I Get 'Too Attached' To My Foster Children, And It Is My Greatest Honor

by Rachel Hillestad
Originally Published: 
A foster parent holding a child's toothbrush next to a text about fostering on the right.

It took his left-behind toothbrush to undo me. I’m sitting here in a parking lot sobbing my guts out. He was mine for two and a half weeks, but those days and nights saw him smile, sleep through the night instead of freezing awake in terror, swing for hours on the swings my kids take for granted. He called me “mama,” and I told him every time I left that if I said I would come back, I would. I prepared him for his new home as best I could, but now it’s nap time and his new mom says he misses me. I texted her a picture to show him, hoping that would offer him some comfort and allow him to rest peacefully.

In regard to my foster parenting journey, the number one thing people say to me is, “I could never do foster care. I would get too attached.” Guess what: I’m just like you. I “got attached.” I was the only one who could get him to sleep or knew exactly what kind of jam he liked on his toast. I helped him through his diarrhea and got frustrated when he broke Christmas ornaments. I watched him as he slept, and my heart filled with love.

My answer to those people, who say they couldn’t do it for fear of becoming “too attached” to kids they will have to let go, is this: I absolutely get attached. Every single time. I wonder where they are now. They visit me in my dreams, and sometimes I wake up with a wet face. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts so bad that I struggle to catch my breath. You know what I know even MORE, though? More than anything else, I know I’d rather these sweet babies know my love than never know it. I would gladly carry their hurt inside my own adult heart if it meant there was less for them to carry in their tiny sad one. I can bear that burden. I can figure it out. They shouldn’t have to.

There is absolutely no reason that an eight year old who watched his mother be murdered not know the love of a stranger. A stranger that will love and care for them like their own child. It’s absolutely criminal for a two year old to sit in a social worker’s office for two days in dirty clothes because I’m afraid I’d get too attached. I got attached. I always get attached. Getting attached has been the greatest pleasure and honor of my entire life. I will do it again in a heartbeat.

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