Giving up.

Giving up.


Note: This is the tough part. The part I don’t want to know or write or share. The part that keeps me up at night and quiet for weeks.

We didn’t adopt our first foster kids and many asked us why. Friends have had to disrupt placements and ask caseworkers to find children new homes.

Before foster care, I always assumed good foster parents simply didn’t disrupt. They kept children until they went home or they adopted them. But I’m realizing that’s not always true. And it’s breaking me.

I read a lot, think a lot, talk a lot, write a lot about foster care.

For two years kids have come in and out of our home. Turned our lives upside down and inside out. Melted and broken our hearts.

I’ve done the attachment research and behavior management classes. Been spat at and cursed out. Held hands and heard prayers.

And so I say with confidence. I get it.

Not all of it. I’ve never been in foster care myself or had a baby I raised for years return home to her biological family. There are pieces I don’t know and parts I don’t yet understand.

But the big picture, I get.

Foster care is about staying. Sticking with a child through all the rollercoasters. “Rocking with the kid…no matter how bad they get.”

But actually it’s not that simple. After all, even unconditional love demands boundaries. Lines and limits naturally exist even if we wish they didn’t have to.

Safety and mental health are real needs. For foster kids, and for foster parents.

So of course there comes a point when a foster parent might have to wave the white flag and disrupt a placement. Give up a child.

Logically, that makes sense. Yet, statistically, that child will probably go to a group home. And from there, chances are good he will end up in jail.

With consequences like that, logic feels irrelevant.

But it doesn’t go away. Good foster parents have to put on their own oxygen mask first, as the airlines always say. They can’t sacrifice the things that make them good to begin with. Their faith, health, home, marriage, family.

My head can know such wisdom but my heart still fights.

I wrestle because she isn’t going back to biological parents. Because no judge mandated a move. Because it’s up to us.

Because giving up a child feels like giving up on a child. And how can a good foster parent do that?

How does a foster parent not stay in order to stay good?

The paradox undoes me.

12 Comments

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  1. Sarah

    Thank you for writing this. We are in the midst of this right now. We have fostered for 3 years, and this is our first disruption, and Oh! how I feel like a failure. Your words of understanding are a soothing balm.

    • Liz

      Thanks for sharing. Knowing there are others aching and walking through this is a gift. I’m grateful for you.

  2. Pam H.

    I’m sorry – what I forgot to mention is that when my son did choose to leave home, I set him up in his own apartment and paid his bills so he could stay there. He continued to be in trouble with the law. Wanted to add that because I didn’t want you to think that I really did put him out on the streets. His victim attitude has continued his whole life. I wish he could somehow know how good life has been to him. Thanks for listening – again.

  3. Pam H.

    People don’t know this about me, when I was 18 yrs old, a five-year-old boy was placed in my care by his father, no agency involved. The elderly man was a drunk and I had been this little guy’s babysitter, the mom had just died. I lived on my own and raised him for almost ten years with no help from anyone when I finally got married and started my own family. My son became angry, violent, drinking, violent, stealing, violent. I wish I knew then, what I know now, but my new husband, after trying for two years, gave him an ultimatum (because we had a newborn in the family), leave or shape up. My son chose to leave, he tells everyone he was kicked out. He tells everyone, even now, that he was “raised on the streets” except we were never living on the streets. He made decisions I could not change. He blames me to this day. However, I kept loving him and showing him that I loved him. I ended up raising his two children because his wife was even more violent than he was. I took my son and his wife into my home at one point to try and help them, and that lasted 14 months. Now our relationship is close, but the baggage is right behind the curtain waiting to point fingers at me that I hadn’t done more for him. I’ve felt guilty for 28 years. I forget where he would be if I hadn’t taken him in when he was 5 and I was 18. I forget where he’d be if I had given up on him the DAY AFTER I took him in because he was definitely more than my soul could handle. I forget where his kids would now be, especially his autistic son, if I hadn’t then taken the children in the last 15 years, now teens themselves. Guilt just has a way of making us forget anything good we have done for our children. In our hearts, no matter how much they hate us or change us or leave us, for whatever reason they do, guilt prevents us from realizing that without our love, their lives would be significantly worse. So we move on, a little wiser, still loving, having to set boundaries we’d rather not, still hurting, because that is what we do. Still loving…

  4. Sherry

    I feel your pain. We’d been fostering a teen and her younger sibling. The first year was good, she seemed to fit well with our 2 adopted girls. After a little over a year she started pushing the limits. We helped her graduate from high school, enroll in college, get her drivers license, got her a date for prom, bought her a beautiful gown, threw her a huge graduation party etc. We also helped her get a job , which lasted a few months, till she mouthed back to the boss. She since got other jobs which she got fired from. We tried our best with this girl. She began arguing with me and yelling at me. I’m a strict mom and that is not allowed in my home. It finally was too much turmoil in the home so we had her removed and put in the SILP program (supervised, independent, living, program), which by the way, is HORRIBLE. She still has contact with us, especially when she wants something. In the beginning I was just relieved to have her out if our home but now I feel guilty, like I didn’t try hard enough. We still have her sibling, who’s an amazing girl, after 28 months.

  5. Leah

    i have been there. It never sits well with you. But, when you know that you will never be the parent that child needs….it’s important to not set yourself up for bigger failure. I have fostered 12 kids and adopted 6 of them. The adoption part is THE hardest part. My kids have issues that I never saw coming. This is HARD stuff.

  6. Anna

    I get this. I’ve been broken by this too. And I wondered if we had done any good, or just given a child another reason not to trust. I don’t know. But we’ve made that call, been broken and cried over it.

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