But don’t you get attached?

When I talk to people about how I work in foster care or about how my family now is a foster family, the number one response I get is “But don’t you get attached? I couldn’t let them go.”

The simple answer is yes, we do get attached. We should be getting attached to the children in our home. They need us to attach them and they need to attach to us. Attachment is the basis of human nature, it’s how we learn important life skills such as empathy, how to be a friend, and a desire to have positive interactions with others. Many of the kids that come into the foster care system have been taught (through experience so often) that adults are not to be trusted.

The long answer sounds like this…I don’t think of my growing attachment to the children in my home or the sadness I will feel when they leave as something painful or something to dread. I see it as a sign that I’m doing this foster parenting thing right!

When I got my first snuggle on the couch, my first hug, or heard “I’m going with mom!” I smiled, because at that point I knew I was having an influence on the young lives in my home. They were learning that I could be trusted, that although I turn down their requests for cookies for breakfast or put them in time out for pinching other children, I’m still someone that cares about them, will meet their needs, and that they can rely on. That trust is a seed I’ve planted – a model that they might think back on later in life when they need to be reminded that they are important and there are other ways of relating to people.

As far as letting them go, yes, it will probably hurt (so far only 1 has left our home and it was after just a few days). Would we adopt if asked? Probably not. Not right now anyway. We became foster parents because of the nearly 13,000 kids in Arizona that can’t be with their parents temporarily. We work with the birth parents as allowed in hopes that they will also begin to trust us just as their children are learning to do.

Ultimately our goal is for kids to be able to live with their parents again, safely. Until then we can respond with a resounding “We will!” when a birth parent says at the end of a phone call, “Please take care of my little girl.” Then when the time is right, we can be the ones to say “Please take care of your little girl!”

And then we’ll answer the next phone call for children that need our home, our love, and our nurturing for a little while.

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