We Do This Because…..
by Jill Norton
ALL OF US GET INTO FOSTER CARE BECAUSE we feel that we have something to offer. We may say to ourselves, ” I have a great marriage, my kids are doing well, and I can offer another child predictability and structure. I can advocate, lovingly discipline, nurture and protect children that have been abused and neglected.” In the back of our mind, we are also thinking, “And what child won’t respond positively to me and the efforts being made on their behalf?” Eventually, if you provide foster care long enough, a child will enter your home, you will work tirelessly, and the child won’t respond positively to your efforts. You become frustrated and begin to wonder what you are doing wrong. You may even feel like you are failing as a foster parent.
I WANT TO REMIND ALL OF US that it is not our job to fix these children. We cannot measure our level of success or failure based upon how the child responds to our efforts. It is our job to get up every day and be faithful with what we have been entrusted to do. That is: to teach, guide, love, discipline, nurture, protect, advocate for, and provide consistency, structure and predictability.
BEING A FOSTER PARENT WILL BE one of the most rewarding-and-difficult-things you will ever do in your life. There will be times when you’ll feel ignored and undervalued by those in the system. Even children themselves seldom offer thanks. Know how important you are to this child. Know that you are uniquely situated to have the most significant impact on their life.
YOU WILL IMPACT WHO THEY ARE, the relationships that they have with their families and future spouses, their own children, and their future successes. The impact will last forever. Provide them with the tools to be successful. Nothing you do in the life of a child is ever wasted. Nothing. As Neil Postman says in The Disappearance of Childhood (1982), “Children are the living message we send to a time we will not see.”
Jill Norton’s life was not how she envisioned it. Instead of a calm, peaceful life of control, Jill and her husband opened their hearts and home to foster children. Over the course of six years, Tom and Jill gave eight of those children a forever family through the miracle of adoption. Jill looks at how the system works; how to manage birth family connections, and why those connections are vital; critical trips to make foster and adoptive parents’ journeys easier; and how she and her husband discipline. Jill also offers an intimate look at what this spiritual call on their life has cost them, and she answers the question, “Would they do it all over again?”