by Patrick Dierschke
My family started fostering five years ago, and has had ten children come into and out of our home. We have experienced the trials and tribulations of this broken system, and persevere only by the grace of God.
When my wife and I began this journey, we had to complete many requirements to ensure our home was suitable for fostering. Background checks, fingerprinting, family history, health inspections, trauma training, etc., consumed our life for almost a year.
Our first placement was two little girls, ages 6 and 4. My 10 year old daughter, Skylar, was excited to be an older sister. She had always been the baby of the family, as her siblings are 8 years older than her, and living outside the home.
My wife and I had attended many hours of pre-placement training, training that prepared us for the potential behaviors the children may exhibit. However, it quickly became apparent that we had not taken into consideration how this change in the dynamic of our family would affect Skylar. She became more of a parent figure than a sibling, and we struggled with helping her understand the exceptional needs of these children.
We had to purposefully schedule time with Skylar, as the needs of the children compelled us to focus more on them than Skylar. Biological children can easily become lost in the chaos. It took a great amount of time, patience and effort, and she became an example of what it means to be a kid, sibling, and a strong, independent girl.
Our next placement was siblings: two boys and a baby girl. Skylar was welcoming to these children and readily accepted her role to be nurturing and helped the children understand how to function as a member of a family. My poem "He Hugs Me" is based on one of the children learning how to show affection. After eight months, the children were abruptly removed from our home, and our family was devastated. Again, we were not prepared for this, and it took some time to help Skylar through the grief and loss process. We had underestimated how attached she would become to these children, and how to explain why they were removed.
Now a wonderful 15 year old young woman (now 20!), Skylar continues to be a blessing to us and the children who spend a few moments of their lives with us.
I have read many articles about the need for more foster parents, oftentimes designating those who take on this role as “superheroes”. We are far from it. Jesus is the only hero in this story.
A few years ago, Skylar and I watched an episode of “Supergirl”. We enjoyed the action, and the significant roles cast to females. They are all strong in their convictions, and know their value as individuals. The children in broken families often experience a total disregard to females, and witness the abuse women endure from men. Through Skylar, they are able to see that this does not have to be the case.
During one of the commercial breaks, Skylar said she would like to have the powers of Supergirl: flying, invincible to bullets, x-ray vision, and superhuman strength. In my mind, she is Supergirl, as she displays all these characteristics and more as she travels along with us in this mission field.
While fostering is a daunting mission, with many obstacles to overcome, there are those who serve these children who are overlooked: the biological children of the foster parents.