Being a foster dad is hard.
The toughest job you’ll ever love, right?
Bringing foster children into your home causes disruption.
It will disrupt your marriage, your health, and your energy.
Well, I’ve made many mistakes during our 10-year foster care journey.
I wrote these mistakes in the form of a letter from (future) Mike (me today) to (past) Mike (me but just getting started in foster care).
Who is (past) Mike?
(past) Mike was excited about becoming a foster dad. “We’re gonna change the world!” he would say.
(past) Mike ended up so burnt out with foster care that he had insomnia, shingles, and mono.
(past) Mike thought he would change the world, only to realize he could do nothing alone.
I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes.
Dear (past) Mike –
It’s me, (future) Mike. Writing to you from the, well, future.
First off, let me tell you everything turns out fine in the end. You have some wins and some losses.
But, we did make a lot of mistakes along the way.
I’d love to talk to you about those mistakes, and maybe you, we, could correct these this time around.
1. Stop Thinking You Are Better Than Bio-Parent
You need to check your attitude. Right now.
You tend to have this ‘well, at least I’m better than bio-dad’.
That’s not the right heart posture to have in foster care.
Sure, you may be a better person (in your mind). But you don’t know bio-dad or bio-mom.
You don’t know what sort of environment they had to grow up in.
What abuse they took on in life.
You’ll meet a certain bio-dads mom and quickly realize that they had a pretty rough childhood.
God will break your heart for bio-dad.
God will show you bio-dad through God’s eyes.
God loves bio-dad, and he hopes you do, too.
2. Don’t Trust The System … all the time
Not every doctor or therapist is the right doctor or therapist for your foster kid.
You don’t have to play the cards you are dealt.
If you don’t think progress is being made with their health, physical or mental, fight for the child.
Ask a lot of questions. Document things.
One particular child you had placed got the ‘she’s fine’ from a doctor. You and Lisa knew this child was not fine. You asked questions and pushed back.
You eventually got that child a new doctor, and he said, ‘she’s not fine; get her down to surgery ASAP.’
That may have saved that child’s life.
3. Pray About Every Decision You Make
‘God will not give you more than you can handle’ is a lie.
You will find this out the hard way.
Opening your home to strangers in need is hard.
I would encourage you to slow down with every decision. Take time out to pray. To ask God what he wants you to do.
Use the Traffic Light Principle found here.
You’ll get a little too ready/fire/aim, and it does not end well for you.
4. Ask For Help Sooner
Repeat after me:
“I am not a one-man wolf pack.”
“I am not a one-man wolf pack.”
Foster care is hard, especially when you try and do it on your own.
You’ll learn that allowing people to bless with their time/talent/treasure is how God set this world up.
He wants us to help each other.
But, you can’t get help if you don’t (1) ask for it (2) tell yourself a lie that you don’t need it.
There is a beautiful moment in your life where the church comes together to bless you.
You’ll have women come over just to help hold and feed babies.
You’ll have a guy come over to help fix your sprinklers.
Another lady who shows up and wants to help knock out your laundry.
So, swallow your pride, open your hands, reach out to your friends and family, lean on other foster families, find support groups, and allow God to shower you with blessings through his people.
5. God is in Control, Not You
Let go and let God.
Your life will go a lot better for you if you follow that.
Mike Ruman is a smart guy, but God’s ways are much better than Mike Ruman’s ways.
There is a moment you may find yourself where you want to quit. You’re ready to make the call. But, Lisa then asks you, ‘Where’s your faith?’
It’s a crushing moment for your pride, and that’s a good thing.
My advice is to find foster parents who are a few steps ahead of you in their foster journey, reach out to them, and ask them to mentor you.
Sometimes it’s easier for others to see what God wants to do with your life. Especially when you are burnt out and tired.
Spend time in the Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time at church.
There it is, (past) Mike. Avoid those five mistakes, and your life will improve for your foster child, your family, and for you.