May 11, 2018
Interview with Jason Johnson, Foster Parent, Foster Care Advocate, and Author
Maybe you’re considering foster care… maybe you’ve been considering it for some time.
It’s normal to have questions and even fears, such as:
- I’m afraid this will change my life in ways I can’t predict.
- I’m afraid of what this could expose my kids to. Will it put them at risk?
- I’m afraid I won’t know how to connect with a child (or a parent) with a background I don’t really understand.
When my wife and I were on the front end of foster care, talking and praying about the possibility, we had questions and concerns too. It seemed big and daunting with so many unknowns. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, so all we could imagine was worst-case scenarios. Looking back, I can say with confidence that many of our biggest concerns turned out not to be concerns at all.
Attaching to a child: I was nervous about loving and becoming attached to a child we’d have to say goodbye to (this is one of the most common fears). I was only concerned about how it would affect me until foster parents in our church gently helped me see another perspective. They said, “Yes, saying goodbye is painful, but have you thought about the pain it may cause a child to never know your love?” That question forever changed how I thought about foster care.
Finding the right time: I was pastoring a young church plant at the time, and our three biological daughters were 2, 4, and 6. We were spread thin, and everywhere we looked, we found support for our assumption that it wasn’t a "good time” for us to start fostering. Then one day my wife said, “Look, there will never be a perfect time for us to do this,” and she was right.
Exposing kids to hard things: As parents, we go to great lengths to protect our kids from difficult and even dangerous circumstances, but we need a balance. Foster parenting has exposed our kids to hard things, but I believe it has been to their benefit. I recently had lunch at school with our 8-year-old daughter, and she invited a friend to sit with us. Her friend shared some of the challenges her family was facing—weighty stuff for a second grader. I was glad to know our daughter, who has seen and heard some hard things through our family’s foster care experience, could be an understanding friend to her.
Maybe your fear is personal, and you wonder, “Am I good enough?”
- Am I a good enough person to let go of my comforts?
- Am I a good enough parent to take on this challenge?
- What if I fail a child who has already been hurt, adding to their pain?
Kids don’t need perfect parents; they need parents who will be present with them. To what cost are we willing to say, “I’m not good enough to help you,” when we see a child in need? We say, “I don’t have what it takes to fix what’s broken in a child’s life,” but that’s not what God asks of us. None of us can fix all the brokenness, but the good news is that’s not the job!
Labeling others as “special”: We’re really good at pointing to other people who do things for the Kingdom and defining them as heroes. Calling out foster parents as “special” creates distance between us and them. We say, “I’m not special,” and it’s easy to find evidence to support our theory. But God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. At Christmas, we celebrate how God used the “lowly” shepherds and Mary, a young peasant girl, to bring a Savior to the world. We say, “That’s amazing!” But when God looks at us and says, “Your turn,” we say, “Oh, no… I couldn’t do that.”
Redefining success: “Success,” as the world defines it, is driven by outcomes—what we produce and advances we make. In God’s economy, success is measured not by productivity, but by faithfulness to what God has invited us to do. In Hebrews 11, by faith, the Red Sea was parted. Lions’ mouths were shut. We say, “Wow, that’s incredible. Look what faith produced!” Meanwhile, others who exhibited that same faith suffered greatly and were martyred; yet verse 39 says, “ALL were commended for their faith.”
Here’s the good news in foster care: you don’t have to save anyone, because you can’t save anyone. The outcomes are never ours to produce. The familiar commendation in Matthew 25:21 reads, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” not good and successful servant.
Overcoming paralysis: Fear that we won’t be successful prevents us from being involved in the first place. Success in God’s eyes is measured at the beginning, not the end. It’s achieved the moment we say yes. You may already know the next step you need to take. You’ve prayed, you’ve discussed, you’ve read, and you’ve thought. This may be your time to take the next step.
You can take the next step, even if you’re still afraid.
Most people jump off a diving board the first time little by little. You take a step, and then you take another. Eventually you’ll be at the edge, and you’ll jump. No one is asking you to run full speed down the board and jump off without looking at what’s below. But keep taking steps forward.
- Contact an agency like Bethany to request information.
- Register for the next information meeting in your area. You don’t have to commit that night; just go, listen, and ask questions.
- Invite a foster parent in your community out for coffee and ask what foster parenting is really like; how it really works. Foster families can be proactive, too, and initiate this conversation with someone you know who is thinking about foster care.
- Be open to what God has for you!
Anyone considering foster care will have questions and concerns, and it’s valid to seek answers from informed sources. I would be more concerned if someone preparing to make this leap didn’t have questions or concerns. I’d much rather know people are thinking things through. There will always be reasons to say no to foster care, but there are many reasons to say yes.
Jason Johnson is a husband to Emily, a dad, a writer and speaker. His family opened their home to foster care in 2012. After years of pastoral ministry and church planting experience, he now serves as the director of church ministry initiatives with Christian Alliance for Orphans.
- Jason blogs at: jasonjohnsonblog.com
- Let's get real: Adjusting expectations for first-time foster parents
- Nervous about Attachment in Foster Care? Learn How to Help a Child in Your Care Feel Safe
- Myth: “I can't foster. I’ll get too attached.”
- 6 Ways to Look Out for Your Kids While You’re Fostering
- How Do I Get Started? Q&A for first-time foster parents
- What if I Want to Foster, but My Spouse Isn’t Ready?