I am the type of person who likes to understand everything. I want to understand people and the circumstances they’re facing in life so I can be a source of encouragement to them. I’m also the type of person who is scared of saying something wrong—something that will offend someone. I have a terrible habit of avoiding what I don’t understand.
My involvement in the foster care community has changed over the last several years. It began with service events through my church, where I learned about our local foster care community’s various needs. I was always comfortable with these events and the people I was serving with. Growing up in church, helping others was something my family regularly did. I was well within my comfort zone and didn’t feel I was missing anything to be successful—the perfect scenario for me!
But God continued to allow me to increase my proximity to the foster care community. When my husband started working with TFI, I found myself sitting in a room full of TFI Advocates who regularly engaged with the foster care community—some of them, foster parents and former agency workers themselves. They shared their experiences with fostering, working with agencies, going to court, and so many other aspects of a world I knew nothing about. Suddenly, I felt completely out of my depth.
As these new people in my life spoke about their journeys in the foster care community, I suddenly realized that I had a lot of preconceived notions about what foster care was actually like. I realized I had been informed about the foster care community by movies and TV shows instead of by people actually living it. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know anything real about foster care aside from the tangible needs that my church was filling. My lack of knowledge made me uncomfortable, and I began asking myself, “how can I be there for my friends who are in the foster care community when I’m on the outside?”
The answer became more apparent to me in the last couple of years. As I’ve continued conversations with my friends in the foster care community, I have learned a lot about how I can be there for those experiencing foster care firsthand, even though I have not experienced it myself.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
You are not the expert, and that’s okay.
Don’t feel insecure about your lack of knowledge in an area you’ve never walked. Give yourself grace and listen to those who are the experts.
Kindness and compassion are not contingent on what you know.
You don’t have to completely understand what it’s like to be a foster parent, a child in care, an agency worker, or a bio parent to encourage and support them. I spent a lot of time remaining silent and feeling unequipped as a friend when I could have been learning and contributing. You can always be kind and compassionate without having all of the details.
Diversity is a beautiful thing.
If your life is full of other people just like you, it’s time to branch out. God’s kingdom is diverse! Getting past my discomfort and insecurity in my lack of knowledge led me to friends and experiences, I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I have learned a lot about the foster care community, but hear me when I say there’s still plenty more to learn! In fact, I’m confident in the fact that there’s always going to be more to learn. That’s because God has written beautifully unique stories for each and every one of us!
My encouragement to you, dear friend of the foster care community, is to keep listening even when you feel out of place or feel like you could never understand. Remember, your compassionate responses matter, and your efforts in walking alongside the foster care community glorify God. So step outside of your comfort zone today and reach out to someone you know needs support.
Becky enjoys spending time with friends and family, and has a big heart for caring for those around her. With a strong background in office management, Becky loves creating a welcoming environment for all to enjoy. She spends her time outside of work leading at church, and baking pies!
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