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Grappling with loss in foster care

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

It’s been said many times there is no adoption without loss. Families are formed in adoption because another family broke apart. For foster families, loss is like a revolving door. A child comes into the family and another child leaves.

I recall a child who entered my family’s home after the last possible family member could no longer provide care for him. The child arrived to the office and as he said goodbye to his family member, the fear and the grief he felt overwhelmed him. He knew this would likely be the last time he saw any member of his family. The tears began as the goodbyes started.

When his family member left, knowing that I would be his foster mom, he ran to me. We sat in the rocking chair for several hours while he cried. He did not shed a few tears. He sobbed gut-wrenching, heart-felt, deep, painful tears. Every member of my family loved this child. There wasn’t a moment that went by in our family that we did not think of him, attend to him and work with him on the grief he felt losing all he knew and loved.

Foster parents not only grapple with their own loss, they are tending to the loss of every member of their family. It is continuous and inevitable. The role of a foster parent requires open hearts and arms, even when the pain of losing that child seems unbearable. Those who work with and parent foster children cannot hold back the love, attentiveness, sensitivity, warmth and compassion each child needs. We cannot hand off grief to another person or ignore it.

Our heavenly father knows this. He does not say he will spare us from grieving. However, he says he will be close to us and will never leave us or forsake us. He will not hold back his love or his compassion when we feel our spirits crushed. He will be with us through each loss.

Today, please pray for those who are grieving. Pray for the children who, while needing safety and protection, are facing loss in a way they have not experienced before. Pray for foster parents who struggle to balance the hearts of the children in their care, while remaining attuned to their own emotional and physical losses. Ask God how you can provide comfort, attentiveness and compassion in his name to those who are serving children, as a reminder that he is present and near.

Written by Amy Curtis, Director of Counseling for Buckner Children and Family Services, which provides therapeutic services for foster and adoptive families, maternity clients, Family Pathways parents and children and Life Design patients at Baylor University Medical Center. Over the last 33 years, Amy has served others through a variety of roles and programs. She is passionate about helping others find hope in the midst of adversity. 

May is National Foster Care Month. To learn more about becoming a foster parent or how you can support foster families in your community, visit buckner.org/nationalfostercaremonth.

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