


Tifani Thompson - May 01, 2014 at 11:09 am

I had CHILLS reading this!! I know fostering will be something we will want to be part of in our next season of life. I can only imagine being able to make the many ‘deposits’ of Christ’s love in so many precious children’s life, who are yearning to be loved and comforted. The thought to be able to do this makes me smile non-stop! The power of parenthesis!!,,,,YES!:):):)

Linda Schulte - May 02, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Beautiful post, Sandra! I too, have fielded that question many times, responding with the same answer. I remember even getting irritated at hearing it from so many people. Yes, it was very hard to say good bye, but I was always thankful for whatever time I had to try to make a lasting difference in a child’s life- and in mine!

Melanie Perez-Lugones - May 02, 2014 at 01:37 pm

Beautifully said. This brought tears to my eyes. It’s ALL about (LOVE). <3 1st John 4: 7-8

Starr - May 03, 2014 at 10:23 am

Thanks so much for this. Our family has fostered in the past and are working toward getting our license again after a move and change of states. I wrote this post about “Giving them back.” God has done so much in our lives thru the process!

Lamar Johnson - May 03, 2014 at 01:29 pm

Thank you for sharing. What a great read! I found this post interesting for a couple of reasons. 1) Our first daughter was fostered and eventually adopted(hence, the website). 2) My wife and I was just discussing today, ‘will we foster again one day?’ After reading this post, I believe we have our answer. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your heart in your post.

SJ and LJ

Michelle - May 04, 2014 at 04:56 pm

Don’t forget that even if single foster parents can’t offer the “two parent home” you mention, we still love them between the parentheses with all we have.

    Sandra Stanley - May 04, 2014 at 05:01 pm

    Absolutely, Michelle. In fact, just a few days ago I tweeted this link. Love this article, and I LOVE my single friends who have gotten involved on many levels!

    6 Ways Single Christians Can Help the Orphan

      Michelle - May 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Love it!

    Kaye Hoffman - August 04, 2014 at 08:11 pm

    As a “single” foster parent of 16 years, I so enjoyed your share. God sends wonderful children to our family and as HE works in their lives, and with the help of our church family….those children can get back what satan has stolen from them. I think it’s a celebration when they are leaving. It’s a “happily ever after” or it is “ageing out”. Both are things that they want and need to be successful. And sometimes….. they bring their wives and children back for me to meet~

Jean Stauffer - May 04, 2014 at 06:07 pm

Thank you for this! So powerful and affirming.

We foster parented for over twenty years, and many times when people would say, “I just don’t think I could do this; I couldn’t stand to give them back,” my standard answer was, “Then who SHOULD do it? Hard-hearted people?”

My passion, however, was to move that closing parenthetical marking much further into the future, if at all possible, for foster teenagers. Our family includes four relatively successful adults who came to us as foster teenagers, who would have “graduated” out of the system and out of our care if we had not purposed to treat them exactly as our biological children.

There are many others out there that we pray are benefitting from the few seeds of God’s love we were able to sow in the weeks or months they were with us.

Michelle - May 20, 2014 at 02:40 pm

Amen and thank you for sharing.

Shawnna - January 05, 2015 at 02:31 pm

We believe it is one of our mission fields. I often say it is both the most devastating and rewarding things we have ever done. We also continue to sign up and will as long as we can.

Mary Edwards - January 07, 2015 at 01:58 pm

My husband and I attend Green’s Chapel in Cleveland Alabama. I seen Shawn and Joey Carroll’s post on Facebook. We know them through the Hope House as we are shoppers at Christmas time, we help buy for families that need help with Christmas. We have been involved with the program for the last two years and feel so blessed to be able to participate. Other members of our church also are active in this event, Janet Ray, Saderia Gilliland. My husband and I were involved in a situation approximately 10 years ago where we had to go to court and take his 3 grandchildren away from his daughter and her boyfriend. We were given custody and had the children for 6 years. The youngest was around 10 months old. We kept the children until the mother got off of Meth and got her life straightened out. Once that was an absolute we returned to court and agreed to return the children to the mother. This was the hardest thing I have ever had to do because the bond between the youngest and my husband and I was a parent and child relationship. To this day this relationship has not changed. We try to maintain a grandparent relationship but it just isn’t there completely, we still have that special bond, with the mothers disapproval expressed. The older two children never developed this relationship because they were older and already had the parental bond with their mother. I have brought up becoming foster parents to by husband several times, but he is slightly worried about me going through the emotional drain of returning a child if we have a bond. I have done this and know I can handle it again, I feel the lord has laid this on my heart, I have so much love to give and feel that this is my calling, to give all I have to children that need love, a solid family life, a spiritual life, and a time to experience normalcy. The only other reservation is that my husband feels that there is sooo much red tape that one has to go through, he has heard stories from friends about the long process to get approved. We are praying for God to give us an answer as to whether this is what he wants us to do. Thank you for your post, It has brought up the subject again for us to re-examine. I have a bachelors degree in elementary education although because I am now 50 I am now a home maker and my husband is retired from the USPS after 33 years of work. Thank you and God Bless.

Sheila Daniels - April 15, 2015 at 12:49 am

Thank you for sharing this straight from your heart. My thoughts are that when a child is in your home, even if its for a short while, at least they will have come in contact with love. An opportunity to show Christ’s love through nurture and care, a seed they will take with them everywhere. I’d love to be able to chat with you, share my journey, experience and some ideas. Do you have a mentoring program?

Stephanie - December 27, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Hi. I was able to care for a brand new baby girl whose mom is in prison. After 3 mos.she went to live with her great grandma. It was very difficult. For me and my entire family. Maybe you could help us by sharing some stories you may be familiar with. We prayed over this baby continuously. Do you think that even though she was an infant that our influence will be felt. Her situation is horrible now and my heart aches for her daily. I want her to feel loved and safe. We continue to pray for her. Please share your thoughts. Thank you.

    Sandra Stanley - December 28, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Absolutely! I’ve read research over the years that point to those early months being so important. You held her, loved her, prayed over her. Those things are so very important! I’m sure your prayers for her will continue throughout her life.

    I keep a list of the children who have come through our home in my prayer journal so that I can continue praying for them by name. If you know her great grandma’s name, add her to the list too. I’m praying right now for all of you, Stephanie. May God bless you for loving a little one who needed you so much.

      Stephanie - December 28, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you so much. I can’t explain how much your words mean to me. God bless you and your family.

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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).