Foster Care: A Bittersweet Calling



{Due to the sensitive nature of this post, this post has been published anonymously.}

Putting pen to paper is hard tonight. My heart is raw. Foster care has been the most difficult emotional journey of my life. How can I ask others to enter this heartache and uncertainty? How can I ask them to share in the tears, doubts, guilt, and fears that foster care has brought into my life?

My reason is simple. For me, the answer is sleeping in a bedroom in my house. Our family grew to include one more this year. We do not know how many days this child will be in our home, but for now, we cherish each one. We give a safe home. We welcome this child into our family. We love this child as our very own.

Across the country, more children enter the foster care system every day through no fault of their own. Currently, over 400,000 children in the foster care system have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. There is a need in your community for more foster homes for these children.

When a child enters the foster care system, the goal is to reunify with the birth parent(s) when that is safe and healthy for everyone involved. These parents love their children very much. They need help fighting addictions and cycles of abuse. They need time to find stable employment and housing.

Reunification is not always possible depending on the choices that the parents make. If parental rights are terminated, then the child becomes legally available for adoption. Ideally, a family member or foster parent who the child knows is able to adopt but that is not always possible. Today there are more than 108,000 children waiting in the foster care system for their forever family. 108,000 children. That number is heartbreaking.

These children have been hurt by the people who should have protected them. They have seen and experienced things that no child should. Children belong in families. They need to know that they are cherished.   They need patient adults to help them learn to trust again. They need a safe place to heal in their own time. They need the love and security of a family. Can you give these things to a child?

A bittersweet calling photo

I can hear your questions now. I hear them because I was once in your shoes. Knowing I should do something but thinking only crazy people would sign up to be foster parents. Who would want to open their home and family to children who are strangers? Invite social workers to examine every detail of your life and home to ensure you could keep these children safe? Attend hours of training about caring for kids who have been traumatized? Prepare a bedroom without knowing who will sleep in it? Have a child or group of siblings dropped off in your home on very little notice?

Several years ago we watched friends foster and eventually adopt three siblings. We saw their struggles. We heard their fears and frustrations.   We also saw these children flourish in their care. We watched them grow and laugh and play. We saw these beautiful kids who had a traumatic start find safety and belonging in a family. We watched our friends fall in love with them. We began to think that maybe, someday, we could do that for a child.

Parts of this seem impossibly painful. Loving a child for now without knowing how long they will be in your home. Having no control in decisions regarding this child’s future. Building and maintaining a relationship with the birth parent(s). Supporting reunification and believing people can change regardless of the harm their past choices brought to these children. Calming a child who is angry and frustrated after seeing their birth parent(s). Answering rude questions from strangers. Answering valid concerns from family and friends. The painful parts will always be there. This is why it is so important for foster parents to have a strong support system.

Amidst the pain, there are so many happy moments. The first time your foster child laughs. The first time they sleep through the night in your home and you realize they feel safe. The first time they come to you for comfort and affection. The first time you realize that they fit perfectly in your family. Those happy times are also bittersweet. Foster care is a calling into uncertainty. It can also be the most rewarding experience of your life.

If you would like to learn more about being a foster parent or adopting from the children waiting in the foster care system please contact Olmsted County Child Foster Care. There will be someone who can answer your questions and let you know what steps to take to become licensed. Check out the following site to find that information: here. Your family can be instrumental in saving a child’s life.

This post was originally published in February 2016.


  1. We are foster parents and everything in this article rings so very true. I initially thought foster parenting would be easy; it’s just taking care of kids right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. It has been the most emotionally tormenting experience in my life. How could these people do these terrible things to these children? The children are so broken and have zero rights in the system which is as broken as they are. Hopefully, people will rally around their friends/family members who are foster parents and give support. Unfortunately, most family and friends don’t understand why we do what we do.


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