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The Heartbreak of Being a Foster Care Dad

I found that discussing our decision to become foster care parents with our friends and relatives often results in some incredulous looks. People just don’t seem to get why we are sharing our home and family with a foster child.

I get that. I really do. Can I explain why we’ve done this in a blog post?


We went through a trying process to arrive at our decision, and I know some of you won’t understand no matter how carefully I choose my words, no matter how articulate my arguments. So let me start with the fundamental reason we made the decision: Love.

Love is always worth it.

Yet people asked me how I could open myself up for such a heartbreak?

Let’s face it, there is nothing glamourous about it.

You are offering your home and family to a child from a questionable background.

Just to have their child land in the foster system speaks volumes about the parents and how they must have mistreated their children.

Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t an easy sale on the idea of fostering. My wife did the initial research, recognised the problem, and started contacting people to see how she could help. What she found out was shocking – in the U.K. alone, there are now 8,600 foster children looking for families.

Does anyone really want these children?

When she approached me and suggested we could become foster parents, I was initially shocked. We already had a child, and it seemed all I could do to keep up with his curiosity and energy. But we have some advantages to offer a potential foster child – we both work from home, have a stable, loving family, and we’re close to good schools.

Still, I had my doubts. I had heard the stories – seriously damaged children, painful assessments, and having the foster child ripped from your family when the biological parents surface again.

And I knew that during the assessment process, social workers would be talking to our relatives, friends, and neighbours to try to get a sense of who we are. While I wasn’t worried about any of my current friends and family, I did have a skeleton that I wanted to keep in my closet – my ex-wife.

Mind you, I was never abusive in the physical sense. But I was a much younger man back then and had a quick temper. I simply didn’t understand what she needed, and I took a lot of my frustrations out on her.

That was years ago, but it’s still an open sore for her – her regular scathing emails and text messages about both me and my new wife prove she has not put the marriage behind her. Would the social workers contact her? If so, I am certain they would get an earful. And if they in turn turned us down as foster parents, my wife would be crushed.

And consider – these children often come to you with foetal alcohol syndrome, symptoms of drug withdrawal and head lice. Many don’t know how to eat with proper table etiquette.

Yet they cry for parents that have abused and abandoned them. And for your trouble? You have to endure the constant visits of incredibly intrusive senior social workers who dissect your parenting skills in ways no one does for biological children.

But consider the alternative. Where else would these children receive a loving, supportive family environment? My wife and I didn’t open our doors to these children because we weren’t afraid of the heartbreak – rather, we were afraid what would happen to these children without us.

My wife and I discussed the downside of fostering at length.

We spoke of the love, the loss, the effect on our biological child, and everything in between. We laughed; we cried…and in the end we knew we simply had to try to become foster parents.

We contacted our local fostering service, who promptly assigned a social worker to work with us. The first step was to attend a training course entitled “The Skills to Foster” – not only my wife and I, but also our child was required to attend.

Both my wife and I had to submit to complete background checks – and yes, they did contact my ex-wife. For reasons I can’t explain; she endorsed me and apparently said I would make a great foster dad.

Go figure!

The last step was that our assessment and records were submitted to the local fostering panel, who make the final decision. It took a couple of weeks, but we were approved and were issued our foster license.

We quickly learned foster children are the least children in our society.

According to the Fostering Network, on any given day in the UK there are over 62,000 children living with foster parents.

Fostering no one’s dream job. I just spent the better part of an hour trying to convince Leon, our 11-year-old foster child, to get out of bed, get dressed, and have breakfast. Most of the time, he is a sweet, curious kid – but the rejection and abuse he was subjected to earlier in life has ripped him up inside.

He is prone to fits of uncontrollable rage followed by a complete check-out – he will stare at the wall and will not respond to anyone for an hour or more. His psychiatrist tells us he is showing earlier signs of schizophrenia and depression.

Today Leon is in slow motion mode – everything seems like an impossible chore to him. My wife and I finally get him dressed and to breakfast, but now he refuses to eat. My wife has already called our social worker and Leon’s doctor – looks like our day is already laid out for us.

And it was not so long ago that I was holding a seven month old crying baby in my arms at 2:00AM, trying to feed him a bottle. I couldn’t help but think of little Royal Prince George of Cambridge and the future King of England. Born on almost the same day – but the world gushes and fawns over the little prince. No one but my wife and I wanted the little bundle of life I was holding in my arms.

You see, this little bundle wasn’t just a random foster child – he was a living, breathing little boy who was trusting me to do right by him. And I will.

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