It’s A Hard-Knock Life: For Foster Parents

It’s a hard-knock life for us
It’s a hard-knock life for us
‘Stead of treated
We get tricked
‘Stead of kisses
We get kicked
It’s the hard-knock life
Don’t it feel like the wind is always howl’n?
Don’t it seem like there’s never any light?
Once a day, don’t you wanna throw the towel in?
It’s easier than puttin’ up a fight!
It’s the Hard-Knock Life lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

It’s the hard-knock life.


Personally, I love the newer version of Annie over the old one; this was one remake done 100% right. I relate to the new lyrics that Annie sings as a foster child in the movie.  And not because I have foster children, but because I am a foster parent. Because if there is one thing I have learned being a foster parent for the last two years it is this: it’s a hard-knock life. 

We are told over and over: we have no legal rights with these kids. We are not legal guardians, but kids in care are placed with foster families by a legal court order. We are simply glorified babysitters for the government and the government is the Parents on  Vacation that can dictate what you do from afar while you watch their kids. Sound jaded? Because I am.

We sleep, eat, laugh, cry, pray, play together. We live and breathe together. Be it however temporary: we are a family together. But the government Parent on Vacation sees none of that. We [the government] pay you (pennies) and you do what we tell you to. Whether you agree or not. Whether you think it is for the best interest of the kids or not. And by the way, you have no rights. Your input is meaningless to us, unless (maybe) you are vested. Vested means you’ve cared for the children for a certain number of months (for us it is six) and then you get the golden ticket to have a little say on behalf of the child.

And, by the way, the biological parents who are in prison, or on the streets using drugs, or who physically injured their kids– they have more rights than you. You, the parent, who is tucking their children into bed at night, who is wiping the tears away when they don’t show up for their visits, who is changing the diapers, taking them to the doctor when they are sick. You are losing sleep with the addicted infant, you are losing sleep over the child who screams with night terrors. You’ve opened your home to lice. You’ve spent a myriad of hours and money for gas as you transported kids to and from therapies, visitations, court dates, etc.  You have turned your house upside down to meet home study requirements; moved your furniture, installed new fire alarms, fenced your yard, been asked about your sex life and your past growing up. You’ve spent countless hours in training classes away from your biological children; you’ve missed their dance recital or volleyball game to sit in a mind-numbing class. You have spent numerous hours patiently teaching manners, how to eat healthy foods, how to sit at a table, how to brush their teeth and do personal hygiene, helping them become functioning human beings. Hoping and praying they break the generational cycle.

You have been belittled and threatened by biological parents. They might show up at your house unexpectedly or call you at midnight. They leave voice messages accusing you of playing mind games with their kid, when little do they know you recently stood up for them with the court. While you take care of their children, you cheer them on and pray for them, expecting nothing in return.

You foster parents who have done all this; you are still the lowest man on the totem pole in this child’s life. Caseworkers do not have time for you (remember they are the Parent on Vacation that you are babysitting for), they only have time for you when it is worth something to them. You get kicked around, bullied into a corner and your lunch money taken away. As a foster parent our name may as well be Mat. “Hi, I’m Mat, feel free to walk all over me.”


Don’t it feel like the wind is always howl’n? 
Don’t it seem like there’s never any light?
Once a day, don’t you wanna throw the towel in? 
It’s easier than puttin’ up a fight!

If I’m being honest, I think about throwing the towel in at least once a week. Once a week for the last two three years (because licensing was a beast too).  That means at least 156 times I’ve thought about calling it quits. But just when I’m at my lowest I come home from work and that kiddo comes running at me, full bore, with arms wide open, yelling, “Mama!!!” By God’s sweet grace, and His hand holding me up I keep going. My continual prayer is that I can “Be strong and do the work” (1 Chronicles 28:10).

I got a phone call yesterday. Two days after we did our two year re-licensing. A phone call that I would have a corrective action plan. Someone felt that I had crossed the line of our confidentiality agreement. Hundreds upon hundreds of people across the United States are blogging and sharing stories on social media about their foster care experience while censoring pictures and avoiding names. I innocently joined the crowd for two simple reasons: to get support and to give support. Foster parenting can be so isolating. I found a whole new world of friends who were going through the same daily grind and we are cheering one another on, shedding tears, laughing and praying together. Before we were licensed I dove into foster blogs and read all that I could get my hands on. These blogs prepared me five thousand times better than any foster care classes run by the government, which lack any practical advice.  While I have been careful to censor pictures and only share broad stories I was asked to immediately shut down my blog and Instagram and Pinterest accounts due to breach in confidentiality. I was crushed at the thought of losing my support system. I have now gone on my accounts and erased any pictures of children in my care and from now on will post nothing but benign and broad concepts about fostering.

I was unknowingly in the wrong. I apologize for any harm that may have been caused from my naivety.  And I think the 777 people I follow on Instagram should all be called to a breach of confidentiality and have a corrective action plan as well; some breaching far worse than others!  Or we should think about changing protocol to match the 21st Century and help foster parents rather than reprimand them. When you go on social media you can see we’re all out there hurting from being the low man on the totem pole but doing all the hard work, we’re all out there giving all of ourselves for children in need and getting nothing in return except reprimands and demands to do more, to bleed more. It’s no wonder the turnover rate in foster parents is 30-50% across the nation! You can read about it here: The Foster Care Crisis: The Shortage of Foster Parents in America. 

I don’t do this for the glory of myself. I don’t do this for fun. I don’t do this for any selfish reason because this job is far too self-less. I do this because I felt called to help these modern-day orphans. God called us and we obeyed. Whether you are a Christian or not, I am starting to believe all the days we foster parents feel like throwing in the towel are from the Enemy (Satan) trying to stop the good fight, trying to stop us from bringing light to darkened lives. And so I pray for myself and all of you foster parents reading this: “Strengthen our feeble arms, be strong, do not fear, your God will come” (Isaiah 35:3-4).

–Fight the Good Fight; Have Courage, Leah

6 comments on “It’s A Hard-Knock Life: For Foster Parents

  1. I can relate to so much of what you said. I’m sorry Leah. I remember a time when I was reprimanded for having a blanket in a crib (no baby in it though) and was told if it happened again I would get written up. I about quit at that. I was working my bottom off taking care of a 2 y/o with trauma triggers and a 1 y/o with a G-tube, OT/PT therapies, and it felt like I got a sucker punch to the gut. When I realized that I was the low man on the totem pole, God really revealed to my heart that because I was the weakest and lowest, then I had the most power to pray for these kiddos. In my weakness, His power is made perfect. So keep on. God hears your heart and He cares. You’re not the lowest to him.

    • Thank you so much, no kidding, choking back tears in a busy coffee shop right now as I read this. Jesus was the lowest wasn’t he? He humbled himself, and he gave all of himself, for someone else– this is the sacred call of foster care!

  2. I absolutely love your blog and I am so sorry that you had to change anything.   Thank you for sharing your family’s journey, it’s been very inspiring to me.  I’ve read your posts and I have cried with you, laughed with you and I have thanked God for your family and the blessing you are to the children in your care.  Thank you for sharing your love, your joy, your tears, and most importantly your faith! 

  3. I am that potential foster parent reading all of these blogs to prepare to become a foster parent. You are helping me and so many other so much. Try to ignore the negativity be voice because they will always be there. You are bringing light and love to children and inspiration to people like me. Keep going….He is carrying you.

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