The "Both/And" of Foster Care

Layne Hedden May 09, 2022

It's natural for us to want to put things into neat categories. We want to understand something as being all one way or the other. It would be so much easier if foster care worked that way. But it doesn't. The world of foster care is filled with the tension of both/and feelings.

Foster care itself is both broken and beautiful. A child being separated from their biological family is not as it should be. But, the opportunity for our family to love that child and help them on their path to healing - even for a short time - is beautiful.

Opening your heart and home to these children is filled with both joy and heartache. We delight in knowing each child who comes into our home, and our lives are forever changed by every single one. But, the loss and grief we experience each time one leaves is truly difficult to put into words. To be a foster parent, you have to be willing to both love and let go.

Caring for children who are placed in your home is both simple and complex. When sharing about the need for foster parents in Medina County, we often say that we need families who can provide love and a home. And that's true. But, understanding and working with kids who have experienced trauma is much more complex than simply providing a bed.

Being a foster parent requires you to be both flexible and stable. You need to be flexible in considering and accepting placements. Flexible in integrating a new person into your family and learning what makes them feel welcome and comfortable. Flexible in working with schedules largely out of your control - family visitation, medical appointments, case worker visits, and more. But, you also need to be a stable landing place for that child. You need to be consistent and trustworthy for a child who has had their world turned upside down.

For the children in foster care, they are capable of loving both their biological family and their foster family. We often project our own limited way of thinking on kids and underestimate their capacity for feelings. But, they do not see a reason to limit their love to one family or the other - and neither should we. It is healthy for them to love and be loved by both their biological family and their foster family.

Although it may seem like these "both/and" feelings make for a roller coaster ride of emotions, the reality is that they allow us the capacity for greater empathy and understanding than we may have otherwise had. We could avoid the heartache, but then we would miss out on all the joy. We could turn away from the broken, but then we would never see the beautiful.

Author and foster parent Jason Johnson says, "The irony of perspective is that, for some on the outside looking in, foster care seems too risky to do; yet, for those on the inside - having deeply felt the complexities of beauty and brokenness - the risks that come with not doing it are simply too great to ignore."

So for us, we will keep choosing to be both a "for now" family and a forever family.

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Medina County
Job and Family Services
232 Northland Drive
Medina, OH 44256
Office: (330) 722-9300
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CHILD SUPPORT
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