In defense of foster parents


Foster care / Friday, February 9th, 2018

This is a continuation of my previous posts: In Defense of Bio Parents, and Practical Ways to Teamplay with Bio Parents.


Dear onlookers and friends,

As you do not (now) judge bio parents, we are asking also that you not judge us – we are the foster parents.

We like the idea of team playing. We’ve done some of it.

We’ve also been badly burned in this saga. We’ve laid our hearts on the line and had them broken repeatedly, and so while it’s all fine to talk about building bridges and everything like that, sometimes we’re just done in. We may not have energy left to play super nice with everybody. We don’t want you thinking that the opinions of some Shari Zook on some blog somewhere are necessarily ours. We may or may not care about the same stuff she does.

The part she said that we connected with the most was about wanting to scream at bio parents sometimes, and make them feel horrible for what they’ve done. If you are not a foster parent, you may be shocked by that statement. Or you may understand it with your mind, but you will not understand it with your heart and soul until you have seen what we’ve seen.

We can’t tell you what we’ve seen, because it would be violating section nine of code-code something-something, but we’ve seen it and we can’t unsee it. Our children carry deep and lasting pain because somebody who was supposed to protect them hurt them. Nothing really prepares you for seeing on a child’s body the marks of violence or neglect, the horrible stains of sins committed by others. Until you have seen it, until you have felt a baby’s losses running hot and salty down your cheeks, you may not understand our fury.

We are committed to redemption whenever possible, but sometimes we come in swinging on behalf of these precious little ones. Their pain is our pain. It’s not that we’re not compassionate people: it’s that sometimes we have spent so much heart on the children that we have none left over for those who hurt them. It’s called compassion fatigue. The heart can only carry so much suffering.

So the next time you hear a foster mom blowing off about her frustration with bio parents, don’t you go thinking “Wow. She does NOT. KNOW. HOW. TO. TEAMPLAY.” Please know that she tries. We try publicly, with them, but privately we sometimes need to let it out with people we trust. That would be you. And it would help if you would hear us, please, and let us yell about it without suggesting that we stop caring so much, stop being so attached. That’s like telling a cook to fix the burning food by stepping into the other room where she can’t smell it.

Just give us a hug and make us a casserole and write a note that says “I believe in what you’re doing.”

Sometimes we love with our anger.

Let us be angry on behalf of those we love. When we are done, we’ll wash our faces and go out again and play for the team. Because that’s what we do.

– The Foster Parents


To my own family and church community, who support me and make me casseroles and let me yell: Thank you so much.

22 Replies to “In defense of foster parents”

  1. We don’t have foster children either but I get this. And I believe in what you’re doing. Just keep on!! I thought your post yesterday was amazing. Hugs. And God bless ALL of you who are fostering.

  2. Thank you, Shari, for your timely, passionate, skillful words. It just so happened that you posted this series right as we got the call, loved a baby, and let it go again all in a speedy hurricane of emotion. Your defense of bio parents especially both broke my heart and filled it with fresh energy!

  3. You cover each aspect so well! Those who give the casseroles and listen to our venting when the withdrawal screaming drive us over the edge those first months and then go a step further and offer sympathy when you are up late with a child who never knew that life had eating and sleeping schedules are pure jewels. They could say “you asked for it, you got it” Without them I would give up fostering today!

  4. Well said! I am so glad you took the time to write these posts. It’s so encouraging that there others out there in the trenches also who “get it!” It can feel so tiring and thankless sometimes. Those on the outside looking in probably have no clue how much a casserole, hug, or note means!! The physical part is hard, but then add all the emotions that intertwine and you’ve got a real package. So to those of you who do reach out and encourage, God BLESS you!!

  5. HELLO: HEMOS SIDO POR MUCHO TIEMPO PADRES SUSTITUTOS, APARTE DE SER PADRES BIOLOGICOS DE 9 HIJOS, ALGUNOS CASADOS, OTROS NO, CON 7 NIETOS, TAMBIEN HASTA AHORA TENEMOS 3 NIÑOS ADOPTADOS CON NECESIDADES ESPECIALES Y TENEMOS 1 NIÑO MUY GOLPEADO POR LA VIDA, CON UNA MADRE MUY INESTABLE, CON AMISTADES VIOLENTAS Y ALCOHOLICAS, UNA MALA VIDA QUE LE DA A SUS 7 HIJOS, ASI QUE TENEMOS HIJOS POR TODOS LADOS, SABEMOS DE LO QUE HABLAS. HAY DOLOR, HAY LAGRIMAS, HAY FUSTRACIONES, HAY TIEMPOS DE ALEGRIAS, DIOS NOS ELIGIO PARA ESTO, A VECES MIS HIJOS NO ME ENTIENDEN, SE ENOJAN POR PREOCUPARME Y HACER TANTO POR LOS HUERFANOS O ABANDONADOS, DESVASLIDOS. ASI QUIERO SERVIRLE A MI BUEN JESUS. BENDICIONES DESDE BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA.

    1. Oh wow. I could understand most of what you said, and I used SpanishDict to translate the rest. 🙂 Thank you so much for commenting and for your blessing. You are so right. You are doing the work of God, and I pray he will bless you richly for it. Love, Shari

  6. My blessings to all of you who are called to sow His seeds in the hearts of children through fostering and kids club. God is using you to give these children something to grasp onto in desperate times if and when they are no longer in your care. Never think a moment of your joys, sorrows, anger, frustration, loving, caring, sleepless nights, hateful thoughts, and delights are wasted. God wants someone to tell them the stories of Jesus, show them love in shoe leather, which includes struggles and forgiveness. God bless all you dear foster moms.

  7. So we got dumped into fostering and I struggle so much with the child’s needs. (I guess it was God ordained. I still struggle to accept it) It’s the next step after you take recovering addicts into your home. A year after they leave they ask you to raise their child. So we are doing older child fostering after missing the first 4 yrs. Those oh so crucial yrs. She has been with us for 5 yrs. She functions half the time at a much younger age level. For most of the time I felt like I was drowning. Only in the last yr since we found a wonderful therapist do I feel any hope.

    Is there any one out there doing older child fostering with all the issues ( and not just handy newborn cases) ??

    Yes she has some contact with bio mom and nana. And yes I limit it as much as possible.

    We have 6 children. This year they are 6-20. The 3 youngest are within three and a half yrs.
    We homeschool which is another hurdle bc guess what fetal alcohol syndrome does to the brain.

    I am done complaining now. It just sure would be nice to know some other people in our shoes. I can’t find fostering blogs. Only adoption. Which is also helpful BUT we are still awkwardly relating to bio mom — and I am mainly being mom to her also since it is what she needs most.

    Sorry for unloading on you. I been trying to talk about it all more but unless you’ve walked this road you just don’t understand….I knew you would.

    1. Hi Marilyn. I hear the exhaustion in your story, and I’m sorry. I have friends who foster older children, and there is both great joy (in progress and relationship) and great discouragement (in all that has been lost). You’re not alone!

      You asked about blogs. I’ve enjoyed Confessions of an Adoptive Parent, written by a Christian couple on the West Coast. Although it says adoptive, their story has been about adopting eight older children through foster care, and they have some great material regarding both sides. http://confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com/ They are now (young) grandparents by their adoptive children, and oh my, they’ve seen it all. They also have podcasts and books available.

      I’m glad you’ve found a therapist you love for your child – that is so helpful! Sometimes we moms need a little therapy ourselves – 🙂 Regarding your struggle to do well with a situation that has often felt hopeless, I’d really recommend finding a wise woman in your community (or within a two hour drive) who would be willing to meet with you regularly. You will likely not find someone who has been through exactly what you have, and so there will be pieces she does not understand, but she can still offer a kind listening ear when you need to share the garbage with someone, point you to Jesus, pray for you. My own mentor is a woman who has never been married or had children – but she loves Jesus and she knows how to care about women. I’ve found it transformative!

      Blessings in your journey. The one who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

    2. Marilyn, you might like jasonjohnsonblog.com. It’s one of my favorite fostering blogs! Also, are you on Facebook? There’s a great fostering group on there, too, that I’m part of.

      God give you strength for the tough challenges you are facing!

  8. Our family adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, my youngest brother he is. All I can say is it is so tough, yet we love him. My heart goes with you Marilyn!

  9. Thanks for this series, Shari. We do not foster but we do have a single mom and her two littles living in our home. The dynamics are slightly different than what you described, but the heart of the matter is very much the same. Your words came to me during a very dark week (when I was doing a great deal of internal screaming) and encouraged me greatly. Just wanted to let you know! Keep up the good work!

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