fbpx A Foster Mom’s Gratitude List
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on May 18, 2023

When I became a foster parent, I had some grandiose mission statements about what I would do, how I would help, and the way in which I would serve vulnerable youth… but I look back now, seven years later, and see I had it all wrong. Well-intentioned, but wrong.

It wasn’t about what I would do, but about the precious souls I would love – even, somewhat unexpectedly, the biological family members – and the person I would become in the process. I found out that being a foster parent is much less about the doing (though there’s plenty of that!) and much more about the becoming. And how do we become someone different, someone more attuned to the needs around us, someone more filled with grace than we could have ever imagined, someone who can pick themselves up day after day with a determined glint in their eye and say, “Today, we march on toward healing. Today, we love again.”?

I want my gratitude list to reveal to you just how this happens. May it be like a bud opening slowly, just like we do. May it show you that this journey of foster care is a worthy process with eternal implications, and that it’s okay if you don’t “have what it takes” right now. We are not meant to. Rather, through experiences and trials and victories and seeing healing close-up, God will equip you with what it takes.

My “Foster Mom Gratitude List”:

  1.  I am grateful for the first time I look a child or teen in the face as they cling to their belongings in my doorway. In that moment I know I will fight for their safety, for them to feel loved, for whatever it takes to pave the way toward a beautiful future.
  2. I am grateful when I take my (foster) kids grocery shopping for the first time and let them show me the foods that speak familiarity, love, and just plain old deliciousness to them. Surprisingly, we’ve had a lot of Ramen in my house over the years - A LOT. I don’t love it, but I love my kids and want them to feel food safety.
  3. I am grateful when I notice my children becoming less vigilant, like their eyes settle a little. I see them believing in “safe.”
  4. I am grateful when my 15-year-old asks to go to the park, and I can see her on the swing, taking back and slowing down pieces of childhood she missed years ago.
  5. I am grateful for a multicultural experience, in which I am daily challenged to honor the precious heritage of my children.
  6. I am grateful that it’s not always “goodbye” forever when they leave. I’ve watched one boy grow up, helped him fill out his first job application, and have celebrated milestones with him!
  7. I am grateful that our biological children have embraced their foster and adoptive siblings.
  8. I am grateful for the tantrums, the triggers, the poor choices... because I learned to slow down and zoom in and love more intentionally. I learned that “binding up wounds” means I look outwardly while growing inwardly.
  9. I am grateful for moments around the campfire, where we make s’mores and play “two truths and a lie” and my 10-year-old sings so loud it echoes off the hills while the teens poke fun at one another… and everything feels “normal.” My husband and I squeeze each other’s hands knowingly, with smiles in our eyes, because we see and feel the healing.
  10. I am grateful that this list will continue to grow as long as I live. As foster parents, it’s true: the to-do list is long every day. We must navigate appointments, school schedules, sports/extracurriculars, therapy appointments, doctor visits, social worker emails, monthly worker visits, parental visits (sometimes), mealtimes, unexpected episodes of trauma, and all kinds of tasks. But that gratitude list above – it makes it all worth it.

I am not the same woman I was seven years ago, not even close. I have grown beyond my capacity at least a hundred times because of love and prayer. I have truly seen the pain of biological families suffering from addiction and/or generational hardship and learned compassion instead of judgment. I have eight more children who are “forever in my heart,” and we have adopted three. How could I ever be the same?

I have become someone new; I have loved more than I ever imagined I would or could. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe it.

This blog article was contributed by Cherie Johnson, Foster and Adoptive Parent at Nexus-Kindred Family Healing.

Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org