How long will he stay?
Will he go home some day?
Wonder what he likes to eat?
Do you think he understands?
Will he be safe when he leaves?
Fostering isn’t for the faint-hearted. Although all seven of our children originally came to us as foster children, the experience of fostering a dog was new to us all. I found it to be a significant life lesson opportunity.
You see, those questions that my five youngest (all teens) asked about our little visitor, were often the same questions that would run through my mind each time a foster child was placed in our home and there were dozens.
Little Cho was a mixed breed with a dash of chihuahua and he was a sweet pooch. We have dogs of our own and he settled right in with no major issues. This was a relief.
When new children came into our home where we always already had a houseful of kiddos, getting along was sometimes a challenge. It was our job to keep everyone safe. Once that meant that a child who was hurting and angry, couldn’t stay. He was a danger to the others. Once a child ran away, only once. The day he was removed from our home was a day I’ll never forget.
Thankfully Cho had no special behavioral issues, but that wasn’t always the norm for the children placed in our home, especially the older ones. They often brought very little physical possessions but more than their share of emotional baggage. There was no escaping it. No child enters foster care without experiencing trauma, not one. Of course, some more than others, have been hurt and humiliated.
Cho came to us when his human mommy needed to be placed in a battered women’s shelter. She was hesitant to leave her situation because of her little fur-baby. As a matter of fact, this is a common hesitation among battered women. Our county humane society has actually developed a foster pet program for these very situations.
So, obviously there is a need, but is it worth getting involved? Is it right to upset the balance of your own home and family? Is it fair to ask yourself and your children to care with the understanding that the relationship is temporary? I believe it is right and fair. I believe it is exactly the sort of interruption that is called for.
You see, as a Christian, I believe each person who proclaims Christ, has been called to make a difference and to do our best to help a hurting world. As a Christian, I believe we should embrace every opportunity to minister to those in crisis in the Name of Jesus. If our fostering a little dog gives its owner great courage to do what needs doing then I’m very proud to be a part of that.
Yesterday after nearly three months, Cho was returned to the young lady who tearfully relinquished him to us when she herself went into care. It was a bittersweet moment for sure. He was lovable and we had fed, snuggled, bathed and played with him. We had grown to care for him. The time had come to say farewell.
And yet, from the very beginning, we knew that foster care meant temporary. The plan was always for the placement to come to an end reunification with the family. That’s the plan, but of course plans don’t always work out. Sometimes new plans must be made. Sometimes adoption is the new plan.
Over a year ago, we adopted a beautiful dog that had been left at the animal shelter. Her heart was broken. She had been abandoned and she didn’t understand why. She needed a forever home. Adoption means forever and children need to know that. They need to feel secure in the love that is being offered. Ginger will be always be a part of our family.
Although there was trauma and loss and yes even grief that brought our children to us, it was joy and celebration and love that kept them with us. Not every adoption story is the same, of course. But as for us, we cherish each other and thank God for forming our beautiful unique family in way He chose to go about it.
I’ll do my best to keep teaching my kids to care about the difficulties of others and do what they can whenever possible. Maybe just visiting a local shelter with donations. Maybe fostering a dog. Maybe adopting one. And maybe, one day being able to risk their hearts to do the same with a child.