That Time I Hated Being a Foster Parent…and Why It’s Worth It Anyway

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Raw and honest post considers the sacrifices required in being a foster parent, and why it's still a worthwhile endeavor for Christian families.

“I hate being a foster parent. I hate it!” I sobbed to my 11-year-old daughter on our front porch a few weeks ago.

I’m aware of how wrong this is on multiple levels.

The thing is, nothing terrible had happened that day. It wasn’t a day of several kids vomiting. No one had soiled himself. There were no out-of-the-usual squabbles.

It had actually been a good day, and one worth celebrating. We had our annual awards ceremony for the AWANA program – a ceremony I both anticipated and dreaded, as this was each child’s last year in their clubs.

I was feeling nostalgic. (Yes, that means I was emotional.)

I wanted to relish the accomplishments my kids were celebrating. I wanted to savor those last few moments. I wanted to hang on.

Instead, I caught stolen glimpses of my kids onstage in between long bouts of managing the behavior our special needs foster son.

Following the program, I had planned to meet my husband at the ice cream shop near our church. He had been at work during the ceremony, so I thought it would be a good way for us to celebrate together.

I sent each child to the restroom before we left, and the same foster son came out of the bathroom with a wet spot on the front of his pants. Somehow he had managed to wet himself as he was using the restroom.

We couldn’t take him out for ice cream like that.

Another plan of mine ruined. More desires squelched. I felt my resolve crumbling.

We arrived home and as the kids cleaned up and changed into their pajamas, I lost control over the bowls of ice cream I was preparing to dish out. I escaped to the front porch and broke down, weeping ugly sobs to accompany my ugly thoughts.

As my husband finished serving ice cream, my daughter came out to check on me. That’s when I unloaded my anguish on her.

This is the hard part of foster parenting. The ongoing and relentless truth that must be dealt with every single day.

You might be questioning my choice to say all these things to my daughter. I’m questioning it myself.

But maybe it wasn’t a bad thing for her to see my weakness.

Maybe it wasn’t a bad thing for her to witness the hardest parts.

Because maybe it helps her understand that this foster parenting thing is not only hard for siblings (and especially those who happen to be big sisters).

It’s hard for everyone.

It’s hard for biological parents who are without their children.

It’s hard for foster children who are displaced from their homes and their families.

It’s hard for biological children who must share their toys and their rooms and their electronics and their time and space and homes and even their parents.

It’s hard for foster parents, who struggle to maintain their family’s established normalcy while revolving their lives around the needs of very needy kids in the foster care system. Who find themselves constantly giving up their plans and desires and hopes and dreams on behalf of a greater vision that quite honestly seems pretty ambiguous in the worst times.

After comforting me with her quiet presence for a few moments, my oh-so-wise daughter asked me a simple but profoundly mature question for anyone, and especially for a not-quite-eleven-and-a-half-year-old:

“Is it worth it?”

These weren’t the words of a girl who wasn’t quite sure.

They were a firm reminder from a young woman who was repeating the very truth her mama had imparted so often.

I wish I could say my outlook was immediately brighter, but it wasn’t. I answered her with a sullen, “Don’t ask me that question right now.”

But after she sat with me through a few minutes of silence, I turned the question on her.

“Do you think it’s worth it?”

She contemplated before replying.

“Well,” she began slowly. “We’ve fostered five kids now. And two people have gotten saved. So yeah, I think it’s worth it.”

The memory of that statement from this precious girl of mine brings tears to my eyes even now.

Because it proves that she gets it.

She understands why we’re doing the hard thing. The messy thing.

The thing that means she doesn’t get quite as much of her mama as she used to.

The thing that means I don’t get quite as much of her as I’d like.

The thing that means everything in our family is divided.

Our possessions.

Our attention.

Our time.

And yet, in that amazing kind of way that belongs to God alone, He has used this process of division to multiply.

He has multiplied His glory.

And multiplies it still.

He has multiplied His love.

And multiplies it still.

He has multiplied His kingdom.

And multiplies it still.

Yes, sweet daughter of mine, it’s worth it.

And I truly thank you for the reminder.

How about you, friend? Are you in a hard and messy place right now, doing hard and messy things?

God is surely using your subtraction and division to add and multiply in ways you can’t yet imagine.

And trust me in this – it’s worth it. 

Raw and honest post considers the sacrifices required in being a foster parent, and why it's still a worthwhile endeavor for Christian families.

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12 Replies to “That Time I Hated Being a Foster Parent…and Why It’s Worth It Anyway”

  1. Dawn

    Thank you for sharing your heart. This is beautiful. My book club was discussing Paul’s instruction in Romans to “boast in our weaknesses”. This is an example. I think it was good that your daughter saw you in a moment of weakness. It is through our weaknesses that God is able to work in big ways, which bring Him glory, because there’s no doubt that it’s all about Him.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Clarke Post author

      I didn’t think of it that way, Dawn, but I think you’re right. I have quite a lot of opportunities to boast in weaknesses, that’s for sure! Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave this kind encouragement.

      Reply
  2. Terrie B. Futrell

    So…OK…this brought lots of tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing such an open and touching real life story. You and your family are a blessing to others along the way, not just to foster children.

    Reply
  3. TANYA

    Thank you for this. Right now after helping my soon get through the flu, my husband and I are battling it together (lovely right?). Having my 73 yo father hospitalized with internal bleeding all at the same time. Throw in a defiant step-child and that is the story of my life. Wouldn’t change a moment of it. Having friends pray for me and sticking closer to God through this has given me the opportunity not to rely on my own strength. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Clarke Post author

      Thank you, Tanya, for sharing how God is equipping you and sustaining you in the midst of life’s storms. It’s encouraging to hear of His faithfulness in the lives of others.

      Reply
  4. Taylor

    Thank you so much for writing this. My husband and I have two of the little boy you’re describing, along with what I’m assuming he has too – the major defiance. And monster tantrums. Ours are brothers, ages 7 & 8. On top of a pivotal court case coming up (maybe they can sense it?), they are being extra trying. And I don’t even want to do this anymore. Even as I was reading your article I thought, but maybe they don’t even have the mental capacity to accept the gift of salvation, so is it still worth it? Slash that brings up a whole slew of theological questions… Anyway, this was encouraging regardless. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Clarke Post author

      Taylor, I’m glad my experience encouraged you. Press on, friend – your labor is not in vain in the Lord, and don’t believe any voice that tells you otherwise. I will pray for you, for your husband, for the court case, and for your two boys.

      Reply
  5. Crystal S

    Wow, thank you for this post. Sitting here crying, in the midst of hard days in foster care.I know it is all worth it but man, I forget sometimes in the hard moments- the cancelled plans, the tantrums or visit days, court days .Thank you for the perspective.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Clarke Post author

      Bless you, Crystal. You’re not alone, friend. You’re right – it’s easy to forget the “why” sometimes. Praying now that God would impress it on your heart and mine afresh each day as we cast yourselves on His grace. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart with me.

      Reply

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