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5 Things to Consider Before Fostering


min read

The idea of opening yourself up to foster care has been stirring in you for a while. Your mind races with a million questions. Can I do this? Am I strong enough to love, attach and let go? Am I equipped for the behaviors? How will fostering impact my family relationships and friendships? How will this impact my work and my social life? Can I afford this financially and do I have the time to care for this child in the way she needs? The doubts that swirl in your mind and fight to fill you with fear can hold you back from committing to foster parenting. But they don’t have to.  

1 John 4:18a tells us that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” God is perfect love, and it is His perfect love that will equip you for every part of this journey. While we lean into this truth, it is helpful to thoughtfully consider some aspects of fostering before you jump in with both feet.

Consider Your Calling

I firmly believe that in order to foster well and keep our hearts soft we need to lean into our call. That calling can be found in Isaiah 1:17, where God charges His people with these words.

“Learn to do right, seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” This clear calling from the Father keeps us focused when we are frustrated with how a case is proceeding, how the relationship is progressing with a birth family or how a child in our care is struggling. In these moments, I remind myself of the fact that I am called to love as God loves, to serve as He serves. And the God who called me to do this hard, beautiful work will equip me through His Spirt, His Word and through others. I must fix my eyes on Jesus, for if I take them off Him and put them on the circumstance before me, I begin to sink.

When considering your individual calling, you must also ask whether the rest of your family feels called to foster care with you. If married, you want your spouse to share the conviction you feel to foster. If you have other children in the home, discuss with them the realities of foster care. Your family needs to answer this call together as it impacts each member in different ways.

Consider the Goal of Foster Care

The goal of foster care is reunification. Every case is different, and you will rarely be able to predict the exact outcome of any particular placement. But the job of foster parents is to love the children in their care, to get attached and still pray for and, where possible, participate in their birth family’s healing.  

This is one of the most difficult aspects of fostering. You must consider whether you are willing to do everything you can to help the child in your care and their family be successful in reunification. Those who brave this mission often find unexpected joys and blessings, even in seasons of pain. God is the healer. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3  

God can heal and redeem every family, including our own. And that should always be our prayer. For additional insights on reunification, see our blog post How to Deal with the Grief of Reunification.  

Consider Your Why

Why do you feel led to foster? To fill a need within yourself or to meet the needs of the child? In my time fostering, I have heard parents express a number of motives.  

“I feel needed when I’m fostering a child.”  

“I have an extra bedroom, so why not foster?”  

“I so badly want to be a parent.”  

While these things are not bad in and of themselves, these are not sustainable reasons to foster.  

A parent who steps into foster care solely because they want a child will be crushed and discouraged by reunification. One who simply yearns to feel needed will give up when they struggle to bond with a child in their care.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” This verse warns against letting your heart grow hard and cold. If we are to answer this calling well, we must abandon our selfish desires and endeavor to trust God in all things. Foster parents rarely know what the future holds in any given case. You must be willing to love and let go, to go through both joy and pain for the good of a child.

God’s holds His children’s lives in His hands. Are you willing to trust Him and play the role He gives you to accomplish His good plans for them?

Consider Your Community

Having a healthy community of people around you is vital when stepping into foster care. We need people who will pray for us, stand with us and walk with us in practical ways. Foster care can feel very isolating when you attempt to do it on your own. One of the most meaningful things people in my community have done is educate themselves on trauma and learn with me.  

Before you begin foster care, find your people who will be in it with you. People who will encourage you to press in and move forward when the going gets rough. People who love you, support you and care about the kids in your care regardless of the challenges. People who will point you back to King Jesus and the calling you chose to answer.

For 10 practical ways your community can support you and your family on your foster journey check out this blog post.

Consider Your Capacity

I find that those who are called to foster have big hearts and a deep desire to help others. It’s a beautiful way to live, and I believe it blesses the heart of God. I’ve also found that, because of their big hearts, some parents struggle to say no even if it pushes them or their family beyond a healthy capacity. I encourage you to think and pray though what your yeses in life are in this season. Are there boundaries you need to set in order to care for a child who enters your home and your family well? Saying “yes” to foster care also means saying “yes” to visitation schedules, therapy appointments, extra transportation and a plethora of possible needs that can leave you feeling overextended and exhausted.

Recently, I was told that I have a large capacity by two people that I deeply respect. As I considered my capacity and prayed about an opportunity that would require more of my time, I felt the Lord's gentle reminder. Just because He gave me a large capacity does not mean that He created me to carry the heaviest load I can all the time.

This led me to a period of wrestling and changing my own schedule so that I could make time to intentionally rest and be more present with my family. There are so many good things we can say “yes” to, but every “yes” means we are saying no to something else in our life. My challenge to you is to think, pray and wrestle through your capacity before jumping into foster care. In doing so your heart will be more available to the life changes that foster care will bring. In the words of John C. Maxwell, “Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best.”

As you consider these things, let me remind you that there will never be a perfect time to move forward with fostering. Jason Johnson puts it beautifully in his book “Reframing Foster Care.”  

“It’s quite possible that the perfect season of life you’re waiting for will never come. When will the frenetic pace of life really slow down enough for you to willingly choose to make it crazy and busy all over again by fostering or adopting? One way or the other, obedience when you sense that the time is right (and when He doesn’t tell you it isn’t) is about considering the costs and choosing to believe that Jesus is better — that what He wants you to do for these kids is worth the cost and that He’ll take care of you every step of the way.”

Curious about foster care?

Join us at one of our Foster Care Info Meetings for a casual, no pressure opportunity to learn more and ask questions – virtually!

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