By Jodie Whitcombe
Fostering brings to light ugliness and brokenness. The stories and
situations that come with each child can feel so heavy to carry at times. I see dysfunctional families. And then I see this system that is supposed to help these families heal and be reunited, and yet the system itself is full of its own dysfunction. Some of the brokenness I experience is not from what I see around
me, but from what I feel inside. My own shortcomings and insecurities are challenged when our family is stretched. When children come to our home with their needs and emotional wounds, I have to practice my ability to accept help, be
vulnerable to others, and let things go.
We are respite providers. We provide a safe place for kids to stay while the grown ups in their life figure out “the best plan” for them. This often looks like a call in the night because they need a place for kids to stay; it’s after hours they just need to figure something out quick. It’s not unusual for us to have children here for just a night, or for a week or two. There are often breaks for weeks, even months between phone calls, but some times we may say goodbye to one child to have another come the next day. Because of the nature of being resource parents for emergencies, I hear many of these life stories and the children may leave our home faster than the heaviness leaves my heart.
This calling also brings to light great beauty. I'm witnessing hearts full of love and caring that they must be too big to belong in a small child's body. My biological children and our little guests often prove to me that exceptional friendship can be formed in short periods of time. I have seen a visiting child who is practically a stranger to me locate a bandaid to fix my child's boo-boo. I have watched my children willingly give up their rooms for others. I have heard the children teach each other games and songs. Seeing mere children show love to others in these little ways is moving and profound.
Then there is the beautiful support of selfless friends who have surrounded us in our journey. Our village has helped manage the chaos of the crowd so I can spend time with the child that needs a little extra. Friends have cleaned my kitchen, came over to be the activity director for an afternoon, brought us food, and prayed for us among just a few examples. My husband's workplace allows him to leave early at times for court dates and visits.
We can nurture these children who come and go because we have a village who not only chooses to love us, but also comes alongside and loves on children they don't even know.
This is the beauty of humanity at its purest form: loving someone you don't know and expecting nothing in return. This is the love my children have the opportunity to witness and practice. This is the love our village is pouring into these kids. Sometimes kids come and it adds a little bit of crazy to our lives, but it's totally doable. Other times kids come and it's hard. Like really, really hard.
When you get the call and say yes you don't know which way it's going to go. But we keep saying yes. We keep saying yes because when we ask our kids how they feel about a crazy week we had with some extra friends, they express gratitude that we are doing it. When we ask our kids if they need a break after back to back placements, they want us to say yes even if it’s already been weeks since they have had us all to themselves. We can keep saying yes because when it is just too hard, our village steps in and holds us up.
Fostering is a humbling experience that leaves me vulnerable and heartbroken and sleep deprived and in awe of life every time. I guess the best things in life, the real things, the worth it things...
Maybe they are all kind of this way: laced with inseparable brokenness and beauty. Maybe this is being alive.
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