The Fruit of the Foster Parent: Flexibility
Along with love, patience, faithfulness and the other fruits of the Spirit, foster parents need another important “fruit” in their lives: flexibility. My husband and I had taken our two biological sons to the zoo one Saturday in August a few years ago when we got our first foster placement call. It had been a long, fun day, the kind that leaves you happy but exhausted. Boy, did our plans for that evening change! I didn’t sleep much. Unexpectedly, we were making phone calls and moving furniture around because we were getting not one, but two babies!
You’ve gotta be flexible when you are told that birth family visits will be Tuesday night. No, wait, Wednesday morning. Sorry, didn’t Cathy tell you they got moved to Sunday afternoon? You’re early, they start at 3:30 not 2:00.
Beyond the immediacy of the little annoyances like changing schedules and waiting (oh, the endless sitting around in waiting rooms!) a big challenge in foster parenting is the overarching unknown of life. Most people live their life with a general idea of what the next six months will look like. Not foster parents! It’s April and someone just asked me if we had summer vacation plans. I said that we will probably leave for a week in June or July, but we had to wait to book because we weren’t sure how many rooms we’d need. [Insert blank stare.] Most people have 9 months to plan for a new family addition, but ours is unknown.
The funny part about MY reality is that it’s no different than anyone else’s reality, but they are usually less aware of it than I am. Their life is not as secure as they think. The curves God sees in their future may be much wilder than anything He has for me!
Paul writes that we are “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). We want our way, and we want it now! Bending to the “system” is exhausting and can quickly leave you feeling stretched beyond your capacity. By all means, please have compassion on foster parents and be supportive of their service and love. But imagine this same experience as the child(ren) and suddenly the powerlessness is magnified by a million. Consider what is being asked of this kid. Flexible to move three times in a year. Flexible to give another adult a chance to let them down. Flexible to change schools two times in third grade. Flexible to sleep in a fourth new bed of the summer. Flexible to see his mom, his brother, his sister, his grandmother only once a week — and flexible to understand that it isn’t his fault if they don’t show up.
Flexibility is more than “going with the flow,” which implies passively moving wherever ‘fate’ takes you. It’s adapting actively and moving consciously in the direction God has marked out, however surprising it may be.