Life In Limbo
I always thought the hardest part of being a foster parent would be getting attached and then sending a child back home. (I still think this would be the hardest, but it isn’t something I have experienced personally.) Of course, it would depend on the circumstances. If a child was sent back to a harmful situation - then yes - I definitely think it would be the hardest part of being a foster parent. However, if the child was sent back to a loving parent, then I expect even though it would be difficult, it would also be a joyous occasion. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate a family restored?
However, now, in my experience as a seasoned foster parent, the most difficult part of fostering has been living in limbo.
Right now I’m looking at my precious almost-two-year-old. We’ve been fostering her since she was born. We fostered and adopted her two older siblings and we love her the same. We are the only parents she has ever known. There is a deep attachment - a strong and real bond. We are currently in limbo as we foster her. We have actually been living in limbo for five straight years.
Limbo is defined as “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.” You could also add, unfinished, suspended, deferred, postponed, put off, pending, on hold, in the balance, and my personal favorite, treading water.
As a foster family, we all tread water. It’s not just us, “the parents,” who struggle through this process - it’s our children, our extended family members and even our close friends. The stress of not knowing what is going to happen from one court date to the next is significant and impacts each member of our family. We have experienced the stress of being told it looked like adoption was the plan, then at the next court date informed reunification was probable. I can’t begin to tell you how heart-wrenching this is. It seems as though your heart can never settle anywhere. This is why treading water is my favorite definition for living in limbo.
We shield our children from most of the ups and downs of “the system,” but many times it’s a guessing game as to how we can best help them prepare their hearts. We certainly don’t want to have someone come in one day and carry off their sister without at least trying to prepare them for that moment.
My heart is not the only one that can’t settle. It’s been difficult watching my other children attempt to process the uncertainty for themselves. All five, at their unique age and stage, have wrestled greatly with the reality that it may not be God’s plan for their sibling to stay. My now five-year old has wondered aloud why his little sister might leave, even though he didn’t. Already processing what it means to have siblings scattered and living with other people in different homes, it is especially hard for him to grasp. We’ve also had him since birth. He only knows us to be his family, so does this mean family really is forever? Would we decide to send him away? Would he ever be sent to live with his other mom or other siblings? These are questions he began asking me at the tender age of four.
Treading water is tiring and there are plenty of times I slip under the water and need to be rescued. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m weary. Anytime I allow my mind to wander into all the “worst case scenarios,” I slip underwater. If I think about our children and what they may have to suffer, I slip under. Whenever I forget who the true rescuer is, down I go - again. The truth is, I have only made it this far for this long because the Lord, who asked me to step out of the boat, is carrying me. He who calls us is faithful. He is steady and stable. We can’t drown while He’s carrying us. He will come through no matter the outcome of this current unknown, and we can rest assured of that.
Until the day comes where we have an answer of adoption or reunification, we will swim, we will tread, and we will occasionally slip underwater. We swim because that’s what the Lord has called us to. He has called us to be a light in the darkness, to be a voice for the voiceless, stand for justice, fight evil, pray without ceasing, and love mercy without relenting.
Above all, He has called us to love.
He has called us to love the orphan, the birthparent, and everyone else involved. As we drink in His love for us, the fountain of living water, we are able to make it through another day, another turn of events, perhaps even another year of living in limbo.
At the end of the day we remain confident of this: “We will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Ps. 27:13)
Kristen Bryant is married to her husband, Ty, and is mama bird to six loves. She is an adoptive and foster mom, passionate about walking by faith and following the Lord into whatever adventure He calls. In this season of life she's enjoying God the simple - quiet mornings with Jesus and sweet family moments. She connects with God through creative outlets like writing, hand lettering, and creating beautiful spaces. She loves connecting with other families who are interested in foster care and adoption and sharing openly the good, the bad, and the miraculous.