I foster because I want to help, but I’ve got a selfish reason, too.
First, you should know there are always more children in foster care than local homes available for them. We started fostering in 2014, and these facts haven’t changed. There are hundreds of kids in Hall County with parents who have failed to protect them, to care for them — often the parents aren’t equipped emotionally or financially to take care of even themselves. They need us.
But here’s the selfish reason I foster: It makes my world bigger.
Whatever comfortable bubble I may live in otherwise — POP! Suddenly I’m part of another story — a story that isn’t as controlled or put together. One that is much more complex than it may look from the outside.
Fostering a child isn’t about taking pity on a little one who doesn’t have a stable grown-up in his life — it’s about meeting that kid and his family where they are and loving them while also making sure that child is safe.
Not all the parts of a kid’s story that now intertwine with my story are sad. They may bring their love of Lionel Messi and FIFA soccer. They may bring boxes full of sparkly clothes. They may bring a craving for Church’s chicken or ramen noodles.
So, you check out a children’s library book about Messi; maybe you buy some ramen and momentarily put aside how much sodium is in those little packets.
Along the way you’ll also learn about brain development, drug treatment programs, trauma-based behavior plans and court procedures.
Along the way you’ll be uncomfortable.
Sitting in a room full of strangers — because they’re not strangers to your kid, and whatever has happened in the past, these people and this moment in time are important to her.
Face to face with a mother who wasn’t there for her kids but who is thanking you for doing what she hasn’t been able to do.
On the other side of town inside someone else’s apartment because she knows your child and how to do her hair.
At a birthday party where the people celebrating represent two worlds colliding, two worlds that don’t share the same language, just love for this kid.
My introverted self would not easily end up in these places. Speaking to a stranger is somehow scarier than inviting one into my home.
We’ve invited 12 strangers to live in our home since we started fostering — usually two at a time, if you’re wondering. We don’t know at first what they like to eat or whether they’ll listen if we tell them not to run into the street. They don’t know what our rules will be or how we’ll react if they break them.
Our world can at first feel very strange to our kids. Some seem to feel it is foreign and constricting. Others seem to feel it’s a space where they can breathe.
Fostering is a choice my family has made. It is not a choice any of these children have made.
So we work to adapt to their world and help them grow into ours. I’m not always good at it. Sometimes I want to go back inside the safe bubble, where I’m not being screamed at by a kid who feels life is out of control.
It’s hard work to remember this kid’s life probably feels a lot more out of control than mine does.
This life outside the bubble is a mess of feelings.
Feelings of anger when things escape my control, deep sadness at learning a child’s story, frustration that their story may not go how I wished it would when I stepped into it, worry that I’m not enough for this situation, hope that all this brokenness can be healed.
Feelings of joy at seeing that child smile and dance, understanding and grace for people who need it, wonder at just how much this has all changed my life — and a little shame for how little my world was before this.
Step outside that bubble. Make your world bigger. It’s hard — and it’s where all the really good stuff happens.
Shannon Casas is director of audience for Metro Market Media, parent company of The Times. She is a North Hall resident.