As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw a little blonde dash across the playground like a gazelle. I couldn’t believe how big she had gotten in such a short time. In the backseat of the van my daughter squealed with excitement. We hadn’t seen our former foster daughter in over a year but we were finally able to arrange a meetup at the park.
The kids scrambled out of the van and exchanged greetings. As I unloaded the scooters, they began chasing each other to the top of the slide. The little girl (we’ll call her Eva) lived with us for nearly two years. We saw her grow from a crawling baby to an energetic toddler. Now, she was a healthy 5-year-old who seemed to be thriving.
Love and Goodbyes
After our visit with Eva, my wife posted a reflection on how she previously thought she couldn’t foster children: “I would NEVER do foster care because I could NEVER love a child and then knowingly let them go.” Many people have shared their fear of letting go of a child they have come to love, which is a normal human emotion that most of us understand. This inevitable pain has kept many away from fostering altogether.
It’s certainly true that one of the most difficult aspects of foster care is saying goodbye to a child who has become family. It’s hard on the whole family, parents and kids. Pictures of Eva still hang in my daughter’s room and she’s a regular part of our conversations. Memories and funny stories come up regularly as we are reminded of her throughout the day. Her absence is continually felt.
Love is always risky. Any loving relationship has the risk of hurt, abandonment, or betrayal. Our natural reaction is often to retreat from any potential pain, but love compels us otherwise. Love calls us to enter the fray, even at great risk to ourselves.
Sitting there at the park watching Eva play, hearing from her mother how well she is doing in school, and seeing her whole family fight to stay on their feet and thrive, I can’t help but wonder what our family would have missed if we let the fear of ‘goodbye’ keep us from fostering. I wouldn’t know this beautiful, little blonde playing freeze tag with my kids. I wouldn’t know this family and get to see the amazing redemption they are currently undergoing. Naturally, I want to protect myself and my kids from pain, but I’m overcome with so much beauty that we otherwise would have missed.
Foster care has brought about some difficult days, but it has also brought about some of our most cherished memories. There’s beauty to be seen even in the ashes.