Finding the Right Community
Updated: May 7, 2021
We are thrilled to share this guest blog by Reagan Lowe, a happy foster mom, in Richmond, Virginia.
If you ever decide to become a foster parent, you'll hear a lot about the importance of community and how vital it is to you and your family.
But you probably won't hear that your current community (your perfect, wonderfully connected, like-minded friends) will be nowhere around when the rubber meets the road. They will be safely tucked into their neat little homes shaking their heads and tsk, tsk, tsking about your risky decision.
Let me tell you how I know.
One of our first big assignments as foster parents was providing respite for a seven-year-old boy for two weeks over the Christmas holiday. He had been to our home before so we sort of knew what to expect. Except that we had absolutely no freaking clue what we were in for. He kicked our butts. It was the most exhausting Christmas of my life.
A few days after Christmas we attended our community's Christmas party. I was a nervous wreck. At one point during the evening, Wayne gave me a break so that I could sit at a table to talk with some other moms while he was outside making sure our little guest didn't throw rocks at other children. While we chatted, reports came in that he had indeed hit another child with a rock.
These two like-minded mamas that I admired so much began to dismantle any call I ever felt to foster children. They shined a spotlight on the danger my children were in and by default now their children. I was exhausted, I felt like a failure and I ate up their fears and made them my own. The very next day, I called our agency and asked them to find another family to finish out the last week of respite. I knew the very moment we dropped that little boy off that I had made a terrible mistake. I knew that I was quitting before the task was complete and I was devastated.
Fast forward one year...
We were about six months into our first permanent placement of a sibling group when the wheels began to fall off. Our older foster son had significant special needs and his frustration level had hit an all-time high. We were clueless and literally drowning.
Out of the blue, an adoptive mother asked me out for dinner on a Friday night. In dire need of comradery, I eagerly accepted. It was an awful night and I came home more lonely than I left. I remember telling Wayne about the evening as we got ready for bed. "She told me that we need to get *our foster son* out of the house or else he'll destroy our family." Wayne looked at me and said, "You need to get *her* out of your life"
I've learned that community (at least for us) is fluid and ever-changing.
And I've experienced that true community rises up to meet you when you need it the most.
Our family is large. It's even larger when we have extra children. We don't get many invitations to lunch or dinner. I found the picture I attached to this post on Wayne's phone the other night. It was taken roughly six years ago but I remember the day so clearly.
We were hanging out in the church parking lot one Sunday when my friend's husband said, "Y'all want to come over for lunch?" It was a spur of the moment, off-the-cuff invite. We were like, "Are you serious?" And he was like, "Yeah."
So, we went home and grabbed some chicken wings and headed to their house.
I don't remember Wayne snapping the picture of all of our kids around the table but I'm so glad he did. What I do remember, is sitting in the other room away from the children and laughing so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks.
It felt so good to be wanted. I'm pretty sure that one of our family members left their house with every ink pen they owned...and a few kitchen timers too. The very best part of this story, these friends always had an extra ink pen or two to share with us anytime we saw them after that. Like I said, it feels so good to be wanted.
Other brave friends invited us over and we may or may not have broken their toilet... But not before they took us down to their beach. I remember our Big Guy got such a thrill out of throwing rocks into the river. It was a beautiful night and a beautiful memory.
The community that surrounded us as we fostered wasn't the community that we imagined it would be when we began. I say all of this not to discourage you but to encourage you that the very best rises to the top. God gives us just what we need, exactly when we need it.
My heart will never forget the night a friend walked through my front door, followed by her children carrying Costco-sized detergent, toilet paper, fruit snacks, and a full home-cooked meal. My heart will never forget the house full of friends who gathered for The Big Guy's eighteenth birthday. He was so full of joy and happiness and they delighted in him.
We couldn't have done it without our community. And yet, time marches on, faces and spaces change. It appears that community is just as likely to dissolve as it is to evolve. But in my heart, I know that Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord, Job 1:21.
- Reagan Lowe
If you would like to become a foster parent or learn how you can support foster families, please connect with us at connect@VaKidsBelong.org .