If my future self came to me during the height of COVID-19 and told me that fostering was going to stimulate a spiritual revival in my family, I would have laughed in my own face.
I had the “perfect” family — two boys, one girl, a fantastic husband, pets and the picket fence. We were never religious. But, a few years ago, I couldn't shake this feeling that something was missing. I interpreted that to mean that someone was missing...I felt that my daughter needed a sister, but I really did not want to have any more children. This preoccupying feeling of "emptiness," coupled with wanting to help the world during the devastation of the pandemic, led me to explore adoption.
My interest was tepid at first. Then, some family friends told us that they had signed up with Children's Wisconsin to become foster parents. I had never considered fostering, so I watched their process with great interest. Eventually, after many conversations with my husband and family, we decided to start the process of applying to become a foster family.
My initial thought was that we would probably not match with a foster child. I foolishly assumed there probably wasn't as much need as people always say. You hear, "So many children need homes." My cynical side told me that surely that was overstated. The kids that need homes must have major problems, right? Certainly there couldn't be that many children in the system. We probably wouldn't even match with anyone.
The training process was lengthy, and I slowly began to understand the importance of reunification. I learned to reevaluate my priorities and become aligned with the mission Children's Wisconsin. As I opened my heart to the reality that the need was there, I also became cognizant of the reality that, in order to successfully be helpful, I needed to change my motivations.
After more than a year of training, meetings with professionals, inspections, applications, forms and more, we were finally becoming licensed. Our "come to Jesus" moment, if you want to call it that, was the day before our license came in. We received a call about a little girl. I couldn't believe we could possibly be matched so quickly. Over the next week, our family carefully considered the ramifications of taking this little girl into our home. Saying "yes" was the scariest thing our family ever did.
She has been with us more than a year now, and I can honestly say it has been the hardest, most heart-wrenching, but also gratifying and spiritually uplifting thing we have ever done. I don't have a good explanation for why fostering has caused me to open my mind and heart up to things of a spiritual nature. We attend a church now, which I never could have imagined in the past.
When a child comes into your home who is not yours, there are things to which it is incredibly difficult to acclimate. But there are also unexpected personality traits that complement your family in ways you never could imagine. Our little, despite all her trials, has the sunniest disposition. Her ability to be happy and positive is inexplicable and definitely not something I expected. It is a welcome ray of sunshine in our home.
When she arrived, we were bracing ourselves for a "problem kid," but despite some health issues, our little is doing great, all things considered. When I see her playing with the other children, it really does melt my heart and suddenly all of this seems worth it.
Adulting is brutal. Aging is brutal. Life is just hard and sometimes you can feel like you don't have enough to give. Fostering has somehow opened a chamber in my heart that I didn't know was there. I'm manufacturing more love, empathy, patience and sincerity then I could before. Is it messy? Sure. Is it easy? No. But so far, worth it.
I often wonder what my future me will say about all this someday. But for now, I am putting one foot in front of the other and trying to focus on gratitude. It's a wonderful post-COVID-19 life!