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Reflections from Rosalie Hemschmeyer, a current Arms of Love foster parent, on learning to love the families of her foster children.
I remember the first time we inquired about helping children in the foster care system back in 2004. I heard horror stories. I heard about all the issues these children came with, and I wanted nothing to do with that. I heard stories about the violence that would happen because of these issues. I was told I would be putting my own biological kids in danger by taking in children from the foster care system. It was a very dark picture, and I did not want to help. I did not want to develop a relationship with the biological family. If the case led to adoption, then I would have preferred a closed adoption where we have no connection to the biological family. Despite not wanting to take a leap of faith back then, God was changing who I was.Our family took a leap of faith back in 2013. We decided that helping children in need was far greater than the fears we had. I will admit. It is not easy. Being a foster parent is challenging, and I have changed so much. I am not the same person or parent I was 3 years ago. We have opened up our home to state inspections. We have monthly visits (or sometimes more frequently) by case workers, therapist, lawyers and parent aides. We have complied with rules and safety requirements. We have gone through annual mandatory trainings. Despite all the hoops we feel we have to jump through, these children are worth it. They never asked to be part of the foster care system. Our goal with helping children in the foster care system is loving them for as long as they are a part of our family, and more importantly showing them God's love. We never know when we accept a placement if they will be here for three weeks or a year. No matter how long they live with us, they are a part of our family. I have been told many times, "I don't know how you would give them back, I would want to keep them forever." In the beginning, I thought I would have that same problem. During our training we were asked to participate in an exercise. We were to close our eyes and imagine a scenario. "One day a stranger shows up at your home. They tell you that you are no longer safe where you are at. You are given ten to fifteen minutes to gather up things that are important to you. You are given a pillowcase or small bag for the things that are important to you. You cannot take people or pets with you. You are so confused. You do not know what to take, but you gather up a few things. This stranger takes you to a new home with a new family. These people look very happy, and they seem very excited to have me here. They are still strangers. They have different rules, different thoughts and different routines. In this home you are not allowed to talk to your original family, and you miss them. Time goes by. There have been many people in and out of this new home checking on you. You really miss your family. Yes, over time you get use to the new routine and new family, but it is not the same. How do you feel?" When I was done with this exercise, I realized if I was in that position, I would want to be with my original family. I don't care how imperfect they are, they are my family. That was my moment. I would have wanted someone fighting for me to be returned to my original family. This is where I got my drive and determination to help these children stay connected to their family. We welcome these children in our home. We call them family. We love like they are our family no matter how long they are here for.Part of loving them, I am finding out, is loving their family. This is the tricky part. I have been cautioned by many people for some of the actions I have taken. Nobody is perfect. It is like God's love for us. God loves me despite all the wrong things I have done. Romans 5:8 states, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God did not wait for me to be perfect or good enough, He already paid the ultimate price so that I can have a relationship with him. I do not believe these children's family should have to be good enough or perfect for me to love them. The Bible has taught me a lot about what love truly means. One of the more well known passages about love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It states "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Our goal is to show these children and their family love. We love them through our words and actions. There are many different ways we can show these families love. We can begin to develop a relationship with their family. It could be talking with them after court, or starting a journal back and forth between the kids supervised visits. It could be collaborating with their case workers to make sure these children stay connected with their siblings if they happen to be separated. Other ways may include phone calls to the bio parents so that the children can tell them about their day. It also could be showing up to their graduation from their rehab program, or showing up at their first apartment with a box of goodies to celebrate their accomplishments. Pictures are important to me. All of the children who have been in our home have a picture on our wall, and if we are able to get one, we have a picture of their family on our wall too. Their family is who they are. For me, it is important to show these kids that their family is important to have a place on our wall. I want to be able to tell these children that I fought for them to stay connected to their family. It is an important part of who they are. Whether they stay with me three weeks or forever, I want them to know who their family is. One of the big ways God has changed me is having a desire for these children to remain connected to their family. I stated earlier that in the beginning I was adamant that I did not want anything to do with the bio family. I was afraid of what they would do to me or my family. God showed me a verse. 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." God is the perfect love, and He has shown me that no matter what happens, I do not have to be afraid. At some point, if one of these children is unable to be reunified with their biological family and I get the privilege of adopting one of these miracles, I would love to be able to say to their family, "Welcome to the family!" Loving these children is loving every part of them including their family.
Originally posted on Rosalie's blog