5 reasons the most common response to foster parents is the most painful.

5 reasons the most common response to foster parents is the most painful.


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.”

4 Comments

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  1. Ken and Donna

    We did Foster Care for 15 years and had 46 placements. Each and every child left special memories and a place within our hearts. You do get attached and tears are shed when they leave. However many were placed in forever homes and sometimes able to return to their bio parents safely. We have adopted 7 children which 6 are special needs and they fill our hearts and lives with abundant joy. You can’t not love someone because you fear in losing them . Everything we love and cherish on this Earth will one day be taken away from us. Or us from them but you have to go all in and give unconditional love and affection. Your reward will be great and heart will overflow with joy.

  2. Adrian

    Reading this brings a tear to my eye as it does hit a nerve. I remember the tiny little wonderful quirks of every child that comes through our home and yes getting “too attached” is exactly what they need. That is why we keep doing it right? The need is too great to be selfish about it. I always say that was my fear too, and I do get “too attached”, but the joy of knowing they are safe, well fed and loved makes it worth it. All I have to say to those who are new to this is, Don’t give up. It is very painful at times, but remember every moment we have them, to love on them is a very important and precious moment.

  3. samantha

    that was so true and beautifully said Liz…. I think being a foster parent is an amazing gift and am so happy for you and proud of you for making such an incredible commitment to help children in desperate need of love and family. xxx

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