“I couldn’t do it.”
It’s the response foster parents hear the most. Personally, I’ve lost count of how many people have said it to me. Each time, I tilt my head, smile, and nod compassionately.
And as they go on to remind me of all the pain I’ve experienced (or am experiencing in that very moment)—”I couldn’t take a child in and raise him and meet his every need and care for him and love him and get attached, just to watch him leave…“—I place my hand over my heart and pretend there’s nothing there.
Because to my ears, here is what those words actually sound like:
“You must be incapable of getting attached. Good thing you have no emotions.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m guilty.
I know for a fact I’ve said those four words. I’ve naively looked square in the faces of foster parents and told them that bless them, I just care too much.
If this has been your response—don’t feel guilty.
After all, how could you know? It’s impossible to realize how those simple words might sting unless you’ve been on the other side.
My goal isn’t to make anyone feel bad. After all, I’m certain no one says “I couldn’t do it” out of hatred or arrogance. I know this.
Instead, I want to make one thing very clear:
It’s not about you. Or, me. It’s about the kids.
At the end of the day, nobody can do this.
When you get a phone call at 8 o’clock from a frantic social worker—just as you’re putting your own kids in bed, with a vision of peace and quiet on the horizon… When you listen to a little girl crying for her mother through the baby monitor, and know you can’t provide… When you rush to the store at midnight because the scared toddler who just showed up at your door doesn’t have a fragment of clothing to her name.
It’s not something you just do. It hurts. It’s exhausting.
But, who am I to let a child sleep on the floor of a social worker’s office for three days because I’m afraid of getting attached?
How can I brag about my storybook childhood and close-knit family when a child has just watched someone die and has more bruises than positive memories…all because I’m afraid of showing them love?
Foster parents are not heartless beings with attachment disorders. We’re not in it for the money (what money?!). But at the same time, it’s important to realize this truth:
Foster parents aren’t saints.
We’re not angels. What we do isn’t heroic.
All good parents put the needs of their children before their own. It’s natural. Why is foster parenting any different?
Sure, these kids aren’t ours by blood. But, they’re ours for a minute. A month. A year. And, we sure do get attached.
So, next time someone tells you they’re a foster parent, please remember that they can’t do it, either. They just know that someone has to.
If you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent, please reach out.
I’ll tell you the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. We’ll do this together. And when you get attached—because you will—I’ll show you you’re stronger than you think.