So, I have a friend who has just started out fostering. She and her husband are beautiful, amazing people, and they are currently being beaten to a pulp by the emotions that come with loving kids in hard places. Their sweet new girl is really putting them through the ringer. As I sat with my friend this evening, she was close to tears telling me that they truly don’t know what to do against the enormity of this child’s hurt. That feeling is certainly something I can relate to.
A lot of people who have never fostered or adopted seem to think that the hardest part of fostering is giving the children back to their biological parents. I say, that that isn’t even close to the hardest part. The hardest part is to look into the eyes of the young, fragile human being in front of you and to be confronted with your own complete inadequacy.
You must sit there as the sweet child that you are coming to love tells you the thousand ways that they have been hurt and wronged and violated, and you must keep your face completely still. You want nothing more than to weep profusely and give up all hope on humanity as a species, but if you do that, the child will never trust you again. So you keep still as the kindergartener tells you that mommy killed their baby sister. You don’t react when the ten-year-old looks at the floor and confesses that they cut themselves to deal with the pain. And you never, ever cry as the high schooler says that their father used them sexually when they were still young enough to be in diapers.
The very hardest thing for me is to listen without reaction, and to look straight into the face of human evil without a single recourse. It torments me every day to look at what my children are facing and to realize that I can’t do a damn thing about it. I want to rage and sob and shriek and to find a way to take all the pain away, but I can’t.
When you hear a story of great hurt and evil, you want resolution. You want someone to tell you “…and they all lived happily ever after”. The hardest part of fostering is that you have to confront the fact that for so many of the children you love, no matter what you do, there will never be a happily ever after.