“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ – Luke 14:28-30
In the years leading up to our decision to jump head first into foster parenting we really thought we had “counted the cost”, and yet, two years into this journey we have learned so much about the real cost of fostering. We’d like to share with others what we have discovered. This is for those thinking about fostering, those in the middle of fostering, and those who may just be sitting on the sideline watching others.
The Cost of Inconvenience – Your life will largely be flipped upside down by the journey to foster. Do you like your nice, safe, well-scheduled life? Then maybe you shouldn’t foster. Sounds crazy right? Foster care advocates telling you not to foster. But seriously, this journey will inconvenience you, your family, your kids, your schedule and everything you hold dear as “normal”, so if you are not willing to change, bend, and be flexible then we are almost certain that being God’s hands and feet for the least of these may not be your cup of tea. The goal of foster care is not to make your life convenient. In fact, you are asked to sacrifice your convenience on the behalf of a child whose whole life has been inconvenienced by abuse, neglect, and trauma.
The Cost of Giving Without Reciprocation – Do you need to be affirmed? Do you need a child to tell you how awesome you are? Do you need them to want you and love you? Well, that might not be the case with a child you foster. You see, you are not their hero, you are not their first choice, or even their new mom or dad. Sure you are the one taking care of them and providing for them, but they may never be able to adequately respond to everything you “have done for them”. If you think you will need that affirmation and this journey is about you, then we are afraid it will end horribly, not just for you, but more importantly for the child or teenager you are serving. As for giving. Have you ever given so much it hurt, only to have to get back up and give again? Yes? No? Just so you know, foster care is a lot of giving, hurting, and getting back up, because there is a child who needs you.
The Cost of Your Family – Do you think all of your family will agree with your choice? Nope. Some family members will not be on board. They may be completely unsure as to why you would want to bring “that kind of child into your home.” They may think you are taking time away from your “own kids”. And, you know what? They are right. The foster journey will cost your biological kids time and resources. Hopefully it will also stretch them at an early age and teach them what following Christ really looks like. Yep, it is more than Sunday School, worship songs, and cute dinner prayers. Our first week in, we almost believed the lie. We were laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and we asked each other, “have we ruined our children’s lives?” We had two kids and we added 4 more kids through foster care. We had outnumbered them!! They went from the majority to the minority overnight. The enemy wanted us to believe we had ruined their lives. And yet, in that moment, we also knew Jesus was saying, “Nope, I never asked you to protect your kids. Keep going.” Others have not always agreed with us, but that is okay, because Jesus did. Boom!!
The Cost of Your Sanity – Bureaucracy. That one word alone will send chills down your spine. Have you ever parented a child with 100 other people telling you how to do it? They create a new form, rule, regulation on a regular basis. We have three case worker visits every month, one CASA visit, family visits every week, and therapy appointments throughout the month. Our schedule is dictated to us at times. Did we mention trying to schedule medical and dental appointments with Medicaid? Short summary, a joke. Then there are 6 children in our home. They do a pretty good job of chipping away at our sanity too. Just because you are a “good parent” doesn’t mean you will be a good foster parent. Count the cost of all the interference that you will walk through in this process. We’ve seen several families give up, because they didn’t want to deal with “the system”. Children and families lose out when you don’t go into foster care understanding that your sanity may disappear. The good news, we’ve proven we can still parent pretty dang good even without our sanity!!
The Cost of Your Life – Foster Care cannot just be something you do, it has to be who you are. A parent who has chosen to love, care and give all of yourself on the behalf of a child who needs you. You don’t want this to inconvenience your life, your schedule, or your kid’s lives? Well, then do the future foster child a favor and don’t even get in the foster parenting boat. They need individuals who will be willing to give their lives. Wait, it seems like we’ve heard a story about a God who did the same for us, right??? Oh yeah, Jesus.
This post is filled with truth, sarcasm, and some more truth. What we hope people understand is this, foster care will cost you a lot! Does that make it not worth it? Never. We would sign up again, 1,000,000 times.
We do want individuals to understand there is a need to count the cost. We are not just “trying out kids to see if it works.” These are real little people, who suffer real consequences when we decide we cannot do it anymore and disrupt the placement. We recently read that research states “every move causes 6 months of regression in a foster child.” Wow. These kids are not being given the chance to count the cost, but they are certainly paying the costs.
So, this is our wisdom to you, you, and you. Count the cost friends. These kids are too important for you not to.