Congrats.

Congrats.


A beautiful sixteen-year-old walked into our lives and home on Monday night.

Like every other child who has been placed with us, she didn’t want to move.

But here she is. Here we all are. Trying to figure out life together as strangers under one roof.

As needed, we let friends and colleagues know we have a new foster child.

After hearing our update, a neighbor shot me a friendly “Congrats!” and looked to me for a response.

Crickets.

I. Couldn’t. Say. Anything.

I know she meant well, but I also know foster care and the pain and sadness that surround a child leaving everything she knows. While there is hope, the predominant emotion is heartbreak.

Whether sixteen weeks or years, a baby should be with her mama. Or her daddy. Or her grandmother. Or someone she knows who loves her.

I don’t know the right thing to say when someone welcomes a foster child. Heck, I don’t know the right thing to say half the time period.

But fresh with grief for this hurting child, I knew “congrats” was the wrong thing. I wish I had found the right words to respond. Words that stepped toward my neighbor with grace and kindness. Rather than leaving an awkward silence that divided more than welcomed.

As I’ve replayed that small interaction again and again, I’ve come to this.

When I don’t know what to say. And probably more importantly, when I do. I want to ask and to listen. To find out how someone is feeling with a new child in their home. Or to seek to understand why congratulations were given.

I hope to hear and learn what it looks like to come alongside others. And to do a better job inviting them to come alongside me.

Jumping and assuming less. No matter who is talking.

3 Comments

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  1. Pam H.

    I don’t know your neighbor, nor how you presented it to her, but perhaps in her own awkward way she was trying to find a way to connect with you. People who are not involved in foster care cannot know or understand the heartbreak involved – it’s just impossible because each individual child presents his or her own personal heartbreak. Your blog with such real, kind, and thoughtful words really is an educational tool that I wish were shared with more people. Then I think, people who aren’t working with the foster care system don’t want to read your words or be educated because then, by doing so, they assume some sort of responsibility to either you personally or to the foster system as a whole. It is easier for them, to hold the whole foster family at arm’s length, comment from afar, with their only participation a formal, if not uniformed, “congrats.” May God give you strength and wisdom, a listening hear to your new one, and words of hope for an unknown future. Blessings…

    • Liz

      Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. I do hope that next time I can reach out better to build bridges rather than walls.

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