becoming a foster family

“Why did you write the word starfish?” my son asks. I wasn’t feeling well today, so he joined me on the couch. It was a moment to cuddle, and I lapped it up. 

“Do you know the story of the starfish on the beach?” I asked. His head shook no. We googled the story and read a few of the many variations. 

Dial back to last summer: Story after story on the radio, TV, and newspaper, was about the flood of children entering the US. They fled their homeland to escape growing gang violence and pervasive poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The total lack of safety made them risk the unsafe journey north to the US–a place of uncertainty, yet a land of promise. By July, the news reported 45,000 unaccompanied kids passed the border, and the numbers were growing. 

Having time on my hands, I flippantly made a call to Catholic Community Services and spoke to a recruiter in the international foster care program. I was simply exploring the options, considering how we might be able to help out. I was naive, making offers like, “If a child needs a place to stay, we have a fourth bedroom.” To that, the recruiter said we’d need a foster care license, and so on and so forth. Hmmm.

The long road to becoming licensed as foster family was intermixed with tough questions that my husband and I had to contemplate daily. Why us? Do we really have the time? We have young children…what risks are involved? And then back to, do we really have the time?

We fired a multitude of questions at our recruiter, our licensor, and another parent in the program. We worked our way through the process with baby steps. We laid out the nonnegotiables. We listened to their perspectives; we absorbed their words. 

Since we began this journey, we’ve had our share of sleepless nights. We’ve had our share of heart palpitations and swirling heads. But there was one pivotal moment when I felt there was no turning back. My husband and I were in the midst of yet another serious talk about whether or not this was for us. He leaned back against the kitchen counter and said, “I just keep thinking, why us? I don’t know anyone else who is doing this.” He paused. Silence. Then he continued, “And that’s when I answer my question with another question. Why not us?”

Why not us? These are the three words that ring in my ears, fuel my passion to keep going. It’s also what brings me back to the starfish and the moment I shared with my son earlier today. We don’t have the means to help everyone. But at times, an opportunity comes along when we can make a difference for one life, and for that one, it makes all the difference in the world.

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