Foster care is full of good and hard, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. It’s a place where you hold more than one emotion at a time, and often those feelings and emotions oppose one another.
From the very first moment as a foster parent, you’re met with this paradox. I was so excited to welcome a little one into my family and home, but on the other side of my excitement, I was also very aware that for me to foster a child, it meant a family would be devastatingly torn apart. I understood that children would not enter my home with excitement, but likely with confusion and apprehension as their world was turned upside down. They would leave the only things they knew to step into my world.
Do you ever think back to the day you met your kiddo(s)?
It’s the day that a stranger became someone who will forever have a place in your heart. Their world was changed, and so was yours. They tried to understand who you were, and you slowly learned their likes and dislikes.
As we pass a year and a half together, I’ve thought back to the day I met my current little love. She was two. She held the caseworker’s hand as she walked across the parking lot, ponytail swinging back and forth, and a sweet smile on her face. It felt odd to take a stranger’s child into my care and into my home. As the caseworker left, I realized I was her adult now. I was the one that would be her person, the one that would help meet her needs and stand in the gap until her mama could take the steps she needed to in order to be the one to care for her.
She walked into the house with big eyes as she took in the details of a strange new place. She babbled a little, took to the other kids quickly, and loved the new toys, but for the most part, remained pretty somber with a small smile here and there.
As she played, I sent pictures of that sweet face to my family, who was non-stop praying for her, her mama, and me during the transition and heartbreaking situation we all found ourselves in. I have that photo from the first day; I thought it was a sweet photo.
I look back at pictures from the first week-month of our life together, and something is radically different now. Ya’ll, compared to the child she is today—I still see a stranger as I look at those pictures—because those pictures did not depict her or her joyful, energetic personality that was to come.
Her real joy and personality came out over that time as she began to feel safe and attached. Looking back on that first photo of her, my heart breaks. Behind that sweet smile, there was joy, but there was also so much confusion and fear too.
It’s been an honor to walk with her in her big emotions—although, those make me tired; can I get an amen, foster parent friend? I’m thankful for the ways we’ve grown together during this time. I’m thankful that I get to know what her real smile looks like. Yes, there is still hard that we walk through together, but now she knows she’s not walking through it alone. Now she knows that she is safe. Now she knows that I can be trusted. I don’t take that for granted.
Becoming a foster parent, I knew a child would not automatically feel comfortable or safe. It’s appropriate. I was a stranger, just as she was a stranger to me.
It is such an honor to experience a little human go from being a stranger to one of the people you love the very most on this earth.
It’s good for us to reflect on where we’ve been so that we can see just how far God has taken us together.
It’s a gift to be a part of her journey.
Jillian has a passion for building relationships and loving people well. She desires to see the Church mobilized to support and step into the lives of those affected by foster care. As a foster mom, she is currently relying on donuts, coffee, and JESUS!
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