The foster child
Sharon Astyk and her husband have been fostering a little boy. He might be leaving them to go live with his aunt. It’ll break their hearts if this happens, because they love him, but they want what’s best for him. She writes:
The most common response to the news that you foster parent is “I couldn’t do that, I’d get too attached.” The answer to that is that in fact, that’s the job – kids need attachments, they need love and care, they need you to get attached to them, and help them attach to you. There’s a reason why this job cannot be done by institutions or robots – they need people who will fall in love with them, advocate for them and stand for them and say “that’s my baby who I would do anything for,” Doing it temporarily for children that might go away is admittedly difficult – but it is harder for them than for us. I understand why M. might have to go. I may grieve, but I chose this – the children in foster care don’t choose this, they don’t choose to stay with us and learn to love us, they don’t choose to move home over and over again, leaving behind friends, siblings, pets, parents, toys — everything they love. To protect myself from pain and leave them to endure seems the wrong way around.
Boy, is this convicting. In 1996, I was living in South Florida, and read a newspaper story about a local shelter for abused children. It was so moving, and I have a soft spot in my heart for abused kids, so I called and asked to apply to be a volunteer. But I eventually chickened out. I thought about how it would feel to get attached to those kids, or simply to face up to their pain, one on one. I didn’t have the courage. But you know, Sharon’s right: they’re little kids. I refused to volunteer because I was afraid of their pain. So I left them to endure, and hoped somebody else would do what I
could would not.