Foster and Adoptive Parents Make for Poor Idols

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Foster and adoptive parents aren’t rescuers or heroes, not any more than all the other parents who love and sacrifice for their children.

Before we brought home our daughter with cerebral palsy from Taiwan, I read all the books. We talked to other adoptive parents. We completed every educational module required by our social worker. We felt prepared.

But nothing prepared us for how isolated we would feel when we came home.

Yes, people brought meals and coffee and notes of encouragement and hugs and so on. But when we struggled, I didn’t know how to reach out. I felt like we had been put up on a pedestal by so many:

Look at the sacrifices they made to give this child a family – they’re amazing!

Her special needs are a complete unknown, and they still said yes. What saints!

When they adopted that child, they rescued him from death.

While each of those statements might hold a nugget of truth, they set us up to be superheroes or saints or something else that we simply aren’t. We’re human. We struggle. And when we’re up on a pedestal that others have built for us, we’re set apart from the rest of the community. That’s not what God’s design is for the church.

Furthermore, our kids aren’t charity cases, and we don’t want them to feel like they are or were. As “Orphan Sunday” approaches in a few weeks, consider how your church might be sensitive to the children, youth, and adults in your congregation who were once unparented themselves, be it in a hospital nursery, foster care environment, orphanage, or elsewhere. When their parents are being elevated with comments about what a great thing they did, then those children may feel like they are less deserving of their families than a biological child might be.  

Yes, our families might have been made differently and even look differently than the majority of families in your church, but we’re just families. Our path to parenthood (either in general or of one or more of our children) might not be the same as yours, but we have more in common than you might think. Our lives involve the same perfectly imperfect aspects as any other family: dirty diapers, homework, bedtime battles, meal planning, and mountains of laundry. And we yell and cry and fight and fail and apologize just like you do.

We aren’t rescuers or heroes or martyrs, not any more than all the other parents who love and sacrifice for their children. Let us be on common ground with you, sinners at the foot of the cross made saints before the throne of grace. Instead of worshiping us, welcome us into community with you as we glorify the One True God together.

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