No such thing as “too attached”

When someone says they’re a foster parent, they’re often met with the response, “I don’t know how you do it. I could never foster because I’d get too attached.” This idea upsets many foster parents because the truth is foster parents are no different than anyone else. They fall in love with these children and care for them like their own children and then the children leave and go back home.

Many foster families experience a great sense of loss when a foster child goes home, but that’s a good thing. There’s no such thing as getting “too attached” to a foster child. These children are like all other children and they crave love and attention. Many of these children have been neglected or abused and have never experienced the love of a parent for a child.

Foster children have been removed from their home and sometimes their school and community. They are away from most of the people they’ve ever known because it was not safe for them for whatever reason. These children are often scared and feel alone in a new house with a new and unfamiliar family. Even though being in care is the best thing for the time being, they still experience a huge disruption to their development and need some sort of normalcy.

One Arkansas foster mom said, “I look into his precious eyes and wonder again, ‘How could anyone not fall in love with you? How could anyone hurt you? How could anyone abandon you?’ The questions haunt me as days pass and I find myself loving more than the day before, loving so much it hurts, holding tight to another day, treasuring each darling moment because I know tomorrow might bring the phone call that [takes] him from my home, but never from my heart.

I take my anxious thoughts to the throne of the Great I Am, feel peace flood my body, and rest in this knowledge: While this energetic, fun, sweet, and precious child dwells in my home, whether just today, tomorrow, or forever, I will pour all the love I can into him, believing that God knows best and will work all for good, for I know I am called according to His purpose. Yes, oh my, yes, foster parents love their foster children.”

Whether it’s a few days, weeks, or longer, the love a foster family shows a child will last a lifetime. Many former foster children can recall the names of those families that loved them while their parents were getting the help they needed. Foster families often think back to the children they’ve had in their home and still feel concern about their well-being.

When the day comes that a foster child leaves the foster home and gets to return home, it is a joyous occasion for the child. For many foster families it is a very sad day filled with many tears because have grown to deeply love a child that was not their own. They have put the child’s need for love of their fear of loss. A foster family that grieves when a child goes home has loved that child the way they deserve to be loved. That sadness, though, is often quickly replaced with the joy of knowing that a child has been reunited with their family.

If you’re worried about getting too attached, then you would make an excellent foster parent. The foster children in Arkansas need families that have a heart so big it hurts when they’re gone. To find out more about fostering, attend an Info Meeting in your county.

I could never be a foster parent

“I could never be a foster parent. I could never love a child and then give them back. I’d get too attached…”

This has got to be the most common statement spoken to foster parents and it’s hard to know how to appropriately respond. There’s a good chance that many of you reading this have said those same words at some point.

While I know it’s not what you mean, when you say that what foster parents hear is that you somehow think we’re robots without hearts who are able to dive in to care for hurting children without putting our hearts on the line. I’m going to let you in on a little secret- we’re not heartless robots or able to magically guard our hearts from the pain of loving and letting go. Sometimes it hurts. A lot.

In saying yes to the calling of foster care, foster parents are saying yes to a rollercoaster of highs and lows and unexpected turns. They’re also saying yes to attaching to children they didn’t give birth to and who will likely leave their home to be reunified with their birth family in the future.

When a child comes into foster care and is placed in a foster home, the goal of the case is to reunify that child with their family of origin. From the very beginning foster parents know that if their goal is reached successfully, they will eventually say goodbye to the children they’ve been entrusted with.

The children who are placed in foster homes by caseworkers have all of the same needs as the children we’ve given birth to- they need to be fed, protected, loved, corrected, and nurtured. This is how bonds are formed and attachment starts. They have needs that we can meet. As we repeatedly show up and meet their needs they begin to attach to us…and as they look at us with those precious eyes, give us big squeezy hugs, or ask us for extra snuggles because they’re scared or having a hard time dealing with their emotions, we get attached too.

Attachment is fascinating and most people don’t realize how much of who they are and how they interact with the world around them is actually rooted in their ability to form healthy attachments. This isn’t some man made phenomenon or fad, it was designed by God. Humans were created by a relational God and were meant to live and thrive inside the context of relationships. Children were designed to be nurtured and mentored by safe and loving adults who can care for them, mentor them, and slowly teach them over the course of 18 years how to become responsible adults themselves.

We live in a fallen world and because of that sometimes people are so hurt that they cannot see past their own pain and problems in order to care for their children. The biological parents of the children in care aren’t bad people … more often than not they’re hurting adults who were once hurting kids. This is where foster parents come in to break that cycle. We step in to temporarily love on the children in our community who need us while a team wraps around the biological family to offer services they need to establish the safety and stability they need to be able to successfully parent their children.

While the parents are working on improving their lives, the foster parents go about the work of meeting the children where they are, feeding their little tummies, kissing their scraped knees, and assuring them that they’re safe. Getting attached is a GOOD thing! When adults tear down their emotional barriers and allow themselves to fully attach, that creates a safe place for the children in their care to learn to fully attach and be vulnerable with their little hurting hearts. This is where trust starts to grow. And where healing begins.

Several years ago when I was preparing our very first foster placement to go home, I was discussing the internal struggle that I was feeling with a friend at church. Then he looked at me and said something that forever changed the way I saw my role as a foster parent. “It’s like putting Baby Moses in a basket, placing that basket in the river, and taking a step back. These children are God’s children first, just like your biological children are. His plans for their little lives are good and He can be trusted to care for them. You’ve done the job you were called to do here.” Those words impacted my life in a huge way and I’ve never forgotten them.

This doesn’t mean that reunifying the children who have come through my home became easier over time. It simply means I understand that in this mission I’m called to a certain level of brokenness. My hurting heart (and the hurting hearts of my children) are a worthy sacrifice if it means that a child was shown complete unconditional love while they shared our home. Every tear we’ve cried as we said goodbye is counted and measured by a God who sees it all.

Caring for someone else’s children and working to support reunifying a family is an incredible honor and not something I take lightly. Attaching to sweet little hurting hearts so they can learn that adults can be trusted is an incredibly important lesson that plants seeds in their lives that we may never see the fruit from….but it doesn’t stop us from knowing that someone’s got to take on the pain and plant the seeds. That’s the only way cycles get broken.

Ann MeythalerBy Ann Meythaler, Foster and adoptive parent, The CALL County Coordinator in Northwest Arkansas

June God Story: The Bethards Family

Working and being around vulnerable kids for many years helped me see the difference that it makes for kids to have unconditional love, and I always felt that God had given me so much love to share. God had placed foster care and adoption on my heart.  My heart has always been broken for the orphans, so giving a loving home and parents to a child in need was not a question of if, but a question of when. Andrew took a little more convincing on the fostering part of things, but he has a little sister who was adopted from China so it’s been on his heart for about 10 years too.

We decided to go through The CALL because of the faith-based aspect to all of the trainings. It was very important to us to surround ourselves with praying people as we began the journey of fostering because we knew that we would be leaning into God more throughout, so starting out with Him as the firm foundation was important to us.

The CALL helped us immensely by walking us through all of the paperwork and helping us get opened in a short amount of time. It’s been great as an open home to have the support of The CALL from knowing people to call for help to the ability to “shop” donations at The CALL Mall when we get new placements. The CALL also helped us tremendously when we got a placement who was on a formula not covered by WIC; they rallied our church family behind us and together we ended up with over six months of formula purchased and delivered to us, it was such a relief!

Shortly after we opened as a foster home, we started to try to have a biological child, but God had other plans. Through the pain of infertility, we closed our home to fostering for a time. In 2015, God put it back on our hearts that even though we had been unable to conceive a child ourselves there were children around us who needed us, so we reopened our home. Not long after that we got a call for a placement for an 8 month old.

Caroline Bethards on her Adoption Day!

Two weeks later we got a call for a two week old who was going through withdrawals. With both my husband and I working full time we didn’t think we could take a placement that young. I called my mom, who is retired but lives out of state, to see how quickly she could come and help. She was able to drop everything and come so we could accept our baby girl in to our home. It was amazing and definitely God’s grace and provision that allowed it all to happen so seamlessly!  That little baby eventually became our adopted daughter, Caroline.  In about a month we went from a broken, hurting place to a joyful and full home.

This experience can only be described as a roller coaster. There is only a certain amount of normal that can be achieved when kids are in and out of your home. It’s emotional. Most of the time it takes a good amount of effort. But it’s SO worth it. All of it. It has brought us closer to each other as a couple and closer to God.

By Sarah Bethards.

Hope and a future

With over 5,000 children in foster care and less than 2,000 foster homes, Arkansas is in a crisis. Since 2014, the number of children in foster care has steadily increased. The State of Arkansas is scratching its head, trying to figure out what to do about the problem.

James 1:27 states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Since 2007, The CALL has gone into churches to challenge people to do one of two things: Foster or support those who are able to foster. Little by little, The CALL breaks down the barriers that have kept people from fostering for so long. Over the past 10 years, The CALL has answered the hard questions for numerous families. Once those questions were answered, many families were ready to start the foster care/adoption process.

The Bible tells us the church is the answer, so that is where The CALL starts. We go into churches and host recruitments. We share our hearts and the need for foster families and challenge people to support foster families. Then, it is up to the churches. We host an informational meeting for interested couples to hear more about becoming a foster or adoption family.

Potential families have to complete a massive amount of paperwork, 30 hours of training, CPR, and more in order to open up as a foster or adoption home. Without The CALL, these families would be left to navigate the process by themselves. Many families who do this on their own quit or take longer to open because of the lack of support. The CALL guides families through this process, answering any questions and helping iron out wrinkles.

Once a foster family is open, The CALL becomes a part of their village. The CALL Mall helps families with clothes, baby furniture, diapers, and other necessities at no cost. The CALL stays in touch with these families to ensure they have what they need physically, emotionally, and spiritually to be great foster parents.

In the past 10 years, The CALL has helped open over 1,161 foster homes and 369 adoption homes. Over 501 children have been adopted by families supported by The CALL.

When you become a foster parent or volunteer with The CALL or donate to The CALL, you are making a difference locally. You can see the fruits of your labor because the foster children you pour your life into will grow up to be contributing members of your community.
There is a great need for foster families, but we understand that not every is called or able to foster. Even if you cannot foster, there’s still something you can do. If it takes a village to raise a family, it takes an entire church to support a foster family. The CALL needs people willing to donate their time, talent, and resources to help us eliminate the crisis in Arkansas. Do you have an extra hour a week? Can you help out a few hours a month or maybe more? If so, check out the volunteer page to find out where you can get plugged in. The CALL has a place for you.

Can’t foster or volunteer? Donate. The CALL is a non-profit organization and we cannot do anything to support these families without the financial support of generous individuals and churches.

We are not all meant to do the same thing, but we are all supposed to do something.

May God Story – The Turners

Pictured from Left to Right: Cameron, Tim, Kalen, Timothy Jr., Tameka & Kennedy

We were introduced to foster adoption through family and friends who had already answered “the call” to serve.  Although open to adoption, one thing was certain:  we would never foster because it would be too hard to give them back.

In 2008, we attended Project Zero’s Disney Extravaganza with our minds set finding a child between the ages of 2-3.  Then, this little girl who was five ran up to us and gave us a big hug.  But, she wasn’t the one for us, she was too old. When we went to a Christian camp that next week, neither one of us could stop thinking about her. God was clearly speaking to us, so we inquired about her. She came to our home in July and never left. Our daughter, Kennedy, has been such a tremendous joy in our family.

God had more plans for us!  Our oldest son left for the military in 2014, and we wanted to give back and be a blessing. We decided to go through The CALL because of our Christian values and we had heard such great things about the organization. What really stood out to us was that if one family from every church fostered a child, there would not be a child without a place to call home.  It took us a year to ultimately say yes to God.

When we first began fostering, we said we would never take an infant or toddler. Surely, we could have learned by now never to say never!  We received a call about a 17 month old who had been in three different homes in five months.  Our hearts broke for that little boy.  He screamed all the time and had health issues, which had caused him to be moved around so many times.  Amazingly, as soon as he came into our home, he stopped crying!  God has really blessed this little boy’s life. We’ve been able to get his health issues resolved and we’ve connected with the birth mom to encourage her, send pictures, and to let her know that God loves her so much.  We are thankful that God has let our family take care of her baby. That little boy is forever a part of our family even after he returns to his mother.

We now LOVE being the middle parents – helping the birth parents and bringing them peace and love. We’ve had three children in our home since opening as a foster family, and there has been such a peace that radiates God’s love.

Yes, fostering was a gigantic leap of faith for us to take — but it has been an exciting journey and we do not regret it.  It’s a JOY being a servant of Christ.  Serving Him is what keeps us focused through the highs and lows, mountains and valleys. The goal is reunification with the birth parents, and if we can offer a little love, safety and comfort for these children as they face a very difficult situation, that is the least we can do. We know the Lord has called us to do this. Yes, we are busy. Yes, we have responsibilities at church. Yes, we have three teenagers who have their own set of wants, needs, and challenges. Yes, we are married and still have to find time for each other. God always provides along the way.

For those considering fostering, if you say yes to the call of God to open your home and heart, He will work through it all and give you the grace, wisdom and resolve to influence a child’s life forever. The love and innocence you receive just for obeying, watching the positive outcome unfold, all the good, and helping a family in their time of need…that is what it’s all about.