The longer I work within the foster care system, the easier it is to identify the foster care fence-sitters. Also known as “those who are struggling with their heart’s desire to open their home to a child in foster care.” Sometimes I know them by their tear-stained cheeks, runny mascara, or worn out knees from the hours spent in prayer. Other times it’s the inquisitive interview they conduct after finding out what I do for a living. Still other times it’s the look of guilt when I share a foster care story or statistic, because their heart is breaking just a little more as it tries to pull them over that fence.
For those of you on the fence, we see you. You are not alone. We understand that foster care can be overwhelming and scary. Sitting on the fence is often a much safer place than taking that step down into the unknown land of foster care. But it’s also a place where it’s easy to get uncomfortably stuck.
Taking the new path.
Like many who have grown up in the mountains of WNC, I enjoy a good hike on one of our many mountain trails. While I love to hike new places and see new waterfalls, rivers, and overlooks, oftentimes new terrains and paths are pretty intimidating. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve stuck to hiking the same areas. Because, there, I know what to expect.
Whenever someone invites me on a new hike, I have this overwhelming fear that sets in. What if it’s longer than they say and I have to be rescued? And what if I need to stop every five minutes because my lungs can’t handle it? What if I make a fool of myself? What if it’s so much harder than I expect?
Despite my fears, I go. And each and every time, without fail, it’s absolutely worth it. The views are always amazing. And the people that walk with me always push me with love and grace. When I reach the top, I’m better, stronger, and filled with more joy than I was at the bottom.
Since my hiking mates have been on this path before, they are able to give me landmarks to push me toward the goal.
“Just around this corner, there’s a cool, huge tree hanging off the cliff.”
“Up there, past that boulder, is the halfway mark.”
“When we make it up this hill, we can sit and rest.”
It’s these small steps that help motivate me. They help me not become overwhelmed with the whole journey at once.
One step at a time.
You can take the same approach when you take that first step down from the fence and explore the path of foster care. Maybe it’s too overwhelming to think about jumping right. It’s easy to let the “what if’s” take over. But maybe you can take it one landmark, one step, at a time.
Start with reading some books focused around foster care that help you explore your heart’s calling. Educating yourself allows you to make a more informed decision. And even if you stop here, you’ve gained knowledge that allows you to advocate for foster care. You can start with Jason Johnson’s Reframing Foster Care, Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison, or The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis.
Around the next corner, you can attend a trauma-informed training to gain a deeper understanding of how trauma impacts children and families. Gaining a broader understanding of trauma and how children and adults can heal should lessen your fears. It will also increase your hope in the foster care work you can do. How one person really can make a difference.
Next, you can attend an informational session to gain a fuller understanding of what the process to become a foster parent looks like. Crossnore currently hosts virtual, one hour informational sessions to answer your questions. You don’t even have to leave your house. There’s no commitment required to explore foster care through one of these info sessions.
All worth it in the end.
Even if you never make it to the final “licensed foster parent” overlook, you can find your place to help along the path. There’s a spot for everyone to find their niche in the hard work that Crossnore Communities is doing.
But first you’ll need to climb down off the fence. Take the first step. Start the journey. When it becomes too much, just focus on the next landmark until you find the space where your heart finds peace and purpose. Helping children in foster care, no matter what that ends up looking like, is always worth it.
To find out more about your place on the path, you can reach out to Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org.