I’m the sort of of Amazon Prime member who gets so many packages arriving at my house, I’ve often forgotten what I bought until I rip open the box. We like to call it year-round-Christmas rather than impulse purchasing. It’s all in how you frame it. One afternoon last summer, my 5-year-old daughter Alice greedily grabbed our most recent delivery and ripped it open. For once, it was not one of my orders.
Inside, we found a gift--some newborn baby clothes for our very first foster placement who was yet to come home from the hospital, and a small gift for my daughter. Alice held up a bright pink T-shirt that read, “Promoted to Big Sister 2018.”
Alice turned and looked at me. “Mom, am I a big sister now?”
My heart skipped a beat, and I realized I had no idea how to answer.
One of my greatest hesitations in our decision to become a foster family was the effect it would have on my only child. We desired to expand our family through foster care and adoption, but we knew the uncertainty of most foster care placements. Adoption would likely not happen immediately, and we were okay with that. But was Alice? Would it break her heart to bring children into our home only to have them reunite with their bio family? Would this damage her fragile, still-forming faith?
Thankfully, God spoke to my fears early into the process as I spent long hours in the NICU rocking a sweet baby who was coming to our home upon discharge. As I rocked and prayed, God gave me a word that I have clung to many times throughout our foster care journey. He told me he was big enough to heal whatever was broken in me.
“What about Alice? Will you protect her too?” I asked Him.
“Especially Alice,” God replied.
Kids learn faith by living it
Alice has seen first hand what it looks like to go on an adventure with the Almighty God. Her relationship with God is being built on faith-filled prayers, genuine love, and the awareness that only God can redeem.. We pray big things together for our placement’s bio family. I will never forget how just a few weeks ago, our placement’s biological father walked through the doors of our church--much to our shock and surprise. He shared with us that he had found Jesus, and knew the only way to recovery was with God’s help. I immediately ran up the steps to Alice’s Sunday School class.
“Alice! You will never believe this! Little One’s Daddy is at church and he’s found Jesus!” I gushed.
Alice clasped her hands together and closed her eyes, “Thank you God!” she whispered. “You acted on Little One’s behalf.”
My mommy heart just about burst with pride. That’s the kind of faith I want for my daughter. When she prays, she believes God will answer.
Share as much information with them as is appropriate
We try to be open and honest as much as is appropriate. As the case has had its twists and turns, we’ve shared them. When she asks questions we don’t have answers to, we just say, “I don’t know. But God knows.”
Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to catch the vision
When we started fostering, we spent a lot of time talking about God’s heart for the vulnerable and how He wanted us to join Him in loving His children. I wasn’t sure if Alice would be able to “get it.” But the other day, she sat on my bed and shared her big thoughts.
“Mom, when Little One first came to our home, my heart was small. I didn’t like sharing you. I wanted him to go back. But after a while, I prayed that God would make my heart bigger and make room for Little One. Now my heart is so much bigger and has room to love more kids!”
Yup. She gets it. Who was I to assume she couldn’t?
You might be wondering how I answered Alice’s question that day last summer. First, I swallowed hard and prayed that one day therapy could fix my parental screw-ups. Then I answered as honestly as possible.
“Alice, Little One is a part of our family for now. We don’t know for how long, but you are his sister for now. You will have always been his big sister for this time even if someday he goes back to his family.”
“You know what, Mom? ‘For now’ is good enough.”
About the Author: Rachael is first and foremost on an adventure with Jesus. She is also a wife of 10 years, mom to 5-year old Alice, and foster mama to any child God brings through the door. Her other roles include being a reluctant pastor's wife, regular Bible teacher, and occasional retreat speaker. She enjoys weekend getaways, canceling plans, taking on projects she may not complete, wine tasting, and avoiding kids birthday parties.