“I could never do that. I could never love a baby and give her back.”
If you are a foster parent, I bet you have heard this at some point. Maybe you have been just as baffled as I was to find an appropriate response.
I can be highly sarcastic, so the first thought that crosses my mind is typically, “Yes, loving a child as my own for an indefinite amount of time and then letting them go is my favorite thing in the entire world.” This response would not be helpful, so I quickly move on.
At times, it may be offered as a compliment for answering the call to foster care. At worst, there can be a hero-worship complex in this narrative, and any first-timer who welcomes children from hard places would admit we lose that cape quickly. Any notion that I was a good parent went out the window as I was given an expletive-laced dress down by a 4-year-old because I would not let him wear the same shirt for the third day in a row.
So, to squelch any sense that I am an incredible person for doing this, maybe I should instead respond, “If you saw what was happening behind closed doors, you would fully recognize that my life is a little bit of a dumpster fire and I have no clue what I am doing.”
Neither response seems appropriate, so most of the time, I awkwardly nod my head and exit stage left with my gaggle of children.
I fully recognize that there are people who can’t be foster parents for one reason or another. But that does not necessarily give a pass for not contributing to or supporting children who are a part of our child welfare system.
There may even be an unspoken belief that the best way to impact our foster care system is to be a foster parent. I would love to flip that narrative. The truth is, the best way to impact our foster care system is when we all do something to improve the life of a child.
That one method we choose will vary from person to person. Some people will make a difference through their everyday jobs. Teachers, social workers, police officers, health professionals, and many other career options directly impact some of the most vulnerable children in our cities. This work is essential and has a lasting influence on a child’s life.
One exceptional opportunity to serve children in Jacksonville is volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem. This vital role is filled by ordinary citizens who speak up for the child’s best interests in the court system. It has a streamlined training process and is usually a once-a-month commitment.
How You Can Help
Maybe you can’t be a foster parent yourself, but you can still make an impact by supporting a foster family. In particular, churches can make a big difference by wrapping around families in their congregation and community. Don’t know how to help? Try these for starters.
- Drop a box of diapers and a Starbucks gift card on their front door.
- Send a card in the mail that could arrive at just the right time.
- Deliver a meal on a tough day of court that has left everyone exhausted.
- Commit to praying for children in our foster care system.
- Donate gently used and like-new items to local foster closets.
It may seem so small to you, but I promise it means the world to us. When you say yes to serving a foster family, it allows them to say yes when a child needs a home.
Today, if someone were to tell me they could never do this, I would respond with, “I could never have done this alone!”
Imagine what Jacksonville could be if we switched the statement from “I could never be a foster parent” to “I can be a champion for a child in foster care.” When we each do our part, even though it may seem insignificant, it will make a lasting impact on our child welfare system, affecting the lives of children and families for generations.
About the Author
Cayela Moody was born and raised in Eureka, Kansas, and married her high school sweetheart, Evan. They officially started the process to become foster parents in 2017. A military spouse and mother of six, she is the co-founder of the nonprofit Hope Multiplies and loves coming alongside families of all types and especially feels called to support those who need help in their advocacy role.