I have regular interactions with our foster daughter’s mom. We see each other often, we text, we send pictures, we talk, I know where she lives, she knows where I live and once a week we share some time together with this precious girl that God has put into our lives. All this plus many other weekly interactions.
This is probably shocking to many of you reading this and to tell you the truth, it is quite shocking to me as well. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of a story that isn’t mine… The training we took made it clear that it would be hard, that establishing a relationship with the birth family of foster kids takes years and hard work. However, in our situation, I haven’t found that to be the case. Sure we worked up to it, but it has so far been a pretty smooth ride in that both parties have been open and willing to engage each other. Let me tell you a bit of how this relationship developed.
Every month, our little girl has an overnight at her grandma’s house. I started sending little notes and pictures to her every time she went. Soon after, I gave her my phone number and we began to text and share pictures. Later I began to do the same for her mom whenever she had a visit- sending pictures and little notes. Soon, that turned into a journal where we would write back and fourth. I would write everything from M’s perspective, as if she was writing it. Each entry would begin with “dear mommy…” I used this journal to give updates and share stories about her daughter so that she would also be involved and included in the day to day of M’s life. One day I decided to write my phone number in the journal so she too could have it. I told her that whenever she felt comfortable she could text me. About a week later she sent me some pictures of her visit with M and we have been texting ever since.
Our relationship was “arranged” in the sense that if it wasn’t for M, we probably wouldn’t have ever met; and honestly, who knows if we would have even talked to each other if we did. We didn’t choose to know each other as we do now but God put us in each other’s paths. He knows all that has happened in our lives, all that is happening and all that WILL happen. The reality is that not only our lives are connected now but our entire families lives are connected. God’s divine will and the love of a child bind us in a supernatural way. Even if in the future we were to grow apart, our lives would not be as they are without the interactions we have had with each other today.
M is loved. She has a big giant family that surrounds her and is willing to protect and guide her for the rest of her life. She has a family that is ready to rejoice and celebrate with her but is also ready to sacrifice and suffer with and for her. This family is not only built up on blood but also on spiritual ties and the foundation of Christ himself.
M doesn’t know the ground shaking, soul changing impact she is having on so many people. She is only 2 and her life has already left such a deep impression on so many hearts. Her footsteps are tied to my soul, each step she takes pulls out thousands of thoughts from the depths of me. She is my muse, an enriching, and deepening force for my heart and mind. She is also my mirror, one that reflects past the bags under my eyes and through the imperfections of my skin. Like bentonite clay, she draws out my toxins, exposes my flaws, and challenges me to humble myself. She is a special girl.
A girl that is all mine but also not mine at all.
She’ll be inside me forever but also has never.
A child that’s our kin but also a stranger has been.
She is but isn’t mine, yours, ours and theirs
But is fully and eternally one of His heirs
M’s mom has shared with me how women she has met in similar situations do not know anything about the family their children are living with. There have been no notes, no pictures, no texts and no face to face interactions. Not every one wants these interactions, but for the sake of the child and for the sake of both parties, I believe that they should strive to meet at least once. Both sides may have prejudices against the other that will not go away until interaction begins to take place. Birth families may be feeling guilt, shame, anger, rage and helplessness about their situation. They may not want to confront the people who are caring for their children because they may think they will be viewed and treated lowly or disrespectfully. Some may believe that the foster family is hoping to “steal” their child from them or persuade them that they are bad parents. Many bio parents may perceive foster parents to be a threat to them. Foster families on the other hand may be condemning of the birth family without knowing the full story, as they grow to love the child in their care they may begin to rationalize demonizing the parents for losing their child. A lot can be misunderstood when there is no effort to connect with each other. No matter what the outcome of your case might be, striving to relate to the other party on an equal level will set a much better ground for the future. If your child returns home, you have a friendship for life. If your child stays with you, their birth family will have the peace of mind knowing that you love their child, and you will have something to share with your child when they get older and ask questions. I understand not all stories have a happy or positive ending, and sadly, courts can make errors and wrong decisions. However our job is not to determine the outcome of things nor the reactions of others. We must only do our part and allow Christ to act through us seeking opportunities to show love, grace, and mercy whenever possible, as well as exhortation, counsel, and encouragement when He prompts us to.
During this conversation I had with M’s mom (when she was telling me what she would tell these other mom’s in similar situations) she told me that she would tell them that they should just let the foster parents love their kids because for the moment, they are able to give them what they can’t. Their child is safe, loved, and being cared for and that’s what every parent desires for their child. This statement has stuck with me deeply, it touched my heart and really helped me to rest easy about my attachment to M. Knowing that her mom is happy that her child is loved really helped to lift a weight of my shoulders in a personal sense. I did not know what she thought or felt about me and I didn’t want things to seem like I was “competing” for the place of “mom”. I wanted her to know that I respect her as M’s mom but also wanted to love M and not make it seem like I was trying to replace her. I’m sure there are still conflicted feelings within both of us but I think that because God’s hand is guiding all this supernaturally, our feelings are just small bumps in the road He has laid out. As I often say, I don’t know the future but I know that whether we feel ready or not, God will get us through and will guide us to the places, words and decisions that must be made. M’s mom and I were two parallel lines, on our own paths, never “intended” to cross. Parallel lines do not meet many may say, the very definition of parallel prevents that from being possible.
I know that parallel lines don’t meet. However I also know that dead people don’t rise from the dead, yet Jesus did.