Many years ago, in early 2006, my husband and I were newly trained foster parents awaiting our first placement. We had three daughters, the oldest in her senior year of our home school, and our youngest ten years old. The “middle daughter” was in the tenth grade, and she was the one who was the most excited about our fostering plans. As a matter of fact, she had prayed for a placement as her birthday present, and sure enough, a 20-month-old girl and her 6-month-old brother arrived at our house on “Middle’s” birthday! Who could question the efficacy of her prayer efforts with that “coincidence?”
Looking back, I have to admit that was one of the most difficult years of my life. Just going back to two little ones in the house was tough, but the emotional aspect of foster parenting also took its toll on us. We thought we might get to adopt, but then at the last minute, the birth grandparents suddenly agreed to take the children, so the judge granted them custody. It was bittersweet – we were happy for the birth family, but heartbroken to say good-bye to these children we had come to love as our own.
One year later, I was in the midst of an even tougher battle, treatment for aggressive breast cancer, bedridden from chemo side-effects, when the grandma of our foster children called me, wanting to know if we could take the children back, and adopt them. I was shocked, but there was no way I could handle it (plus, we’d allowed our certification to expire). For years afterwards, I suffered second-guessing about that situation. We had really wanted to adopt, and our chance had actually come about (eventually), but I was sidelined. As I continued to pray daily for those children (and still do, to this day!) with an aching heart, I’ve asked God many times what that had been all about.
I now have an answer to that question which I find completely satisfying. “Middle daughter” is married, has been since 2012. However, their longing for children was not being fulfilled as they had hoped and prayed for, so she and her husband discerned a call to be foster parents. (Her heart was formed for this decision when her father and I lived this pro-life example in our lives!) Their first placement was a newborn. He was with them for nearly two years, but ended up being reunited with his birth mother. It was an agonizing heartbreak for my daughter. This is the life of foster parenting, a sacrificial pouring out of all that we have to give to these children in need, while all the time reminding ourselves that they’re not “completely” ours, and might never be.
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That’s when we turn to the example of St. Joseph, the foster father of our Lord. Venerable Joseph Mindszenty said, “The position of St. Joseph as foster father gives witness to the dignity of fatherhood,” (and, might I boldly add … also to the dignity of all good and holy foster parents!). Fr. Calloway had this to say regarding spiritual parenthood, “St. Joseph’s fatherhood was an authoritative, affectionate, faithful, and everlasting fatherhood. Spiritual fatherhood, like spiritual motherhood, endures forever.” (Consecration to St. Joseph by Donald H. Calloway, MIC, pp. 37-38)
This is what we, as Christian foster parents, cling to – that unique gift of our own spiritual parenthood, that has us loving without restraint, and praying for these children long after they’ve left our homes. We wait in hope to someday witness the effects of that enduring connection. Middle daughter and her husband have had two foster children that were reunited with parents, and they still have photos of them on the their walls and pray daily for them. I’ve added their names to my prayer list of former foster children. Currently, our daughter and son-in-law have three foster placements, two one-year-olds, and a newborn who just recently joined their household. I already consider all of them my spiritual grandkids (while hoping and praying that they might legally become part of our family, if it be God’s will for their lives).
I am so proud of my daughter and her husband, and the selfless love and dedication I watch them give to these children (and their birth families) day after day. They are patient, affectionate, charitable, instructive, fun, and faithful … everything a good parent should be, thanks to the intercession of our spiritual father St. Joseph.
We should all be inspired to love with a St. Joseph kind of love. Some of you might even find yourselves called to foster parenting, while the rest of us offer tangible support and encouragement on this lightly-traveled avenue of pro-life witness.
Copyright 2020 Charlene Rack
About the Author
Charlene Rack is an adventurous and fun-loving wife, mother of three grown daughters, and “Mimi,” who travels often to visit her grandkids. With her experience as a homeschool mom, she is an organizer of fun and enriching activities for children of all ages. She’s transitioning to the “empty nest” by writing humorous and inspirational articles for publication. Read her blog at Grandma’s Coffee Soup.