By Cori Ruszkowski
“I’m scared,” she says. “Just tell me that I won’t get my heart broken.”
I look at this woman who is in the process of becoming a foster parent and see that her eyes that were once filled with excitement are now filled with fear. I want to reassure her and tell her that her experience will be filled with nothing but joy and wonder, but I can’t lie to her. If there is one thing that is certain in all of this, it is that being a foster parent is a journey filled with heartbreak.
So instead, I tell her about how her heart will break when she hears about the horrific abuse that a child has experienced and that she will pray that he is too young to remember much of it.
I tell her about how her eyes will fill with tears of frustration and utter exhaustion after she stays up all night comforting a sick child only to have him scream, “You’re not my mom! I hate you!” when she won’t give him candy before breakfast.
I tell her how powerless she will feel when a child screams uncontrollably at 3:00 a.m. because his brain is trying to work through its trauma and he is having night terrors, reliving each and every moment.
I tell her about the sadness she will feel when a child steals every scrap of food out of the trash can and hides it in his room just in case there isn’t enough to eat tomorrow.
I tell her about the heartbreak that happens when the child that you hoped would stay with you forever goes home. I tell her that she will forever mourn this loss and will always wonder if he is ok.
I tell her about the heartbreak of the adoption process. I explain that although part of her will be elated that this child will soon be forever hers, another part of her heart will break into pieces when she sees the look of complete despair on the faces of the family that he came from. I describe how their cries will fill the court room and how she will want to rush over to them and offer comfort.
She looks at me, crestfallen and asks, “Why do we do it then?”
“Because they need us,” I tell her.
“Without us, there is no port in the storm, no safe haven. We give them a childhood until the time comes when their family can take over again. And if they can’t, we do it forever.”
She nods. She understands.