As a foster parent, I am surprised by how often I hear the objection, “I would get too attached.” If you’ve thought this, let me suggest that you might make the ideal foster parent. Seriously. Consider signing up, there are children who need your heart.
You see, getting attached is exactly what kids in foster care need. In the old days, foster parents were told not to get attached, because it would hurt kids too much when it was time to go.
But now it’s understood that attachment is the basis of healthy relationships. Children learn how to form and maintain relationships in life — with friends, family, a spouse, their own children — by seeing that unshakable bond demonstrated early in life.
A core human need is to feel loved. To know that someone cares about you imparts self-worth that is important to succeed in life. What must it feel like to not have that? I want to make sure all kids feel loved, and we do that by caring enough to get attached.
Foster parents may have a child in their home for a week, a month or longer. While the details of each case varies, kids in foster care have as much need for someone to care about them as any other child — perhaps more so.
While the goal of foster care is to reunify the child with family when it’s safe and healthy, in the meantime, kids need someone who cares enough to ask how school was today. They need someone who cares enough to listen when they want to tell you all about it. And they need someone who cares enough to be both heartbroken and happy for them if they are able to return safely to family.
So how do foster parents deal with the loss of children going back home? First, there is often an opportunity to build a connection that can last a lifetime. Just because kids leave your home doesn’t mean they leave your heart and your life. You may even get the honor of being someone they will always want to stay connected to.
Second, regardless of the length of time you have with a child, you are making lasting memories to guide their understanding of themselves and of adults for the rest of their lives. Whether you’re pouring much-needed love into an infant, toddler, school-age child or teen, every moment is an opportunity to influence the trajectory of their young life.
So getting attached is not a bad thing. Don’t fear it; embrace it. Use it to speak love into a child’s life, and the occasional broken heart will never be in vain.
Sign up to get more information about becoming a foster parent: icwrtc.org/get-involved or call the Idaho Careline at 211.
Attend an informal information meeting in your community to learn more:
Kevin Harper and his wife have been foster and adoptive parents for children from infants to teens for 14 years in two states. He helps to recruit, train and mentor new foster parents in Idaho. He can be reached at (208) 249-8893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.