When Foster Placements Fall Through
I am standing in front of a room that I’ve just spent the last day and a half getting ready for a little boy—looking through drawers, digging through the closet, sorting through toys to see which are age appropriate and which should be put away because he won’t need them. The bed is full of Halloween-themed treats: stickers, crafts, cupcake mix, glow-in-the-dark paints, things I couldn’t wait to share with him, things I ran to the store to buy after getting the call and realizing we only had a few days to prepare for his arrival and Halloween is next week.
I spent last night dreaming of the upcoming holidays, marveling at the fact that after three years of dreaming for a kid to share holidays with, we would finally have him. Everything is already planned—the costume shopping we will do next week for Halloween, the holiday crafts I’ve been dying to try, the Christmas in Florida that we will get to share with him.
We’ve received his paperwork, we’ve started the work on switching his school to one nearby, we’ve looked up the name of his school counsellor and started looking into dentists because we were told he would need to go. I’ve started planning school lunches and bought fun, Star Wars-themed snack bags and meal planned for the next week. We’ve rearranged our schedules to suit him, we’ve bought board games we want to play with him.
On Sunday, he was supposed to be ours. Today, they called and said they changed their minds.
And as I stand in this room that we’ve decorated with so much anticipation and hopefulness and longing for what we seem to be always reaching for and can never actually attain, as I sit on the bed that was almost his and put away the things I bought for him that I can no longer give him, I cry for what could have been. I cry for us, who almost had him, and for him, who almost had us.
I wonder if I’ve done something to deserve this.
Anytime we say yes to a child that never makes it into our home, I wonder. Is it us? Was there something about us that wasn’t enough? Is there a reason that no matter how hard we try, we keep ending up back here, childless, unconfident, waiting for something that seems will never come?
I am scared. I am insecure. I am still suffering beneath the weight of grief that sometimes seems unsurvivable.
This time, the grief feels unbearable. He wasn’t just any kid. He is a kid we’ve had to say goodbye to before, an amazing, unbelievably special little boy whom we wanted to keep but couldn’t. A little boy we’ve cried countless tears for, one we’ve been so burdened for, one we’ve prayed for over and over to be protected and preserved despite the chaos he’s had to survive.
For months, our prayer has been this: if where he is isn’t what’s best for him, that somehow, he could make his way back to us.
For months, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get this sweet boy’s face out of my head, or why I sometimes said his name out loud to myself and hoped that wherever he was at the moment, that he felt safe and loved. I bragged about his amazing qualities and marveled at how strong he already was at only six years of age. I imagined the kind of person he would grow to be, and I could picture it clearly. I wondered why I’d have such strong feelings if he wasn’t meant to be with us.
And then they called us. They asked us to take him. I said yes before they could even finish the question.
We prayed and thanked God and cried. We smiled so hard that our cheeks actually hurt. We laughed and called our families and friends and told everyone else we ran into. We prepared his room and got his paperwork ready and started thinking of Christmas gift ideas. And then they called us and told us they changed their minds.
Nothing is ever certain with foster care. Things can change from one hour to the next. We should know this. This is the third long-term placement that has fallen through. But somehow, we believed that this one would be different. Because why would we have spent so many months with this sweet boy on our hearts if he wasn’t meant to be ours? It feels cruel that this happened. I wonder why it had to. What was the purpose of this? What purpose could there have been for one of my deepest desires to have been dangled in front of me just to have it snatched away again? God knows how much we love this kid. God knows how much we wanted him. So why?
Friends and family constantly praise me for being strong. But in spite of the many praises I have received, I’m certain that I am the weakest person on this earth.
Because I truly don’t understand. I’m bitter and angry, and I hate myself for it. I hate the fact that I’m angry at how unconventional our road to parenthood has to be, and I hate that while we await our perfect child, that has to mean that they will have to go through an unimaginable amount of pain for it to come to pass. I hate the fact that there is a beautiful boy who was almost ours who is suffering even more than we are, and we can’t do a thing about it.
Before we became foster parents, I wondered if my heart could handle it. Since we became foster parents, I’ve wondered every single day if my heart could handle it. Today, I’m sure that it can’t.
But then I remember the sweet face of the boy that we almost got to have, the same sweet face that I’ve pictured every day since we had him once and had to say goodbye, and I can’t imagine a life where I never knew him.
I can’t imagine a life where I don’t think of him and say his name out loud and say a prayer, no matter where I am at the time, that wherever he is, he feels safe and loved. Maybe he wasn’t meant to be ours forever, but I can’t imagine a life where he couldn’t have been ours at all.
He is worth fighting for. He is worth bearing this pain. He is worth more than what life has given him. And if we were to give up, who would be there to fight for him?
I wonder every single day if my heart can handle this. Today, I was sure that it couldn’t. Yet somehow, I’ve survived. And I will keep surviving. Because there are so many children out there surviving so much worse. And I am still willing to bear this pain and heartache if that should mean that we will someday have the privilege of alleviating even a little pain and heartache of a child like him.
Still fighting for children like him. Still choosing to see fostering as a privilege. Still believing life is good.
Our story isn’t finished.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”