When I started this post, it was titled “The Dangers of Optimism in Foster Parenting.” As I began to write, though, I realized that the problem isn’t optimism. Which is a good thing, because I am impractically optimistic, and I’ve been failing miserably in my attempts to suppress that. The problem isn’t optimism – it’s getting emotionally invested in one certain resolution.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
When it was determined that my (now adopted) son, Squish, was going to go to his birth father, Super Dad and I were SO excited for him.We were sad that he was leaving, and we knew that we would miss him, but we truly believed this was the best possible outcome for him. As far as we were concerned, he hit the jackpot. (Well, as far as child welfare cases go.) Three months later, when he came back into care, while we didn’t hesitate to take him back, and were thrilled to have him back, it was very upsetting that the outcome in which we had had been so emotionally invested wasn’t to be.
At the other end of the spectrum, it’s so easy to begin to see a future where the child you love is forever a part of your family. But learning that a relative has come forward, or that the birth mom has been accepted into a mother-child rehab facility, after you’ve become emotionally invested in the idea of adopting the child, causes the grief of saying good-bye to a foster child to be magnified by the pain of letting go of your hopes.
The very nature of foster care is uncertainty. There is a reason that roller coaster imagery is widely used to describe foster parenting. Nothing is certain. And yet, you can’t hold yourself back emotionally from the kids. They deserve nothing less than 100%. You have to be emotionally committed to the children in your care. If you’re not fully invested in them, if your heart doesn’t break when they leave, you’re doing it wrong. Some placements are more difficult than others and some kids are harder to love, but if you never grieve when a child leaves your home, you have no business being a foster parent.
But just because you’re emotionally invested in the kids, doesn’t mean you have to be emotionally invested in a specific conclusion. I think if you can find the line between the two, yes, you’re still going to grieve when they leave; yes, it’s still going to hurt,;and yes, your heart will still break,;but maybe – maybe if you can find that line – fully loving a child without being completely attached to a particular outcome, maybe when you learn that your desired outcome isn’t going to happen – maybe that won’t be such a devastating blow.
Maybe. I don’t know. But I’m going to try it. What do you think?