We said, “Yes.” On Monday, March 13, 2017 - we said Yes. On Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - we said Yes. On Monday, August 21, 2017 - we said Yes. On Thursday, October 5, 2017 - we said Yes. On Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - we said Yes. On Thursday, June 14, 2018 - we said Yes. On Friday, July 27, 2018 - we said Yes. On Sunday, August 12, 2018 - we said Yes. On Friday, September 14, 2018 - we said Yes. On Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - We said Yes. We have said "yes" ten times, and have taken placements (some respite, some emergency, some more long term) for 13 children in the foster care system. On Tuesday, August 7th, 2018, we said another "yes." Yes to adopting our daughter, the first one we had ever said yes to in March 2017. Yes to forever. We’ve also said some "no"s in between. Calls for more kids than we have room for, or for higher needs than we have the capacity to fulfill, or kids way out of our age range. Our yeses have brought us kids from 4 weeks old, to 15 years old. It has brought us trauma, behaviors, health issues, therapies, appointments, stress, anxiety, court dates, social worker visits, phone calls, tears, fights, and exhaustion. It’s also brought us joy, love, peace, fulfillment, purpose, obedience, the privilege to help families, to care for kids, and the ultimate blessing of adopting our daughter. It’s been the hardest thing we’ve ever done. It’s made me cry myself to sleep. I’ve raged. I’ve been on the phone endlessly to doctors and case workers and everyone in between, fighting to get my kiddos what they need. I have rocked malnourished babies to sleep, comforted an infant with fractures and dislocations due to abuse, tried my best to provide stability for a teenager who has been given up on and failed by adults more times than I can count. I have taken a 2 year old to a drug treatment facility for visits. I have taken off work to go to court, and I have testified in court. I have changed poopy diapers, given medications, gone to IEP meetings, parent teacher conferences, best interest meetings, ice breakers, and more. I have fought against decisions I feel like were unjust and not in the best interest of my kids. I have been ignored. I’ve also been called mama by some sweet girls who I did not give birth to. I’ve seen progress in a spunky 6 year old. I’ve had deep conversations with a 15 year old boy who has been through so much more than any child should ever have to endure. I have advocated for infants and teenagers and everyone in between. I have stepped in the gap and taken emergency placements that were inconvenient for me, but gave young children a place to land until something more permanent could be found. I have witnessed growth. I have seen children flourish. I have been given hugs and kisses, I have played, I have read bed time stories. I have seen the huge smiles of children who receive thoughtful presents for Christmas. I’ve witnessed families be put back together, and for relationships to be restored. I’ve met people working within the system who really care about kids. I don’t think many people understand what it means when we say yes. Or really, what we are really saying yes to.
It’s much more than just taking care of a child. We receive a call with very little information, and we take a leap of faith based on that information. Sometimes, it’s wrong, or sometimes… it’s just very limited, and does not give you the reality of what you’ll be dealing with. In some ways, this is what we signed up for. In others, how could we even know what we’re signing up for? Saying yes to a placement also means saying yes to social workers in my home either once a week or once a month. It means visits from the agency, from the CASA or lawyer, from the state, at home nurses, child development watch, mental health screeners, etc. It means court dates, probably 2 or 3 within the first few months, and then one every 3 months after that. It means doctors appointments, check ups, therapist appointments. It means making calls and pushing for all those services you see that this child needs. It means explaining over and over again at every single provider’s office that you do not have this child’s insurance information, you don’t know the circumstances of their birth, their family history, allergies, or any of their own medical history. It means scrambling to set up a bed, or a crib, or find clothes, toys, and necessary supplies. It means finding a daycare. It means doing all these things with sometimes only an hour’s notice. It means going to the WIC office. It means saying hello to a stranger, a scared child. It means trying to figure out their needs and make a routine. It means dealing with trauma, getting to the bottom of negative behaviors, it means struggling to attach. Sometimes it means your child doesn’t like you. Sometimes it means you don’t like your child. It means working with a lot of people. It means having no control. It means not knowing things you should know. It means waiting. It means being persistent. It means fighting for your child’s best interest. It means awkward conversations. It means living in a precarious balance. Sometimes, it means saying goodbye. Foster care is also incredibly rewarding, and I believe God has called me to this, and I will continue to obey. I believe the kids are worth all the hard things that come with my yeses. I would make all of these sacrifices over and over to make sure a child is safe and loved in one of the most vulnerable times of their life. But it’s also difficult, and foster parents need support! If you’re reading this, and you’re feeling that foster care is a heavy weight, that you couldn’t do it, that it’s too much…. I don’t blame you. But I want to challenge you to take that knowledge and understanding of foster care, and support a foster or adoptive parent. It IS hard! Maybe you can’t do it. (Though I would encourage you to really reexamine that).
BUT, what can you do to help make sure another person CAN do it? It’s almost impossible to foster without any support. Can you make some meals? Can you donate clothes? Can you babysit? Can you check in on someone? Can you be praying for a foster family? Can you volunteer as a CASA? Can you drive their kids to activities? Can you clean their house? Can you go to the grocery store for them? I am sure that there is a way you can help these families. There are very few families who are willing to open themselves up to the pain and inconvenience of foster care, but can you do your part to make sure they receive the help they need? Can you help make sure a family doesn’t feel isolated, without support, and burnt out? I do not need sympathy. I do not need to be told I should quit. I do not need someone to be in awe of what I’ve done. If I’m being honest, I need you to do more. I need you to bring my family a meal. I need you to go to the grocery store for me. I need you to babysit my kids. I need you to learn about my kid’s needs so I can feel safe leaving them with someone else. I need you to step up. I need you to consider joining me in this journey. I need more families to take the leap, and say yes to foster care. Those are ways that we can shoulder the burden of this broken system together. I challenge you to ask yourself, what am I doing to care for the fatherless? Because it’s not an option. There is no valid excuse for doing nothing. God has commanded us. Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV) says “ Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” How will you defend the cause of the weak and fatherless? How will you maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed? How will you rescue the weak and needy? How will you deliver them from the hand of the wicked?
Jill Bossert is an adoptive and foster mama from Wilmington, Delaware. She lives with her husband, Blake, and three daughters, two who are foster placements (2 years old & 10 months old), and one who is adopted (3 years old). She and her husband have been foster parents since March 2017, and have taken 13 children in the past year and a half.