The fear of getting attached is often expressed as the reason someone could not become a foster parent. How do we fight against this fear?
Any foster parent has a list of things they’ve had said to them. It almost becomes a game.
- “Are all these kids yours?”
- “Which ones are your real kids?”
- “You’re a saint.”
- “When do you have to give the kids back?”
- “How long until you can adopt them?”
- “They are so lucky to have you.”
- “I would never know they’re not yours, they look just like you.”
Some of these are said with good intentions. I could spend a lot of time unpacking all of them. However, one statement stands out that I want to challenge because it exposes a huge disconnect to the heart of fostering.
“That’s great for you, but I could never foster. I would get too attached.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. It was actually the core reservation my husband had when we talked about fostering for the first time. I get the heart behind it. However, the more I learned about fostering the more the idea bothered me.
Doesn’t every kid deserve to receive that kind of love? The “I care about you so much it will hurt me when you leave” kind of love? I’d be more concerned about someone starting a fostering journey that WOULDN’T get attached to these kids.
I get I’m oversimplifying it a bit. There are many very valid reasons that someone is not in a place to become a foster parent. I just feel that the fear of getting attached to a child should not be the reason someone doesn’t foster.
If a fear of getting attached is your primary reservation for fostering here are some things to think about. What is the alternative for these kids? Placement with a family that won’t get attached to them? Would being with people that maintain a hard emotional boundary be healthy for them?
Jamie Finn of Foster the Family advised, “Foster parent friends: Let your heart go all in, but hold the reigns in your mind.” I feel the weight of that boundary. As foster parents, we go all in with these kids. You lavish and love and give them everything you can. These kids have often lost so much. So, you fight to give them the opportunities, resources, support, and childhood they deserve.
Your heart beats to fight for them. However, you keep the reality of the goal in your mind : reunification. All the love and connection and time you pour into the kids has the first goal of reunifying that child with their family. Will it hurt when there is a successful reunification and the child leaves your care? Absolutely. But we’re the adults. We sacrifice and pour ourselves out for the sake of the child because none of this is their fault. We take on that pain knowing that while that child was with us, they were loved with the same ferocity and depth as a biological parent would love their child. And that is the heart of foster care.