Fostering from the Heart: A Spiritual Calling
Greetings to fellow foster parents and all those who seek to support them,
Recent weeks have found me immersed in preparations for a workshop aimed at nurturing a group of dedicated foster parents. This endeavor prompted me to revisit my own journey in fostering, which spanned an impactful 18 years of service with the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, concluding in July of 2018. My experience was both rewarding and challenging, a blend of triumphs and trials.
As we embark on this sacred mission of fostering, it’s essential to recognize the deeper layers that lie beneath the surface. Many of the behaviors exhibited by children in care are echoes of the traumas they’ve endured, veiling their true selves in an intricate tapestry of pain. Yet, within this tapestry resides their authentic essence—much like us, they carry their hidden wounds.
Unveiling the Spiritual Dimension
In the course of our fostering journey, a rarely spoken yet profoundly influential spiritual facet awaits our embrace. By delving into this realm, we can infuse our experience with deeper meaning and resonance, amplifying the positive impact not only on our lives but also on the lives of the children we are entrusted to guide.
Seeing Beyond the Illusion
The behaviors we encounter are often mere reflections of their struggles, camouflaging the vibrant spirit that lies within. Amidst these behaviors, a yearning to heal, to reconnect with their intrinsic resilience, and to rediscover their authentic identity can be found. Just as with any of us, their potential for growth and transformation remains undeniably present.
An Eternal Impact
In our world, foster parents often labor in the background, their contributions undervalued and overlooked. They lack sick days or traditional benefits, driven solely by their sense of duty. Fostering became the axis of my life, and now, its echoes reverberate in the messages I’m compelled to share, often centered around burnout.
Amid this journey, you may find yourself haunted by the judgmental eyes of those around you—the onlookers who’ve never walked in your shoes, the critics who believe they could fare better without truly understanding, even the children whose pain may lead to resentment. In these moments, let Theodore Roosevelt’s timeless words resonate:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”
Embracing the Arena
Remember, you are in that very arena. There will be stumbles, struggles, and instances where hindsight highlights missed opportunities. But you’re there, confronting challenges with courage. Fostering demands bravery. Your imperfections don’t define you; your efforts do. In this path, there’s no expectation of perfection, only a steadfast commitment to trying. This, in itself, is a source of compassion.
The Spiritual Essence of Fostering
As I acknowledged the spiritual essence of my fostering journey, I witnessed an expansion in my capacity for success. Now, I welcome every experience, every challenge, and every blessing with equal reverence, understanding the significance they hold.
Your service encompasses every moment, every action, every thought. Even when your foster children are not present, your service continues—listening for calls, preparing for their return, caring for their needs. You provide solace for their pain, understanding their anger, and wiping away their tears. Sacrifices abound in this journey—time, personal connections, and moments with your own family. And yet, through it all, you persevere.
Rather than seeking immediate impact, redefine your understanding of success. It’s easy for foster parents to gauge their worth by visible behavioral changes. But success goes beyond that. A poignant lesson arrived when a seemingly indifferent 12-year-old girl I fostered underwent a transformation over time. When I expressed surprise at the change, her response resonated: “You happened to me.”
A Call to Personal Transformation
View fostering as a spiritual calling—an opportunity to nurture your own growth while guiding others. Recognize that every experience, every interaction is a reflection of your journey. The path isn’t solely about those you serve; it’s about your growth, your evolution.
Preventing Burnout through Spiritual Alignment
While self-care is vital, preventing burnout extends beyond it. It’s vital to align your actions with your spiritual purpose. Each encounter becomes a lesson, each interaction a teacher. As you serve, recognize that you’re contributing to your own growth, aligning your spirit with your calling.
THIS is your Ministry
As I conclude, let me assure you—holding space for the innate goodness within each soul is the most profound spiritual act you can embody. By doing so, you stand in your greatness and call forth greatness in others. Fostering becomes a journey of virtue, a path of discovering your best self. In doing so, you empower the children you serve to do the same.
Remember, fostering is more than an act; it’s a spiritual journey. It’s your ministry.
With heartfelt respect,