One of the most frequent concerns I hear from parents who are considering foster care or adoption is, “Will it be too hard on my kids?” There is certainly a fear of the unknown of how bringing a foster or adopted child into your lives will impact your current family. It is safe to say that adding a new family member to any family will change its current dynamics. This change is true if you add a new biological sibling, have a grandparent move in, remarry after divorce, or open your home to a foster or adoptive child.
Families are not static; they change frequently regardless of how much we wish we could keep them the same.
Children develop and move towards independence, work schedules change for parents, young adult children move away to college, young families return to live with parents or parents move in with adult children. Families change, and sometimes these changes are easy and feel good, while other times they’re hard and bring feelings of regret or sorrow. Most of us attempt to shelter our children--and ourselves--from things that are difficult and challenging. The question I pose here is, “Why try to prevent the inevitable?” Our lives and our children’s lives are going to change and sometimes those changes will be difficult. For this reason, my wife and I decided that it was good for us and our children to be an adoptive and foster family regardless of any unforeseen difficulties.
I believe that my role as a father is to prepare my children for the challenges of life, not to shelter them from the challenges that life will bring. One way that we have accomplished this approach is by being an adoptive and foster home. If you were to ask my biological children if it has been “hard” to be siblings with adoptive and foster children, they would honestly answer yes. If you were to ask them what they’ve learned or benefited from being siblings to adoptive and foster children, their lists would be long. A few of my favorites lessons that they’ve shared with me are: they’ve learned--and are learning--how to get along with other people in difficult situation; that love is key in all relationships but that they still require work, forgiveness, empathy, and the ability to laugh at the little stuff; how to stand up for people of different races and cultures (our family is composed of different races), and about the importance of understanding both sides of the story. Honestly, their lists could go on and on. As I think about it, all of our children--adopted, foster or biological--are learning these life lessons at an early age. And because of this, they will be better equipped than I was to become husbands or wives, parents, friends, employees, employers and community leaders. Who doesn’t want this kind of growth for their children?
Now, if you ask my wife or me if our children were exposed to things they might not have been otherwise had we not adopted or fostered children, we would answer yes. Our children have been exposed to the effects of drugs on developing babies, parents who’ve lost their children to the system, and several other difficult situations and scenarios. They have also been introduced to parents who have fought their addictions and had their children returned to them, seen their siblings fight every day against the effects of drug exposure in utero, seen their parents love when it hurts and experience what true hope can accomplish. Once again, they were able to grow and learn from each of these experiences under the guidance and protection of us, their parents.
Financially investing in our children’s lives is important. Saving for college, weddings or whatever it is we want to provide them in the future takes sacrifices and effort. Investing in our children’s character takes a whole other level of sacrifice and effort. Regardless of how this is accomplished, I believe our children deserve life experiences that help them build characters which will serve them well through life’s challenges and joys. Foster care and adoption have both challenges and joys, and that is why I believe it is an exceptional training ground for all of my children.
To learn more about becoming a Resource Family for children and youth, go to FCNI.org/Resource-Homes, or call our Resource Family Recruiters at 805.781.3535!