Being a Foster Father

a father hugs his sonIn The Heroic Path: The Search of the Masculine Heart, John Sowers talks about the moment he became a father for the first time to twin girls. He says, “As I watched the girls that first night, I had two distinct emotions. One: profound joy and Two: buck naked fear.”

My wife and I were thrust into a strange situation when we began our foster care journey. We had been married for two and a half years and had no kids of our own. In the span of six months, we decided to look for a new adventure, moved to South Carolina, and were entrusted with caring for 10 kids. They ranged in age from 18 months to 15 years old. Every stage of childhood and adolescence was under one roof. My wife and I had babysat before and worked with kids, but we’d never raised kids on our own. We were overwhelmed. Unprepared. Lost. And scared.

A Father to the Fatherless

Psalm 68:5 says that God is a father to the fatherless. When I think about how men are called to foster care and adoption, this is at the heart of that calling. Personally, I struggled with the fact that even though our kids were in foster care, most of them still had fathers. And if they didn’t, they had a father figure already in their life.

Where then do I fit in their life? What was my responsibility as to them as a man?

I changed diapers, I did time outs, I disciplined, I helped with homework, I laughed with them, I comforted them when they were sad, I prayed with them at bedtime. I did all the things a dad should do, but I didn’t feel like their dad. I felt like a long term babysitter. I don’t even know if I should have felt like their dad. They already have dads, even if they’re lousy ones.

Add to that the fact that most kids in foster care return home just added to the confusion. How could I be their father for three months, then never see them again?

The Role of a Foster Father

Maybe it was just my own insecurities about the fact that I had never raised kids before, and I had no idea what I was doing. I jumped into the middle of it all. I didn’t get the opportunity to start from the beginning like “normal” parents. I went straight into a situation where I was potty training one kid and talking about rules for boyfriends with another. I was helping kids learn their colors and learn algebra at the same time.

As I learned and grew as a family teacher and foster parent, I began to sort through some of those questions and figure out my role in the lives of our foster kids. Sowers says later in his book that “Men stand tallest when they stand for others.” My role in life is to be a helper. To stand for others and protect those who need protecting. Just like Jesus did or us.

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