They come to you and you have to care for them before you have bonded, before you know them, before they know you, before they know your rules/habits/expectations, before you know their habits/rituals/needs/desires, before you have time to prepare, before you have time to weigh out the pros and cons of your decision, before you are ready.
Sure, no one is ever ready to become a parent, but with foster care, you are told you have a new arrival at two o'clock, and at five they are in your house, eat your food, and you are supposed to love on them as if they are your own. Even if you have clothes/diapers/etc. enough to care for any age and gender that you are signed up for, you do not have time to find the clothes, put the clothes away for the child you have, plus their is inevitably stuff you have to run to the store for - formula/shoes/socks. So as you are trying to get to know them, you are rearranging not only their clothes but your life. All the sudden that class you wanted, no longer fits in your schedule. That babysitting job that you thought looked so appealing as a long-term position, you need to quit. Those plans you made six months ago and have been talking about forever, no longer are feasible.
Then again, these kids might only stay for a weekend, week, month, year, or lifetime. You don't know. You won't know. Yet you must plan as if they are going to stay. It's all up to the mercy of the court system, and you are just a helpless bystander who has absolutely no control of the outcome.
Two weeks ago, I wrote why I wanted to quit foster care, ironically today, despite all that I just pointed out, I remember why I could imagine doing this for the rest of my life. The kids might be gone in less than a week. I am okay with that. Because for a very short time, I got to love. I got to love someone so incredibly deeply that I forgot myself. I got to see a child who was underweight thrive under my care. I got to have sticky fingers that I washed ten times that day find their way into my hair because she wanted a hug right then.
I don't always agree with the courts decisions, I don't always agree with the circumstances, but I don't have to. My job is not to agree, my job is to love - love the children and show kindness to the parents. I can't change what will happen, but I can make the change easier on everyone involved. I think that's the purpose of being a foster parent. So today, I look forward to my future as a foster parent, either long-term to these kids or to another set.
That first week, when everyone is getting used to each other and you are sorting clothes/diapers/toys while trying to balance your old life with your new, and life feels so overwhelming you find yourself crying at the end of the day, it won't matter. It's kind of like childbirth... or what I have heard about it. You remember it was painful, you remember it was horrible, but then you have this beautiful child in front of you and you forget. The only difference is, a mother in childbirth will keep their child forever, as a foster parent, mine is on loan. At any moment they get to be with their parents. Those sticky fingers will be gone, the sweet stares in my eyes will be staring at someone else, and yet even in the midst of sadness it is all worth it. Every tear, every broken toy, every tantrum, every moment of it is all worth it.