November 24, 2015 @ 12:35am, my life changed forever. I received the call for my very first foster placement. I had originally requested ages kindergarten through 5th grade. But this call was for a 17 year old girl who was coming into the foster system for the first time. They needed someone to take her and was having a hard time finding a place for her to go. Without hesitation, I said yes. I mean, isn't that why I am in foster care? To love the kids, including the teenagers, no matter how scary they are?
Teenagers in general are moody, unpredictable, awkward and did I mention moody? But a troubled teen is a whole different can of worms. And let's add being in foster care to the whole troubled teen thing and you have the situation I'm currently in. We spent the entire first night talking. We talked till 3am. I began to love her the second she walked in my door. It's a strange feeling to love someone you literally just met. But God's love is never ending, He loves us even before we were formed in the womb. I am in no means God, but I began to love this broken teenager as God loves me, unconditionally. All flaws set aside, just love.
I have tried to love her to the best of my ability and to the extent that she would allow me. And through this entire experience, I choose love. All the problems aside, I always told her I loved her even when she disappointed me over and over and over again.
Did she make me angry? Oh yeah.
Did she frustrate me to the point of belief? Yep.
Did she take advantage of me? Many times.
Have I spent many hours worried about her whereabouts and what she was doing? Yep.
How about the tears? Yes, there have been plenty on my side.
Things are complicated in that this is her first go round in foster care, she's almost 18, and she has been allowed to spend time with a family member. Her and the teenager have taken complete advantage of me, unfortunately.
Last night, I had to call the police and report her as a runaway. A runaway. My worst fear. I had an inkling I knew where she was, but when me and the police went over there, no one answered. I feel as though I have failed as a parent. Today, she has called me and said she's not coming back. She's decided to make the rules and not follow the ones put in place for her safety. It doesn't make the fact that my heart is breaking for her hurt any less. It honestly hurts like hell. I feel as though my heart is constantly being stabbed numerous times a day.
People have said to me today that at least you don't have to worry about her anymore. Or she's no longer your responsibility. You can breathe now. As of right now, this moment in time, she is considered a runaway. Which gives me all the more reason to worry. I'll admit, there has been many times where I wish the situation would just change and perhaps she would go to another home. I can't express how being a single foster parent and having to deal with as much as she has got going on makes you feel very, very alone. But I would never want bad things to happen to her. I had the option to send her to another foster home a few weeks ago, but after I prayed about it for a few days, I just kept hearing God say, "Just love her. She needs you." But at some point, you break, and you know that tough love has got to kick in. She's going to hate you for it, but you have to do what is needed.
The thing I have learned about foster care so far is that you keep giving and keep giving. Most of the time, you get nothing in return. And just when you don't think you can give any more, God sustains you to get through one more day. Because God is full of mercy and grace. And his love can overcome anything. But at one point, you have to realize you can't save them all and hope that maybe one day they wake up to see how hard I tried to just love them. If anything, my faith has grown. As stubborn as I am, I realized I simply cannot do this alone. I need God and I need people around me to pick me up when I'm sobbing uncontrollably in the church bathroom because I am so overwhelmed.
Any regrets? Yes, some.
If I had the option to go back, knowing what I know now, would I still take her in? YES. Because after all, it is what Jesus would have done.