Two years ago I knew very little about foster care. I had a friend I’d grown up with who was a foster parent, and I thought that was great — FOR THEM. I was glad they opened their home to kids who needed a home, and I was glad they were able to be parents for the first time. But I didn’t think about it much more than that, except in thinking that I would NEVER be a foster parent.
Fast forward to the present, and here we are, nearly a year into the foster care world. So much has changed in that time. Most of what has changed is me. I have a much better understanding, appreciation, and heart for kids from hard places than I ever have. I used to think that foster parents were people who needed more money, used food stamps, drove really big vans, gathered children for child labor, and dressed their school-class sized family of kids in raggedy clothes. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that way as many birth parents we have interacted with have expressed similar concerns. I think movies and TV shows may play a role in those preconceived notions we have, but the reality is that foster parents are very much normal people who are giving love to children who very much need love, consistency, and someone to lookout for them.
When I tell people that I am a foster parent I get a mix of reactions, and I can understand why. It’s unknown to a lot of people and what’s unknown can be scary. Foster care is hard. It’s beautiful. It’s life-changing. We get to watch children change before our eyes. We get to be the people who fight for them — fighting for their rights, their health, their healing. It’s a privilege.
Did you know?
There are close to 8,000 children in foster care in the state of Tennessee.
There are over 700 children in foster care in Knox County.
You could fill Neyland Stadium with the number of children in the US waiting to be adopted.
So how can you help?
— If you’ve been thinking about opening your home to children in foster care, take the jump. It’s worth it.
— If you’re not in a place where you can be a foster parent, support foster families. It’s hard to bring a new child in, and there are many ways to be supportive of the families who do that. Bring them meals, bring clothes for the new children, offer to babysit for the many appointments, court dates, and meetings the foster parents have to attend. Mow their lawn, bring some groceries by, or just let them know that you care for them and their family.
— Love a child in foster care. Be encouraging, loving, and consistent.
This year during Foster Care Awareness Month, I am thankful that we are a foster care family. I am so thankful for the 4 children we have had in our home who we would never have known if we didn’t take the plunge to get involved. People say we’re changing their lives, but really, they’re changing ours.