Foster Care | It takes a village

They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and in our family, we have understood that to be true.

Our children have formal and informal mentors – grandparents, teachers, coaches, church members, and family friends. We have had to rely on family members, friends, and paid babysitters to keep our children so that my husband and I could have a date night or a weekend away. We’ve used our village to avoid hauling all children to a doctor’s appointment or school event. We have needed the support of people around us to help meet some practical needs of caring for our children at times, but we have also needed these people to be another voice in the lives of our children.

We became parents 8.5 years ago and have been very grateful for our village during these years, but never more than in the past year. One year ago, we became licensed foster parents and entered into a roller coaster of ups and downs that the training classes didn’t quite prepare us for.

We knew that it would be different than parenting our biological children. We read all the books. We took all the classes. We talked to everyone we knew that had been on this journey. But I didn’t understand until that first day when we brought someone else’s child into our home how much we would need other people to come alongside us.

We need their prayers.

The first day and many other days along the way were overwhelming. It is heart-wrenching, exhausting, frustrating, and emotional. Fostering has exposed sin in me that I didn’t even realize was there. My husband and I needed the prayers of our community for strength in those hard days.

We need their encouragement.

I didn’t realize how much pride I had in my ability to raise a child until I was responsible for partially raising one that hadn’t always lived in my home. Everything that worked with my other children didn’t work anymore. I’ve often felt discouraged about the lack of results or emotion that I have seen in the children that have come into my home.

I can’t tell you how many times a word from a friend – a real word, not just the generic “you are great people,” – has been the balm that my weary soul needed.

We need them as sitters.

We have been blessed by and taken advantage of the Foster & Adopt Date Night that is offered once a month. It has been so important for us to be able to drop the kids off for a fun evening and have uninterrupted conversation. It is a blessing to know that they are provided for, we aren’t paying for a sitter, and we can enjoy some silence. We have used these nights for dinner dates as well as errand running. Knowing that we can count on a few hours each month to just be a couple has been a tremendous gift to our marriage.

If you are involved in a community group that is wrapping around a foster parent, I can speak from experience that you are blessing a tired family in a special way. One thing I have learned in this past year is that I need to allow others to help me because I can’t do it alone. Whether it is through prayer, encouragement, meals, babysitting, or emotional support, you are making a difference in the life of a family that is taking care of an orphan.

We have said many times that if not for the support that we have received through the foster closet, the support groups, the date nights, and the prayers of our community group that we are not sure that we could have continued on this journey. God has not called all of us to respond to the orphan crisis through being licensed foster parents, but there are many other avenues in which we can help.

If you are interested in supporting a family, consider donating your time or resources to the church foster closet or the monthly date nights. Send someone a note of encouragement or call them and offer to feed their family one night. Your support will help to lend strength that is needed to do a hard job.

-Natalie Patterson, foster parent