I ask my wife the same question every day when I’m back from work: “How did it go today?”. What I’m actually asking is “How did it go with Ben today?”, but overtime I came to favour the shortest version. I get a different answer every time I ask, but if I had to draw a conclusion, so far I’d say the good days are winning. So, why change anything?

The reason I feel a bit anxious lately has to do with our recent decision to become foster parents.

It’d be simpler if we didn’t. I’m reading a lot about fostering, and so far there hasn’t been a day in which I didn’t learn of some new and awful complication I had never even considered before. I’ve read how tragic the goodbye meeting between a child and his birth family can be, and how the foster family is the one dealing with its aftermath. Or how terrifying a simple bump on the head can be for a foster parent, who knows all too well how quickly a situation can spin out of control, and all of the sudden they are the one under the microscope. I’m also particularly aware how lucky we have been with Ben, who on top of being naughty, lovable and funny, hasn’t shown any developmental or behavioural issue so far. So again, why?

It was simple enough to come up with a credible answer for the social worker at our screening interview. All I said was “during Ben’s adoption we found out a lot more about the job that foster families do for these children, and we think we can help”, or something to that effect. That also happens to be true by the way, which is why it was simple to answer the question and sound convincing too. But I’m not convinced that’s the whole answer.

The real answer has more to do with the reason I consider the decision to do fostering so final, as in “life changing”. Fostering is very different from adoption. Adoption is a choice you make for the rest of your life: the child you adopt stays your child, and that’s that. Fostering, on the other hand, can stop more or less at any time. Yet from the way I see it today, it will never be an easy decision for me to stop.

The reason why I regard fostering such a final decision points to the reason why I even considered it in the first place: it is something actually worthwhile I could do, for me and my family.

Getting closer to fostering forces people to put what they do in perspective. One can always conclude that “it’s not for them”, or “they couldn’t possibly do it”, and that’ fine. But fostering made it impossible for me to maintain that what I’m doing in my job and with my life is important, or that I even really care anymore.

One day in the office I found myself stuck in the middle of writing a long report. The problem in that moment wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write, the problem was I didn’t know why. Why was writing that email more important than knowing how Ben did at school that day, or knowing what was going on in my wife’s life? I knew it wasn’t. Why was writing that stupid report more important than doing something for a child removed from an abusive family? I knew that wasn’t too, but this time, for the first time, I seriously entertain the idea I might have been able to help. In that moment I knew I really wanted to try. Trying is all I have to offer right now.

So I guess this is the full, long answer. I hope it will also be the right one, not just for me, but also for my wife, my son, and the children that we’ll be caring for. And if that doesn’t work out, I can always do something else, right? 😉

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