When I tell people I’m a foster parent, the most common and often well-intentioned response can also be the most painful.
I hear it all the time.
“I could never be a foster parent. I’d get too attached.”
Usually I’m able to smile and respond with kindness, trying to gauge whether there’s an honest curiosity to dialog or more of an anxious desire to switch topics.
Other times though. It stings.
As unintentional as the hurt might be, “I’d get too attached” hits most foster parents in a way few other responses do. Here’s why.
1 – It doesn’t recognize the realities of foster care. Sometimes kids hate being with us. They curse us and hit us. Other times we aren’t equipped to keep them. Foster care is never easy and always complicated. Attachment comes, but it’s very hard work. And something to be celebrated, not feared.
2 – It ignores how important attachment is for foster kids. Speaking about it so lightly as a bad thing is hard to hear. Many of these kids aren’t attached to anyone because no one has ever attached to them. If kids don’t learn how to attach, there are lifelong consequences. Trust and relationships will forever be a challenge.
3 – It implies that we don’t get too attached. And do we ever! It hurts like hell when a child leaves our home. But we’re so attached that we want the very best for them. Whether that’s with us or not. Kids deserve that. To see and know they’re worth attaching to.
4 – It doesn’t consider the consequences. If foster parents let the ache of getting too attached keep them from becoming foster parents, where would these precious children go? Just as all of us have things we’d rather spend our money on than taxes, all of us have a responsibility to consider what would happen if none of us step forward.
5 – It doesn’t consider the child. Focusing on the pain of our own attachment only looks at one side. The foster parent’s. The grown adult with committed relationships, comfortable housing and ample food. We miss the child. The one who actually needs love in the first place.
I’ve had my fair share of practice responding, but sometimes it still hits a nerve. The days when I’m missing my foster son who always wanted to snuggle. Even when he was spitting angry at us. Or the nights when I’m wondering how my foster daughter is doing in her new home that cut off contact with us.
Then it’s hard to say the right thing. When my heart is stuck thinking of the precious children we’ve attached to.
But if I could, this is what I would say.
“Go ahead. Get too attached. It’s exactly what kids need.”