Is Foster Care Worth The Stress It Puts On Your Family?

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

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One of our greatest struggles as a foster and adoptive family has been the fear that the revolving door of foster care will leave our permanent children feeling unsure of who they are and their importance to us.

As adoptive parents we want our children to know that we are constant, secure, forever loving and unchanging. As Foster parents, we want our foster children to know that we will fill in the gap for as long as it’s needed. We are willing to hang on if necessary and willing to let go when the time comes. We are trying to parent two different ways and we often wonder if our involvement in fostering will confuse or damage our children.

We interviewed our two teenage daughters last year on a segment we did on what it’s like to be a foster family. I’ll never forget my daughter’s thoughtful answer. “It’s exciting and fun to be a foster family. There is always someone to play with. It’s like you always have a friend at home. Then one day you go to school and when you come home your friend, your sister or brother is gone. That part is hard.”

My daughter’s words echo in my memory as I think back to some of our most difficult placements. Some of the children we fostered had severe medical or emotional needs. Sometimes we wonder if fostering a hurting child is really creating insecurity in our other 8 children.

Seven years ago we were faced with a call to parent a very challenging child. “Will you be able to pick up an 18 month old girl from the Children’s Hospital? She is failure to thrive but we think her mom and dad were neglecting her. We really believe that with structure and support she will begin to eat on her own and will eventually develop normally.” I believed the caseworker and accepted the challenge without question or hesitation. I firmly believed that this little girl would thrive under our care.

What I didn’t know was that the hospital was only having success with ng tube feedings and that she was having seizures almost constantly. What was supposed to be a quick pick up, turned out to be hours of medical instruction while my children waited at the neighbor’s house for me to return. It was the first of many times my children had to wait while I put baby girl’s needs first.

Once she was home, the kids loved her. She was odd in her mannerisms and it quickly became clear that she had never learned to sit in a chair or sleep in a bed. The first time we buckled her into a car seat she clawed at the buckle as if it were strangling her. Our children were patient with her though and they grew to understand all of her medical needs. They made her smile and she made them laugh hysterically. Baby girl was funny and cute and completely wild. We were happy and completely exhausted.

Baby girl threw up at least once a day and always managed to hit the carpet, the couch or my nice clean outfit. We kept a plastic tablecloth under her car seat so that we could quickly pull the car over, banish the smell of regurgitated Pediasure and return to life as normal. The only thing was, for six months our life was never really normal. Baby girl needed constant therapy, constant feedings and constant supervision.

For six months we didn’t volunteer in our children’s classrooms. We didn’t take our children to the movies or on trips. We could rarely find a sitter qualified to handle the intricacies of caring for our little girl. We tried to go to the park but she was like a spider monkey climbing fast and swift and just out of our reach. We attempted to go to our community pool but we ended up leaving after baby girl pulled her ng tube out, puked on the pool deck and then screamed like a banshee while removing her swim diaper and peeing on a lawn chair. It was like living with a tiny beautiful tornado.

Our children learned to care for baby girl’s needs. They cheered when she ate a bit of real food. They tagged along to home visits. They rejoiced as baby girl’s bio mom and dad learned every skill required to bring the child home. As the days turned to months our children adjusted to our new normal but Mike and I fretted over all that our children were missing out on.

The day she left, we cried. We packed her favorite things and kissed her goodbye. We hugged her parents and wished all of them well. We closed that revolving door and stood in the stillness. We wandered around in the emptiness that baby girl left behind. That’s when my son asked cautiously, “Do you think we could go to the playground today, or maybe the movies?”

Our children craved the normal that was before baby girl’s arrival. They were excited to be able to resume a little bit of freedom. We still ask the question, is foster parenting worth the upset it causes? Years have passed since baby girl left our home but her memory still lingers. As my family tells stories around the dinner table, baby girl’s name comes up often. The stories are not filled with pain or insecurity. They are brimming with joy, humor and the promise that in each relationship we have the potential to learn, grow and become better people. Yes, foster care is worth it. It is in the pain and discomfort that we have the potential to shine.

Have you struggled with the same thing on your journey as a foster parent? Share your story with us in the comment section.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.