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My brain can’t fully process my unnatural parental role.

I analyze my foster-related stress regularly, because I confuse unpacking it with dismembering it. When it gets overwhelming, I remind myself of the facts, hoping this will help me let the stress go. But the problem is that foster care is so unnatural, I truly believe my mind can’t adjust to process it completely.

My brain knows this “isn’t my” child, but my heart thinks it is. My partner and I pour ourselves into meeting the physical, emotional, and developmental needs of this child. We’re the ones up in the middle of the night when he’s sick. We’re the ones trying teach him right from wrong. We’re the ones at his school addressing concerns. We’re the ones planning fun activities for him, because we love making him happy. We’re the ones trying to provide him with a spiritual foundation. As we’re doing all this, it’s alway somewhere in the back of our minds that this child could abruptly leave our lives.  And should we end up disagreeing with a court decision to return this child home, it would go against our parental instincts to keep this child safe. I go over the facts. “You’re doing this to teach him he is valuable and loved.” “This season only is your responsibility. Not before, not after.” “Him learning to attach and trust is what really matters.” But there’s really nothing I can tell myself that lets me fully wrap my mind around foster care.

This isn’t the only unnatural thing about foster care. It’s unnatural for a child to have to be removed from their biological parents. It’s unnatural for the biological parent: to have to live knowing that someone else is raising their child.

There’s so much confusion involved, that foster parents desperately need community. We need to be surrounded by people who fully understand what we’re experiencing. People who understand our fears for our children. People who understand how we can experience simultaneous frustration with, and yet heartbreak for a biological parent.

I don’t know how I would have made it through the past year without my fellow foster parents. If you’re looking for community, we at FLM would like to be here for you. Kids are worth it, but we can’t do it alone!

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