If you have not read The True Atlas post you will not fully understand this post. Please read that post prior to reading this one. Once again I have no intention of offending anyone but some of you may be offended. I have no intention of discouraging anyone but if you do not finish the post you may be discouraged.
I have 4 siblings that were adopted out of the foster system. I love all of my siblings and was always taught that these are my siblings period. It was not a these kids those kids type of situation. The two youngest that my parents adopted have severe learning disabilities, some mild retardation, ADHD, Cerbal pausy, siezure disorder, and I think a few other minor problems. My wife and I have had two placements of our own both of which I will discuss below.
Why my wife and I do this.
My wife and I love kids. We have both worked with kids for several years, but that's not why we do this. We love the fact that we can give these kids a safe and loving home, but that is not why we do this.
We love that we can welcome these hurting children into our family so that they can heal, but that is not why we do this. We are involved in Foster care for 1 purpose, to share the love of Christ with these kids. Everything above is part of who we are and we love helping these kids, but there are other loving foster homes that don't have Christ. We have a chance to bring kids into our home who in both our cases have never heard about Jesus before. We get to teach them that there is a God that made everything, but among all the wonderful and beautiful things he created he chose to make them special. We get to live life with these kids and allow them to see Christ in us.
My role as a Father to these kids.
Once again if you have not read my other post please do so. That will give you the foundation for what I believe a husband and father is.
My role for these kids is even more important than the role God gave me as a father of my biological daughter. She has had the benefit of a healthy two parent home her entire life. If you tell her that she is beautiful her response will be "I know". Sadly that is not the case for these kids. They grow up through horrific experiences and deal with life situations that I as an adult do not want to handle. As a foster parent you are not give a clean slate to write on. Instead you are given a slate with large dents in it. You are given broken chalk because some techniques you want to try wont work. They may be ineffective because of improper use of a similar method in the past or sometimes things are just off the table because of what the kids came out of. Ever response to every situation becomes extremely important. the best part about doing this though is that as my wife said "You get a front row seat to God doing miracles".
The role to my wife as a husband is subjected to study 24-7. This is a relationship that sometimes these kids have never witnessed. In other cases they have seen such a twisted version of how a man is suppose to treat a woman that a lot of un-teaching has to be done along with the teaching. This is were living Christ in front of the kids is so important. However, this also means that when I make a mistake I know that the consequences are amplied as well.
The role to the kids as spiritual leader is new territory for the kids. If they have had any church in their past the odds are they have not had a strong male spiritual leader. How do you take over such a role without having the connection of years of taking care of these kids? How do you being to teach love and respect for a God that until they came to your house they did not know existed? These are big questions that have to be answered. Personally, I think its just like every other thing in parenting....every child is different so the way to assume that role is slightly different. For instance, with Our Guy I did not start with Adam and Eve in the Garden. I started with David and Goliath and stories about David and his mighty men. I got him hungry to learn more and then started back in Genesis. It did not take long before he was asking me every night for his bible lesson and was even willing to give up his free play time in order to get it (sometimes) if we were running late at bedtime routine.
The role of providing for these kids is extremely important. They need to know they have a safe secure place to live and that their basic needs are going to be met. There are several cases in which children are pulled out because their needs are not being met. Our kids are a prime example of this. This means that you spend a lot of time especially early on reassuring the kids that they will get what they need. However, actions speak way louder than words. It takes time for that trust to develop. This can drive you nuts.
The role of protecting these kids. Physically protecting these kids is in an of itself more difficult. For instance, our two year old son refused to eat vegetables he wanted to eat everything else and get seconds, but did not want his vegetables. This is obviously not healthy and has to change, but you cant force a child to eat either. The solution we used was giving him a smaller initial portion of his other food and then I traded him bit for bit. Eat a bean you get another bite of chicken. We have now been able to wean him off of that and can just give him a serving of vegetables like everyone else. I guess the easiest way to sum up this section is take all your original and "normal" expectations and throw them out the window. Have a goal in mind work toward it. Expectations come after you have been working on the goal for a little bit.
Emotionally protecting these kids is the hardest piece of protecting them. Basically, you cant actually protect them at all. They by law have visits and those wounds are going to be continually broken open. All you can do is be there for the kids. Try to help them learn to express their feels rather than bottling them up or just shutting down. Helping the older kids talk through and begin to understand their feelings. Helping them start to make strong connections with you so that they know someone loves them for them. Helping them feel secure enough to encourage normal development and in a lot of cases help them catch up.
Spiritually protecting these kids is not an easy task as I mentioned earlier. It takes constant work and being very intentionally in the things you do and say. Making sure these kids are pointed toward Christ while they are in your home.
You never know how long these kids are going to be in your home. For instance, our first placement was only 5 weeks. I had 5 weeks to show a 10 year old boy how a man was suppose to treat a woman. I had 5 weeks to show him that the God that created the universe though he was important. 5 Weeks to teach him the Gospel message. 5 weeks to be a strong example in his life. I pray that those 5 weeks changed his life and I pray harder that those 5 weeks changed his eternal destination.