Thursday, June 3, 2010

Foster Placements: Destiny or Chance?

Christian will be leaving our home in less than a month and it’s causing me to become very reflective. Although we’re going to miss him (How could we NOT- We’ve been taking care of him for over six months!) I also have to admit that unlike our first two placements we’re not expecting to be totally heart-broken when he leaves. This makes me feel somehow guilty (and introspective and overly analytical which is why I’m writing about it): Does this mean that we’re becoming more calloused in our role as foster parents? Does it mean we haven’t loved Christian as much as our first two placements? No, that’s not it- we’ve cared for him like he was our own. Is it because he hasn’t been an especially “easy” baby to care for? Or is it simply because there are certain people in life, including babies and children, whom you just seem to “click” with and bond with easier than others?

We love Christian and we’ll miss having him in our home, but from the very beginning of this placement neither Jared nor I felt like he was “supposed” to be ours. Of course, most foster children aren’t supposed to be adopted by their foster parents- they are just staying in a temporary home while their parents work things out . . . BUT, even with our first two placements despite the fact that we didn’t end up adopting them we both had undeniable feelings that they were meant to be in our home when they were. I felt a very strong bond in particular with the first little boy we fostered- it’s almost like our spirits “knew” each other. We had the same kinds of feelings towards our foster daughter- we would have loved to have adopted her if it came to that.

I’ve heard accounts from other foster parents and caseworkers who have said that the children who are placed into homes of foster families- whether they end up adopting them or not- were “meant” to come into their lives. There's something magical about that and I would like to believe, as the German philosopher Friedrich von Schiller believed, “There is no such thing as chance; and what seem to us merest accident springs from the deepest source of destiny.”

On the other hand, I’ve also heard some horrific tales about children being abused while in foster care (before reforms were made about who could become a foster parent) which is extremely upsetting and especially tragic. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to say that those children who had traumatic experiences while in foster care were “meant” to suffer even further than they already have. 

In our imperfect world people sometimes suffer because of the selfish choices of others.  Therefore, both fortune and misfortune are not just left to chance but are the result of the choices people make, which brings this appropriate William Jennings Bryan quote to mind (I'm into quotes lately): “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

So while I can’t deny that divine intervention was at play when it comes to our experience with adopting Madison and with our first two foster placements, when I try to apply this “destiny theory” to our current placement and to other foster children who live with families on a temporary basis, the more cynical part of me wonders “Is it really destiny or is it just random chance?” Was Christian actually destined to come to our home right now or does he just happen to be here because we said “yes” to a placement?

I’ve come to a couple of different conclusions as I’ve tried making sense of my feelings:

1) Maybe it doesn’t really matter if it was destiny or chance that Christian came to our home. We’ve provided a safe home for a child who needed it. That’s the most important thing.

2) Perhaps a more useful question to ask would be What have we learned from having Christian in our home? I think the top two answers to that are patience and selflessness, which I may write about in more detail at a later time. Perhaps we needed him in our lives at this point in time to help us improve those qualities, which happens to remind me of the following quote:

"God doesn't give you the people you want, he gives you the people you NEED. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be."

[I think the part about “leaving” is especially applicable to foster parents seeing their foster children leave].

Perhaps being a foster parent is helping to make me into the person God wants me to be.


  1. I have to comment because as someone who feels especially out of control in what happens in my life, I have thought about this a lot. May I offer my opinion that nothing is chance, nor destiny, but situations that some we choose and some God chooses for us. All these situations/experiences are, as you said, designed to make us into the person God wants us to be.

    Thank you for the means a lot, this week especially, to know that others struggle with the same internal questions/battles that I do.

  2. Love this post, thanks for more insight into fostering.

    Another option is that the family that Christian was "meant" to be with never made the commitment to fostering. Makes you think...

  3. I've thought about this same things. When we got Landon our caseworker told me that he was "meant" to be ours. She went on and on about how the only reason he came into this world was to be in our family. As a new foster parent it was easy for me to remember the foster care classes, that ANYTHING can happen in your case. I knew it was NEVER a for sure thing. She also told me that Landon's 1/2 sister was interested in kinship. Although I knew from the second I saw him that he wasn't meant to be mine forever, I fell madly in love with him. It was hard to hear that his 1/2 sister got approved to take him and they were just waiting on the ICPC, which took another 2 months. It made it even harder because everyone said Landon was meant to be ours because he looked Exactly like my husband! When we go our sibling group I knew they also were not ours and I didn't fall in love with them like I did with Landon.

    Our caseworker was trying to get us a placement. Do I honestly think that he "prayed" or had any spiritual inclination that Jaelah was meant to be in our home, NO. I think it is chance. It has been a pure miracle, the most amazing thing that her mom loves us and wants us to adopt her daughter! At first I didn't feel one way or the other, but as time when by my feelings got stronger and stronger. Oh and everyone says that she looks exactly like me!