Foster Care: In Good Times and in Bad


I know that I haven’t written very much about our current foster care placement. As I mentioned previously, the 8-year old boy that came to live with us a few days after Thanksgiving has come from much different circumstances and has, likely, a much different future than that of our first placement. That makes things feel different, and in a lot of ways, it makes them hard to write about in a way that doesn’t overshare his story. It’s a tough position to be in, because I try to write in a way that is as authentic and “real” as possible. But sometimes, being “real” might mean a breach in confidentiality, and it’s a fine line to tread. I don’t want to share anything that paints our foster son (or any child) in a negative light, but I also don’t want to pretend like we became foster parents and just immediately knew what to do and every single day was easy and care free. That’s not been the case at all for the past few weeks.

There is an air about this case that is much different. The best way I can think to describe how it all feels is “heavy.” I think this is the part of foster care that we didn’t really think about, plan for, or expect, because you really can’t. You spend all of your time worrying in training about things like how to handle a kid punching a hole in your wall, or what it will feel like when they leave your home, or how best to interact with the biological family. You don’t think about what it feels like to hear your foster son’s heart break when it is time to hang up the phone with his mom. You don’t think about what you’ll do when you’re “doing everything right” according to what “the books” tell you to do but your placement is still not behaving. You don’t think about what it might feel like to go to sleep wondering if the little boy sleeping down the hall will remember you in a positive way, a negative way, or at all. You don’t think that you might  wonder if he likes you at all.

We have had many wonderful, happy days with our current placement. We have also, especially recently, had plenty of very tough, exhausting, and depressing days. We wonder if we’re cut out to be parents at all, let alone foster parents. We think, rethink, and then overthink our rewards and consequences, practice how best to respond calmly and lovingly, and pray that tomorrow will be better. Sometimes, tomorrow is better. Sometimes, it is not.


No one has ever suggested that foster parenting is easy, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be. With that said, I think the things that feel hard are different than what I expected, and I sometimes find myself unsure of how to handle that. Some of our feelings stem from just the major shift that exists when you go from doing exactly what you want, whenever you want, to being responsible for another human life that is not quite so flexible. Parenting is a hard adjustment no matter how it happens. Some of it comes from feeling totally inadequate, helpless, and emotionally exhausted. And some of it comes from the fact that you know what? Kids, whether biological, foster, or adopted, aren’t always well behaved. Kids from hard places definitely are not, and they have very big and very valid feelings, worries, and thoughts that they cannot always express in ways that we find pleasant. For two people who are generally pretty calm and level-headed, that can be…well, unsettling.

That is not to say that every moment is bad or hard, because that is not even close to being true. Our current placement is sweet, thoughtful, smart, and kind. This weekend, he found out it was a neighbor’s birthday (we had no idea) and took it upon himself to color a picture for her as a birthday present.  His giggle is contagious, his excitement about starting soccer soon (his very first ever organized sport) is endless, and it’s hard to turn down his requests for “just one more story.” We spent a day at the park with our first placement this past weekend, and they got along like two peas in a pod! We’ve been so blessed to remain close to our first placement and his family, and there will hopefully be many more park dates in the future. The relationships that we’re building are what keep us going at the tough times.


The best we can do day to day is savor the many wonderful moments and do our best to ride out the hard ones. We’re trying our hardest to give this kiddo the life he deserves for as long as he’s with us. We’re not perfect, but we’re present, and sometimes, it’s just about showing up.



26 thoughts on “Foster Care: In Good Times and in Bad

  1. This reads exactly like something every single parent goes though! There is always second guessing and wondering if you’re doing the right thing or if your kids hate you or why you seem to be “following the rules” and nothing is working. Trust me, I’m positive you and AJ are doing your absolute best and that is all ANY parent can do. Hang in there my friend and just follow your heart and know you are far from alone!

    1. Well said Allie! I think if you are questioning yourself, it means you care deeply.
      FYI…By the time the kids have grown you forget most of the tough times, and remember the good ones.
      You and AJ are awesome!!

      1. Thank you, Patty! It’s funny – we have already seen a little bit of this with our first placement. While his behaviors were very easy to manage, we felt very overwhelmed by how much attention he needed (I mean, he’s 5, of course he needs attention, but we just weren’t used to it). Now that he’s been home for a few months, all that stuff doesn’t seem so bad!

    2. I guess you’re right, it’s not so different than regular parenting! That makes me feel sorry for all you parents out there, haha! I’m mostly kidding. We are doing the best we can, and our foster son has a sweet spirit.

  2. Exactly what Allie just said 🙂

    When I read the line “we wonder if we’re cut out to be parents at all”, let me tell you that EVERY parent who is honest has many, many, many of those days! Heck, my kids are 20 & 21 and I STILL have those days – this past week alone has had the very highest highs and lowest lows …

    And I was driving to a meeting with my boss and we were talking about his girls who are in 6th and 8th grade and the struggles he is facing – I don’t think he gets to talk honestly much about them so I am glad we can share our struggles, because you feel much less alone.

    You are doing great – I have no doubt. And you are making a positive impact on a child who is in a bad situation through no fault of their own. For that, you and AJ are awesome parents, and awesome people.

    1. Hahaha does it ever end?? Is there ever an easy stage of parenting? And if not, why do people do it? Oy vey. This is hard!

  3. Thank you for sharing. I am going through the training process now to become a foster parent. I attended my first class Monday and was completely overwhelmed 😊. I have friends who are social workers and one who is currently going through the adoption process that tell me the real good, bad, and ugly of what I am getting into. I am continuing through the certification process, but I am shook up from the first class. Lol! I am pretty calm too, but as a single I worry that the constant testing placed on me alone might make my calm attitude crack. AND I’m not running right now due to injury!!! 😬 Lol! Continue to do good, I believe the job of a foster parent is hard and even if the child doesn’t “attach” to you or think highly of you, as long as you are providing a safe loving home for them… you are doing your best. I’m sure you have a foster care support group to provide encouragement along the way. Good luck!!

    1. I’m so curious to know what they told you in your training! I feel like our training didn’t really address ANY of the hard stuff and mostly just focused on how the system works – it wasn’t all that helpful. I will say that I think a lot (obviously not all) of the horror stories are due to people being overly eager to accept placements OR not sticking to their limits of what they know they can handle. We have been very selective about what placements we will accept simply because we want to be able to give the kids our best, and we can’t do that if we are totally overwhelmed (either by more kids than we can handle, extreme behaviors, medical needs, etc). Our current placement has challenged us, but he’s by no means a horror story or anything close. He’s just a kid going through a tough time. I really encourage you to take everything you hear, good and bad, with a grain of salt. Everyone’s experience is different! The kids need you and I hope you continue to press forward. Thank you for even considering foster care!

  4. What a heart-warming and wonderful post – I’m sure ALL your placements will remember how loving you were but also how much fun they had. You are making a difference one child at a time, Danielle – there is no greater achievement. And yes, you don’t need to be perfect, just present.

  5. Personally, I think you were able to explain everything wonderfully! Whether good or bad, sometimes there are “things”, or situations, that really cannot be put into words. You have to be there yourself to experience everything. And that is okay. And yes, to what Allie said. I am a single parent (my son is 11). While I have a boyfriend who is wonderful (he and my son mostly get along well), parenting is hard. Whether you are parenting solo or together, it is hard. You and AJ are doing an amazing and wonderful thing, not only for this little boy, or your first placement, but for every child out there who will come into your home. THANK YOU for sharing your journey!

    1. So much credit to you as a single parent! That is really hard. Sometimes, it is just nice to have someone else deliver bad news (no, you can’t have another dessert) rather than always being the bad guy. You have a hard job and I so appreciate your encouragement!

  6. I know you and AJ are loving foster parents and always do your best. We are all only human and bound to be imperfect from time to time. 🙂
    To get myself through tough times when I was questioning my abilities, I would always just tell myself that each day I would do the best that I could with the information I had at the time. However things would turn out, I kept in mind that I wouldn’t beat myself up because I would be able to look back and know that I did the best I could at the time. That’s all you can do! You and AJ are blessing someone else, and even when the struggle is intense, your heart is full of good intentions.

    1. Thank you, Aunt B! I know you understand this struggle well. You’re right, all we can do each day is our best. Like anyone else, sometimes our best is better than other times!

  7. With my kids, I feel like everything goes in phases. We’ll have months where everyone (mostly) listens and behaves, and then months where my husband and I feel like we have no business being parents. I visualize it as a wave. It sounds like you’re in a trough right now. I hope you move on to a peak soon.

    1. I love this analogy, Megan! I think you’re right. I just wish the troughs didn’t have to feel soooo endless!

  8. Honey, having met your foster child, seeing him with Nana, seeing him with all of us, I saw his sweet side and his slightly less cooperative side. You have the patience of a saint and I’m so amazed and proud of how well you have handled the ups and downs, especially considering how you don’t get mad at him, when you would like to string him up! I know you and AJ will leave such a good imprint on him and he will benefit from it down the road. Parenting is the most difficult job in the world and you can only try to do your best each day….some days will be better than others, but he knows you care very much for him, which is probably why he saves his “best” behavior for you. Hang in there….you got this! Love you lots, xoxo

  9. I can guarantee you that as I know what you’re experiencing is much harder than what we have, we are going through rough patches as well. Just when I thought things were getting better, (I’m two days away from finishing my long-term sub position I’ve been working in Anderson for two months: high school spanish) his teacher sends me a message that he is very unruly in school and wanted to know if anything was going on at home!! Oh my gosh. I had no idea. And we are two weeks away from his dad most likely getting deported (which he knows nothing about) so the issues haven’t even BEGUN. You guys are GREAT people and that’s all that child needs! You being there for him is perfect in every way. Children need guidance because they are little people too.

    1. Oh no! I am so sorry to hear that. It’s so hard when kids misbehave in school and you have no idea why. We had that experience with our first placement – he was perfect at home and a terror at school! I’m so sorry to hear about his dad. That is really awful news. I hope everything works out! You guys are doing a great job, too!

  10. Brave. That is the first word I think of when I read this. Do you know hjow many people have these patterns with there own kids and NEVER voluntarily put themselves in such a situation with someone else’s?
    You are one of the most conscientious and truly caring people I’ve ever met. That is going to be hard for you sometimes. But it is also what makes you perhaps one of the best candidates for this job.
    My Alex is the same way– and his field is one where you have to strike a careful balance between having care, giving care, and caring. But that said, he doesn’t bring work home to live with us (he can in other ways, but he has learned in a big way how to process).
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am amazed by you and respect you so much. That kid is lucky to have someone in his life who cares enough to have these types of thoughts.
    I hope this stream of thoughts makes sense…
    Huge hug.

    1. Your new-mom stream of consciousness totally makes sense (and CONGRATULATIONS)! I do think Alex’s job is similar in a way. I need to learn how to best compartmentalize the hard parts of the day. I find it can be hard, especially after a few bad days in a row, not to just expect the next day to be exactly the same. I try to start each morning with a new sense of hope, but sometimes, that’s tough.

  11. Thank you for being the safe, stable, and loving home this child needs right now. You are doing your best, and I PROMISE, it is enough. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, you are doing enough. Thank you so much for opening your home and your hearts.

    1. Thanks, Lily! Sometimes it feels like we are doing everything wrong, but I know our hearts are in the right place. We just want him to know he is safe and loved.

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