I have been wrestling with this post for a while now. It’s one that I feel is important to share, but I really haven’t been able to figure out…how.
We had to say goodbye to our second teen last week. Things changed quickly – over the course of just a couple of days – but the effect on the family was intense. I know just about everyone would agree that protecting my littles comes first, but protecting the other teen who has been placed in my care is also a priority.
I knew when taking in this sweet 16 year old, that some very clear boundaries would need to be established if there was a chance of success. All of the trouble she had found herself in up to the point I met her had been connected to a cell phone. So most of the boundaries were in place to protect her from the phone causing problems in our home, at school, and at other events. I was able to sit down with her and give her a copy of the boundaries that would be in place, as well as the consequences if any of the boundaries were not respected. We made sure the consequences were short so there would be lots of chances to learn from any mistakes made – fully expecting there to be some, and there were. We gave her a day to read them, consider them, and sign her agreement. And she did! I was so hopeful!
For the first 3 weeks, consequences were provided in a calm manner, and she accepted them calmly. And then she didn’t. Chaos ensued. She knew and was reminded several times that she was wanted and desired by our family, and the choice would always be hers to remain a part of the family, or decide not to. By her choices, she told us what she wanted and we had to make the terrible decision to say goodbye.
I’ll be honest, it’s hard not to feel failure. I know that I did the best I could for this sweet, kind, helpful girl. I also know our family cannot operate in total chaos. But that doesn’t make it feel much better. And this is foster care. You truly never know what is going to happen. I guess that’s parenting in general, at times.
So now our role is to pray. We will never forget this member of our family. We pray God protects her. We pray for healing in her heart and ours. I get to teach my boys during something that is difficult. I have always preferred a bit of difficulty in their lives, and the opportunity to learn from it, than a life of complete ease and leisure. We can do hard things. We can because God has called us to this journey, and we have him to cover us in His perfect peace. When P cries because he misses her and is worried about her, I get to speak truth into his tender heart. God has given me an incredible privilege with the life he has called me to.
As I sat outside in the sun the day after we said goodbye, I looked down at the shorts my 17 year old asked me to sew, and I realized how incredibly blessed I am to have her in my life. She has changed me. And by having her here, and doing simple tasks for her, I get to love her deeply and I’m honored. There is redemption in sewing…literally and figuratively.
And one final, but important thing. Our foster care agency, Koinonia Family Services, has been nothing short of incredible. Their support was unwavering through this whole process, and continues to be as we move forward.