Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Loving too much"

Yesterday Raizenboys had a post on a topic near and dear to many of our ... bile ducts. You know, that comment where people tell you that THEY could never do foster care because THEY would love the children too much, or get too attached? Oh yeah, THAT topic. Raizenboys, are you listening? The sound you hear is the collective gnashing of teeth and general groaning of everyone who has given back the cold hard stare at the piece of silliness who has just suggested that we are somehow more shallow, less loving, than they are.

I want to hasten to add that this is not the same, at least from my perspective, as the person who has decided to wait to be matched with a child for adoption and does not want to do foster-to-adopt. People who have made this choice have usually thought about it more carefully and not thoughtlessly toss out the opinion that their love is deeper and stronger than those of mere foster parents.

I have no trouble when people tell me that they have decided that they want to spare their children the very real grief of losing a sibling, or say that they themselves just don't want to go through that particular experience if they can help it. It is an extremely unpleasant experience.

The problem of course is the assumption that it has anything to do with too much love.

There is no one way that we cope with pain of saying goodbye to kids. When we love them deeply and believe they are going where they should be, then it is easier. Some of us have found that that though we miss the child, we are surprised at how much our joy for the child compensates. When a child leaves and goes to a home that you don't feel is safe, well, that bites the big one. That hurts and hurts for a long, long time. Loving the child is of course part of that, but so is anger. Since I am in a program that rarely take kids who are going home, I have not had to deal with that one.

I have had to deal with accepting that I was not able to meet a particular child's need. A child has left not because they were going to their legal or "forever" parents, but because they were not making it here. That emotion, and I know it, is not the simple missing of a child. For me it is feeling inadequate, feeling guilty for the pain I have caused or added to.

This is too simple, but there is joy in seeing a child move to the family they love and where you know they will thrive, and there is pain in seeing a child go to a place where you think they will be unsafe, or leave because you could not give them what they needed. Those things hurt.

But the answer is not in loving them less, in caring about them less. A foster parent who can watch a child go back to a possibly abusive situation and feel no pain because they do not love the child much is ... I want to say a monster. Certainly a very, very bad foster parent.

It isn't easy. Not everyone can do it.

But being good at it does NOT mean loving less.


  1. Yep. When we first started the foster adoption process, I couldn't fathom having to lose a kid and honestly could not do it because all I wanted was a kid of my own. I didn't want to take care of kids and not keep them. But now? Once I got Tara, it made much more sense to us. We could see what a difference a GOOD foster family made in her life and the loss that they experienced when losing her...but also the incredible happiness that they felt that she got a forever family. Anyway, my point is that people should say what they REALLY mean. Not that they "can't" but that they "don't want to".

  2. Maybe what they're saying isn't what they mean, at least not that way. I interpret the "I'd love them too much" to mean "it would hurt too much to let them go," but talking about how something would hurt feels a lot more vulnerable a thing than talking about the positive about how they're afraid they'd love too much, so they use the language that feels less vulnerable.

    Or, it could be that the people saying it are just jerks.

  3. Anonymous11:50 PM

    I heard that very often when we were fostering and I'm sure we'll hear it again once we get started the second time around...even if they didn't meant it the way it sounds (which I'm sure it was for many who said it to us as they were good, caring people in other ways) it always left me feeling unsettled. If "you" won't do it because it hurts "you" too much isn't that incredibly selfish...considering it's supposed to be done "for" the child...dunno...didn't like hearing it either way. Now, if "you" don't do it because you can't handle the pain or the stress or whatever then I totally get it.

    There were children that went back to bad situations and to date it still haunts me and yet I had quite a few whose situation improved and I'm glad I was a part of that healing/reconciliationg I didn't attach to all of them (might get dinged for admitting this!LOL) but still did a good job anyway because it was about them and not me.

    Eos/Angela (signing anonymous 'cause google is being uncooperative!)

  4. I am willing also to admit to different levels of attachment. Miss E was with us quite a bit. The longest stay was when she was leaving my friend Mandy's. She was here over a week. With almost any other girl I might have attached, but I always felt a distance with her. Sympathy, but no attachment.

    Then of course there is the princess who is Mandy's niece and who still lives with her. Other people all tell me what a sweet girl she is. I can't say that I like her at all.

    In the end, we are ordinary people ourselves and I don't think it is unusual that we don't attach to all the kids the same.

  5. In fact, I say, the opposite. The foster parent who can, loves the child more than they love themselves. The parent who claims they love too much, get too attached, are correct, they love themselves too much and are too attached to their own feelings to be a good foster parent, I am glad they don't.

  6. I finally figured out how to post on your site!!! I have to open it in Mozilla...anyways :)

    I've talked with a couple people about this subject including my therapist. Those on the outside looking in see it as if we are torturing ourselves by taking in children and knowing that we most likely will be giving them up.

    Everyone gets attached unless they are fostering for the wrong reasons.

    What I explain to people is that I am accepting the fact that I'm not here to save these children. I'm also not going to be a permanent fixture in their lives. My job and role is just to care for them, love them and provide a safe home and nurturing environment during the time they are with us.

    On another note, I feel like I'm prepared more than most. I moved a lot growing up so I know what it's like to leave people you love over and over. You mourn the loss...that is natural. You will think about them from time to time, but you will also be able to pick yourself up and move on.

    Some connections are for a lifetime and others are only for a moment.


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