The Gift of Fostering (You Might Be a Foster Parent If…)

One day listening to a Jeff Foxworthy “You Might Be a Redneck If…” routine, it occurred to me that — just as rednecks can blissfully scratch through life without recognizing their “red-neckiness,” so many potentially wonderful foster parents could be missing out on a truly life-changing opportunity, simply because they don’t see within themselves God’s “gift of fostering.” And with more than 500,000 children in the U.S. in need of temporary or permanent homes, getting families to recognize this gift is a genuinely pro-life endeavor.

So … what does a foster family look like? Most aren’t rich in the financial sense. Some excellent foster parents open their hearts to a child long before they find a spouse. (Here in Ann Arbor, the sisters of Servants of God’s Love have fostered children for years.) You don’t have to own your own home, or even be at home full-time. (On the other hand, troubled children greatly benefit from the love and attention a SAHM can provide.)

So … what does the “gift of fostering” look like? You might be a great foster parent if …

· You genuinely like being around other people’s children, and they like being around you.

· You instinctively look for ways to help other people — adults and children alike.

· You notice when your child’s classmate doesn’t have a warm jacket … and find one for him.

· You’re good at bringing order out of chaos, but don’t mind a little “happy mess.”

· You have a WYSIWYG philosophy of life: honest, straightforward, and generally kind.

· You‘re a natural (and patient) teacher, capable of giving a lesson again and again.

· You have a “second sense” about children, and can figure out what they need when they can’t tell you themselves.

· You like cuddling, hugs, and dandelion bouquets.

· You make friends for life, even when you don’t see them every day.

· You are a resourceful person, and aren’t too proud to ask for help when you need it.

· You would like to add to your family, but aren’t sure you want another pregnancy.

· Most important: You believe in the power of love to change lives.

Some people hesitate to get involved because they aren’t sure they can bear the thought of getting attached, then having a child leave again. In reality, nearly 60% of foster children never go home, and there are more than 125,000 children who need permanent homes. Most of these children are over four years of age (the median age is eight) — younger children are often a part of a sibling group, have special needs, or are biracial.

However, many foster parents find that the children who enter their lives even for a brief time touch them so deeply, they are better off for having known them for even a short time. For a touching account of one such family’s experience, pick up a copy of “Paper Sack Kids“.

Do you live in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area? Join Heidi Saxton at St. Andrew Parish in Saline on April 28 at 9:45 a.m. for an “adoption fair.” After Heidi’s talk, representatives from local foster and adoption agencies will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about adoption and foster care. For more information, contact Heidi at

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  • asquared

    You know you were turned down as a foster parent if:
    your own kids share bedrooms & bathrooms, so state won’t place children with you
    your own kids eat what you can afford–good nutrition from simple foods–but that is not good enough for the state agency
    your own kids walk to school, but you were turned down because you cannot drive foster child to school
    one of your own children has special needs, and state agency feels environment is threatening to interests of the foster child

  • asquared,

    They say that God never closes a door without opening a window. Try to see what happened to you as being allowed by God–even if the State’s reasons are dumb. Then you will see that things happened this way for a reason, and you will be ready to move on.

  • Asquared: I’m sorry you were disappointed this way. That must have been very frustrating. I wonder if you would get a different response with another agency.

    Same-sex siblings can share bedrooms, as long as there is a minimum square footage of space available (I think it’s 40 square feet, the size of a bed). HOWEVER, be sure there is no history of sexual or physical abuse before putting younger children and foster child in close proximity without direct adult supervision.

    While a particular foster child might have special needs — for example, need to be escorted to school until they demonstrate a level of self-sufficiency — this is by no means true of all foster kids. Same is true of dietary requirements; in addition, foster kids are eligible for both free hot lunches and food stamps.

    It doesn’t cost a lot to raise a foster child … On the other hand, it can be labor intensive at times. (I tell people that birth mothers labor to deliver their children; adoptive and foster mothers labor — sometimes just as painfully — to make the child “theirs” AFTER the delivery.

    God bless you!

    Heidi Saxton