Don’t They Know?

Andy and I are in our sixth year of fostering. Newbies still, really. But, recently someone asked, “Considering all you’ve learned in foster care, what advice would you give new foster parents?

Understatement alert! I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned stuff about myself. Umm, I’m selfish. I’ve learned how much I love my clean and orderly little lifestyle. Foster care laughs at that. I’ve learned a ton about “the system.” Yeah it’s broken but sometimes it’s not. I’ve learned much about the plight of children who are neglected, abused, and abandoned. I cry a lot when I pray. And, I’ve learned that there are heroes all around me. There are people who put their own personal agendas aside and lean heavily into making the world a better place for some “ones.” I’m crazy inspired by them.

In answer to the question though, I land at this insight. Don’t take foster kids’ rejection and seeming ingratitude personally.

Going into the world of foster care I didn’t realize the depth of personal pain and how that manifests itself in children. There are good days and bad days, but anger, confusion, and lack of trust are pretty common. Usually they don’t know what to do with all that.

From our adult perspective, they’ve been “rescued” from environments and people who are hurting them. They should be grateful, right? But, they rarely see it that way. Their “situation” is all they know. It’s their normal. It’s their familiar. And they are not happy about being removed from their normal and familiar.

Also, from our adult perspective, we’re giving up a lot to step in and help. We’re sacrificing time, convenience, peace, and resources. We’re carting them to doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and getting their eyes checked. We’re tutoring or hiring tutors to catch them up to grade level. We’re giving away evenings out and sacrificing lots of potential free time. Sometimes, we’re sacrificing other relationships. Oh, and there are parent visits, case worker visits, court appointments, and continuing ed. We know what we’re trading, and it’s a lot.

They don’t know though. And, even if they did, they can’t possibly be expected to understand. They’re kids. They’re actually kids carrying a lot of pain. While we’re certainly doing our best to teach them important things, how to express gratitude being one of them, we cannot and must not take it personally.

So how do we not? Like any other truth, we renew our minds. Maybe there is a verse of Scripture we identify that’s helpful. Or, maybe we simply recall to ourselves, “They’ll be 25 one day, with full frontal lobe development, and they might actually be grateful then!” Or, maybe we remind ourselves of the why behind what we’re doing.

Or maybe not, and that’s okay too. Just don’t take it personally. Really, don’t.

Comments

  1. Carina Morton says

    Sandra,
    Thank you for reminding me of “not taking it personal”. As we have an adopted daughter now 15 and those “bad” days I have to remind myself just that…don’t take it personal. Thank you to you and Andy for Our great church!

  2. Marcy Theobald says

    You nailed it, here, Sandra. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’re only in our fourth month of fostering and I’ve thought and felt all your words. But what occurred to me is that I often pray for our foster son (please just let him feel loved and accepted!), his parents (please break the chains of addiction holding them down), and everyone involved in his case (give them wisdom to do what’s needed to make good decisions on his behalf), but after reading your post I realized I rarely pray for me and my husband. We need prayers just as much as anyone else.

    That changes today. This morning. Right now.

  3. Martha says

    My husband and I are in the process of fostering to adopt a sibling group of a brother and sister. We don’t have any children of our own. Your words were an encouragement to me and so is being part of Fostering Together.

  4. MH says

    Sandra
    My husband and I attended N Pt, the greatest pleasures at this church was living and being loved by some dozen and dozens of middle and high school girls throughout Transit and Inside Out. My heart is overwhelmed by the love received as they were conduits of His love for me.
    We relocated to San Fran…we knew something was in the midst and the best was yet to come when we had the opportunity to move. Prior to moving my husband and I were so encouraged to hear you and Andy were foster parents thus my motto: if Sandra (the pastors wife of a mega church) can make the time to do it, so can we. Why not? So, we attended an orientation and the anticipation of “fostering together” with others was unbelievably exciting to me!
    Married 15 yrs and we do not have children of our own. Today we are asked to consider fostering/adopting a 9 yr old child. Our courage to foster stemmed from knowing there was support and today I am quite afraid because we do not have “Fostering Together”. All the times I’ve wholeheartedly sang the lyric “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” ….I suppose we were created for such a time as this.?

    Any suggestions and prayers will be a delight!

  5. says

    You nailed it, Sandra! Thank you for sharing this insight. It is so very important.

    We fostered for over twenty years, the majority of them teenagers. Four of them, now adults, are “forever” members of our family in addition to our three biological kids. Now we’re getting heavily involved in the lives of their children.

    We could now be leading nice, uncomplicated, boring lives as we face our retirement years. But I never wanted to be normal, and there is no chance we ever will be normal or bored! I look back and have no idea how we survived many situations, and sometimes I think we must have been crazy. But we felt called, and we were given the grace we needed. We would do it again.

  6. Tifani Thompson says

    You posted this in such perfect timing! You deliver God’s word in such a powerful and touching way. It was so wonderful sharing this post. You continue to encourage and bless all of our lives.
    Thank you!

  7. says

    Thanks for sharing from your heart here. We adopted two orphans from Ghana when our biological kids were teenagers. Yes, it changed our family a lot and there have been many sacrifices. But the outcome of rescuing a child and teaching them about God’s love and salvation is totally worth all the pain. Bless you.

    • says

      Oh, Dawn. What a beautiful tribute–a tribute to your wonderful friend, to the blessing of frdipeshin, and to the great God who gives every good thing. I am so glad you were able to do this! Bless you!!

  8. Anita says

    Sandra,
    I just want to say “thank you” for the Christ-like example you set and also for encouraging me to daily put my personal agenda aside for my six children but especially for the precious one who was adopted…and has multiple special needs. There are so many days that I’d like to shift my focus away from the messy daily stuff and build something…some kind of platform or just something where I would receive accolades. Friends encourage me to speak, counsel, or lead in some format but all those things take time away from my #1 God-given job at this stage of life. The fact that you waited to start a ministry until your children were grown speaks volumes with me!
    I’ve listened to Andy for years (from Oklahoma!) and have clung to those talks where the two of you share your devotion to family. Nehemiah 6:3 is a verse that I mentally and visually keep in front of me!
    So, thank you for truly leading by example.
    In HIS work,
    Anita

  9. says

    I’m so blessed to have found your fostering page! I have a 20 year old adopted from China as an infant, and four others adopted from Foster Care.

    Two were teens at placement and adoption. As they became adults, they moved on their way with little to no contact with us. One even said we could come to her wedding if we wanted to, but she was having her bio dad give her away and it would be too awkward for us to be in the receiving line. Ouch.

    The two who were infants at placement have known no other family and have adjusted to adoption well.

    My biggest concern is the one from China. At 20 she is having emotional challenges wondering why she wasn’t good enough for her parents to keep her; why they abandoned her in a planter-box. No amount of explanation seems to help her come to terms with her abandonment.

    Your article hit me today. Thank you for sharing it. I needed to hear your words of wisdom as I work through the hurt I feel for my “little” girl.

  10. says

    Thank you so much for this post. We are 7 months into a complicated foster situation, and the lack of gratefulness is sometimes overwhelming for me. But it’s not about me, and it’s not about what “I’m” doing…it’s about God, and what he’s doing through this situation. THANK YOU!

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