As a foster parent, you must keep up your licensing with a certain amount of training hours and quarterly visits from your licensing worker. Last week our licensing worker came to the house to do our quarterly visit, but this was also time for us to begin preparing to renew our license for another two years. Hard to believe it’s already been two years. She asked us a series of questions and among them was this: What has been the most rewarding part of the last two years?
Conor quickly spoke up with a steady confidence, “Watching our (biological) boys learn and develop through our fostering.” While I have many other rewards to add to that, I do agree that reason likely tops them all. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since then. To unfold my thoughts on it, I need to take you back a few years.
3 years ago, when my boys were nearly 2 and 4, I felt the stirring in my heart to be involved in missions. I remember a conversation with Conor where I was struggling with the joy of being in the throws of raising two small children, and yet wanting to be able to leave and be part of a short-term mission trip. Conor encouraged me to go on one, which I did, but in the process we also spent time dreaming about a day when our entire family could engage in a mission trip together.
10 months later, after our initial interest in fostering had been expressed, a supervisor from MBCH came to our home to discuss what that meant (i.e.: what in the world we were getting ourselves into!). I will never forget what she said when we asked her about her thoughts on fostering with young biological children in the home. She said, “You tell your children about missionaries all around the world who share Jesus with people. Your family is going to get to do that inside the walls of your own home.”
I hear some people say they would like to foster “some day when the kids are older”. God’s timing is certainly unique for all, and if He has in fact called you to fostering, He will have the perfect timing for you to engage in that. But I would like to share with you some reasons why fostering while our children are young has been one of the best things for them.
1. My kids will likely not remember life before fostering. Some of their earliest memories will be our home filled with kids, of all ages and races and backgrounds, that we are loving and giving a home to.
2. Children are a lot stronger and capable than we give them credit for. We explain to them, in terms they can understand and process appropriately, why we are doing what we are doing and they get it. I think they may even get it better than you and I some days.
3. Allowing children with other backgrounds to come in our home and be part of our family teaches them a lot. We really don’t worry about them picking up poor behaviors. Most of the time they are the greatest teachers to those new kids about the “family code” in the Scholes home. And if a poor behavior is repeated in one of our biological kids, they learn from Mom and Dad about what’s appropriate and what’s not, and the behavior can be corrected all around. What a fantastic way to actively train our children to respond to the Word of God’s authority in our home in light of what others may be doing that goes against that.
4. My kids love fiercely. They know what it is to stand up for family, to be a helper to their brother. They know what it is to love another child and yet watch them leave, and they still think it was worth it.
5. Fostering has not been without challenges for us. Fighting, bullying, name-calling, unfair advantages have all been part of it. While my mother’s heart would love to shield them from this, it isn’t the real world and they are learning how to deal with conflict right inside our home in a place where they can fall back on the arms of love, support and understanding.
6. My kids have witnessed their Mom and Dad on their knees, begging for strength from God when we had no more. They have seen us turn to God’s Word for guidance and encouragement. They have seen us struggle to work out the gospel call. They are part of God’s bigger story right here in their own home.
Maybe God has not asked you to foster. But maybe He has and maybe having young kids is the only thing holding you back. If that’s you, I urge you to rethink that decision to wait. For us it has meant we’re on a mission trip together most every day, and it’s a wild adventure!