May I suggest a starting place as truth receivers? It is okay for someone else to struggle. Furthermore, it is okay to not fix it/solve it/answer it/discredit it. Another believer can experience tension, say something true that makes people uncomfortable, and God will not fall off His throne. It is not our responsibility to fix every mess. If someone steps onto the scary ledge of truth, it is enough to acknowledge her courage and make this promise: I am here with you as your friend, not your Savior. We are not good gods over one another; we are better humans beside each other.
— Jen Hatmaker, For The Love
It’s taken me longer than I anticipated to write this #AMOdoption update. Mostly because every time I share the hard truth or even glimpses of the story behind it, I end up brokenhearted in tears, reliving it all over again. Still, I want to do my best to keep you engaged in the journey and answer some questions I’m sure you have. The first question I imagine you would have as I continue on this fostering journey is, “Why haven’t you posted about your Kiddo in so long?” And this is where the tender truth comes out. I haven’t posted about her in so long because she hasn’t been with me in so long. A little over a month ago, she was removed from my home by the State due to circumstances out of my control.
Anyone who has been near a foster parent knows that parenting kids from hard places is HARD. Even on the hard days, I felt honored to spend quality time with an incredible teen girl who has no idea of the amazing potential she has as a worthwhile human being. Still, this sweet, smart girl who finds it hard to believe that she’s worth loving was once again bombarded with an overarching fear of love because of the traumatic things she’s had to live through. Because of that, both her heart + mind would not allow her to live on a level where she could land in the middle of connection, community, and unconditional love. She did everything she could to push boundaries, to behave adversely, to battle daily so that I would give up on her, regret her, kick her out, but I refused to do that. So she let her trauma win the battle and forced others to remove her because she knew I never would. She found what she thought was her only way out and she blazed a trail out the door, unable to let herself stay in a safe and loving family. And while it’s easy to be angered by her actions, I only feel pain and sorrow that she felt this was her only option, and that she’ll lean on it to be her only option for a long time. I still don’t regret opening my heart & home to her. She is forever a part of my world and my world is better because she’s part of it.
It was HARD to see her go. It was HARD to be left hurt and hurting. It was HARD to sift through every emotion and answer questions I had no definite answer for. It was HARD to feel like a failure, while at the same time knowing I did the absolute best I could. It was even HARDER to come to the realization that I may not have been the best option for her—that I can’t provide her with what she needs. It was devastatingly HARD to watch a prayer be answered . . . but not be able to stay. There are so many circumstances at play in the midst of it and I can only hope and pray that I was able to give her a glimpse of hope, love, and care—of what could be some day.
It has taken me the past month to wade through the HARD moments—one step at time—and answer difficult questions. I’m grateful for the loving support of my close family of friends, church family, other foster parents, and my Community Group who have held me through the HARD and hurt. It is encouraging to know that they still see the best in both of us and are praying, loving, supporting a bright future ahead for each of us. With that in mind, things are still tender in my world so if you ask me all the questions, you may get none of the answers. What you need to know is that I forever love her and champion healing and hope in her life in any way I can. I will always protect her and her story, my story, our story.
Still, there are some questions that have been asked of me along the way that I will gladly answer (as I have a few times now to people in person) below to close out this post. I hope they enlighten and inspire you as you continue on this journey with me:
Didn’t you realize what you were getting into, fostering an older kid? Yeah I did, and I wasn’t afraid of it. I’m still not. I also don’t regret saying YES to her. However, even knowing the things I know about fostering teens doesn’t make the loss any less painful. This didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but I don’t regret my decision to care for her. She is a beautiful, strong, smart, worthwhile Kiddo and no amount of her leaving makes me think less of her. Nor will it make me walk away from caring for older foster kids in the future.
Why didn’t you ask the social worker about ____________? You’re cute. While I’m disappointed that you might think I walked into this blindly and without asking important questions that would help me parent to the best of my ability, I’m happy to surprise you. I did. I asked a million and one questions. At every meeting, I brought up more and more questions. Even when the answers were guarded and shrouded in soft blankets, I pressed in. The truth is, not everyone in the foster system gives you the answers you want, when you want, how you want, and part of it is based in the fact that they legally can’t. The other part of it is that they don’t want to blow an opportunity for a hard-to-place child to be placed. Another part is that they are hopeful that the next placement will be the game changer.
Everything seemed to be going well. What did you do to her make her leave? I loved her—deeply, unconditionally, honestly. I offered connections, solutions, strategies toward healing and comfort. I let her ask big questions and make informed decisions. I tucked her in at night, held her when she cried, and massaged her feet when she was stressed out. I gave her second, third, fourth, fiftieth chances. I championed family times, friendship development, and taught her life skills. But it was just too much too soon and she chose to put herself back in the corner that she was all too familiar with . . . the one where she didn’t need someone else . . . the one where hope and love didn’t have control, but rather she had control.
Where is she at now? Will she come back to you? She is in a safe place, getting the care she needs. At this point, there are no guarantees as to whether or not she will be coming back. The truth is, I can’t give her what she needs to succeed right now. I can say that regardless of what happens going forward, I’m never going to stop caring about her, investing in her life where I can, and I’m certainly going to continue opening my heart and home to kids in need.
Why didn’t you tell me/us what you were going through? It is HARD. Hard to face, hard to tell, hard to process everything that’s happened. I’m not even being overdramatic . . . just real. I’ve battled all the fear, doubt, shame, anxiety, despair, and confusion along the way and it’s left me pretty empty. So when I did finally start sharing bits of the story outside of those who are in my immediate tribe of trusted friends, people responded differently than I anticipated—with suggestions for how I could have done better; with offers for them to go talk to her and make her see what she’s done; with stories about how difficult it is to parent their own kids but that their kids always come around in the end. It just became too difficult to trust the story to fall on fertile soil and not get choked up in the thorns. I didn’t tell more people because it hurt too much at the time. I still have really tender moments even a month later. I am sure that you would have listened and you would have cared better than most. You still might, even knowing this much of the story. But I will give you fair warning, the words expressed by Jen Hatmaker in the quote at the beginning of this post is exactly where I’m at right now. The situation sucks and while I’m sure many people feel they have all the answers, all I really need is a hug.
What can I do to help? When everything went sideways, I got this question almost daily from people in my close community. The majority of the time, I didn’t have an answer . . . for like, anything. Mostly because I was so lost in everything. I didn’t know what I needed because I didn’t know myself at the time. I got lost in the middle of the mess. I didn’t know where I was, what time or space was, or how to function under the weight of such a heavy emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual toll. Now that I’ve had time to come to grips and resurface, picking up bits and pieces of myself along the way, I’ve found a few ways you can help: Pray for me. Love me. Care about me. Hug me. Have coffee with me. Remind me that it’s okay to laugh, to feel, to enjoy things. Encourage me. Sit and listen without offering solutions. Remind me that God sees, hears, and knows me. Let me cry next to you or in your arms and remind me that it doesn’t make me weak—only human. Invite yourself into my world and invite me into yours.
Thank you for walking through this with me . . . and for taking the time to read this novel. If you made it this far, treat yourself to an extra cup of coffee/tea today. You’ve earned it! Know that there is much more of this journey ahead and that I am honored to have you by my side.