We are on a merry-go-round. Around and around and around. There’s no end in sight. At least not for a long, long time.
Foster care is hard. Anytime you’re working with a child at risk or a child with a traumatic past, it is hard. But there is one thing that makes foster care or hosting a child much different than adopting.
Lack of security.
I’ve read a lot about the different stages that adopted kiddos go through. Specifically a child who is adopted at an older age. (“Older” being completely relative depending on the child and the situation.) We have a couple in our home that were brought to us after they could understand – at some level at least – what was going on in their little lives. And so, I’ve read and researched, cried and prayed. Desperately trying to figure out how best to help each of the precious lives inside our home.
That’s when I realized a key difference: My children get stuck between “cycles” or “stages.” They simply cannot grow past a certain stage because the insecurity of their situation pushes them back into a past one.
Most research lists four stages.
- Honeymoon: the initial stage of shock and calm compliance.
- Grief/Protest/Despair: the grieving and fighting for control or understanding begins.
- Triage: pieces begin to fit, growth and healing start to take place
- Attachment or Rehab: things begin to settle, growth becomes more constant, family begins to cement together.
And here is where foster care or hosting becomes so very hard. You can never make it through all the stages. You just can’t. So, when the honeymoon is over, it is time for the merry-go-round to begin spinning. Spinning between stages 2 and 3. You can never make it to 4. It isn’t how it is supposed to be. You have to maintain attachment and bonding between two families. Two homes. You split time and the emotions ebb and flow. Around and around. Back and forth.
You are thrown back and forth between simply beautiful times as a family where you believe you really are making a difference in the heart and life of a child and the times that are so dark, so confusing, so heart-rending that you wonder if any of you will survive. Back and forth. Back and forth. Around and around and around.
This is hard. Hard for everyone involved. Being stuck on the merry-go-round makes me realize what a broken system I work within. It opens my eyes to sin and selfishness in ways I never imagined. It makes my hearts break for the precious children in my home. The ones caught between so many sides and issues and emotions that their poor little hearts are just a mess. It helps me to see how hard the professionals on every single side have to work. How much they care. How much red tape they all have to follow.
Ultimately, it forces me to my knees in trust of a God who is bigger. Bigger than the heartache. Bigger than the red tape. Bigger than the phases I’m sure will kill one of us. Bigger than the exhaustion. Bigger than the sin and chaos. Bigger than the back and forth. He is the one who holds all of us in the swirling mess of the merry-go-round.
There are times and there are days, ok, even months when I truly cannot see which way is up. I have no idea what step to take next or how to reach the hurting heart of the child I love. One minute we are joking about the tooth fairy and the next I’m picking a screaming child up early from school. I have to trust that God knows that. He sees. He hears. He is there. And, even though this merry-go-round is in the midst of a broken world full of sin and chaos, He holds our world. I can’t see His plan and I don’t understand His ways. But I know Him. And I know He is trustworthy. Faithful. Master. Shepherd. He will faithfully lead and He cares about each one of us. Even when the merry-go-round keeps spinning.