What should I expect if we were to foster? What will the children be like?
What type of circumstances will the children be coming from? Do you think we would be good at it?
These are the types of good, and important, questions I am asked by those considering the role of foster parenting. Before I can begin answering, we have to understand foster care from the right perspective: as an act of service. Although these questions are important, what is most important is entering into foster care with the right expectations.
Service is defined by Oxford’s Dictionary as the action of helping or doing work for someone else. Service is almost always associated with sacrifice. This typically is thought of as an act of giving up something of value for the sake of something or someone else.
In the case of foster care, one of the most significant sacrifices you can expect to make is time. This might include time with other loved ones, time in the workplace, and travel or leisure time. While sacrifices in these areas may seem difficult, your time will be spent in new ways: creating a loving and safe environment for a child who hasn’t had one, providing needed direction and structure, and helping a child in need to trust again. The value of time is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. When I meet with prospective couples for the first time, I often share with them that the bonds they hold with a foster child are not formed overnight, but it does not make the journey any less worthwhile.
Recently, I took my 7-year-old daughter to the sweetheart dance at her elementary school. Once we arrived at the dance, she took off to play and run around with her friends. She occasionally checked in with me, and was comforted that I was there. That is a good example of the first connection a foster parent will make with a child. The first step is simply being there, ensuring safety and comfort, even when a child seems disinterested at times. This takes time, strength and emotional intelligence to make the circumstance less about you and more about them.
I know that every child in the foster care system wants an opportunity to dance. Is your heart calling you to learn more about how you can play a part? Our community is blessed with some wonderful agencies that are ready to assist you in taking that first step.
– Zach Blend is CEO of the Goshen Valley Foundation and a Georgia Trend 40 Under 40 recipient.