What foster care has taught my sons
By Shannon Hanson
One of the most-asked questions I get about being a foster parent is if it was hard on my bio kids to have foster kids in and out of our house. The answer is absolutely, yes! But just like running a marathon, building a house, or completing a degree, hard doesn’t necessarily equal bad.
I remember the day we told our oldest son we were getting licensed to take in kids who needed a safe place to live while their parents worked hard to create stability for them in their own home. I asked my son what he thought about sharing his space, and toys, and parents with other kids who needed them. He immediately said that he would love to do that. Within the week he was asking any kids he saw walking alone anywhere we went if they needed a home and wanted to come home with us. We had to remind him that taking a kid off the street was called kidnapping not fostering and while we laughed at his excitement I knew how badly he wanted any child around us to feel safe and loved. I knew his big heart would be a huge asset to any child we had living in our home but I also knew that asking him to open that beautiful heart to foster care was going to hurt a bit too.
As the boys have gotten older and we have seen placements come and go it has been amazing to watch them process all that is required of us as we strive to create calm in a place of chaos. Foster care has been hard on them, stretched them beyond themselves, challenged everything they knew to be true before it all began. They have had to learn that hurting people hurt people. That most of our problems seem small compared to what many others have to deal with. And that the only person we can ever truly change is ourselves. There were times where they asked us to take a break, begged us to let them “keep” a child in our home forever (and had to learn that we have no control over where they end up but we do get to love them well while they are here), and used words like “caseworker,” “GAL,” “home supervisor” and “county worker” like they were common knowledge to anyone else their age. Through all the ups and downs of foster care, I saw that even though it hurts at times the empathy, compassion, and love that grew in their hearts was overwhelming.
Then my oldest came home from school last year and told me that there was a kid who other kids were having trouble with because they would throw fits and be mean at recess. The other kids were talking about him and told everyone else to stop being friends with him. My son said he stepped in and told them that maybe that kid was just doing the best that he could and that maybe being kind to him no matter what might work better. I couldn’t believe that he was able to see past his behavior to the person underneath, something I know he never would have comprehended if it weren’t for foster care.
I hear people say all the time that they just couldn’t foster because it would hurt too much to say goodbye. Or that they don’t know how they could love someone so much and let them go. Foster care has taught our family how to live in the moment and to appreciate each moment for what it is because tomorrow is not guaranteed. We know that even if forever never happens, the change that happens today stays with someone forever, and no time spent loving someone else is ever wasted. I know it’s hard to stretch but hard is ok. And sometimes hard is more than ok. Hard turns into something more beautiful than it would have been if the only thing we ever knew was easy.
Shannon is a Colorado adoptive parent. As a foster parent, she was certified by Hope & Home. She is currently supporting other families on their foster parenting journeys.