Last Updated on March 19, 2018

We knew baby Riley would probably be reunited with his birth family, but that did not stop us from falling in love with him. We loved that little boy with our hearts, souls, and minds. He became a part of our family. He came to us under-fed and with physical wounds–a hurting baby. Several months later, he was a healthy, happy, chubby little guy, ready to start crawling. His birth mom had also had a chance to heal and pick up the pieces of her life and was ready to resume mothering.

I was very proud of his birth mom, Michelle. She had been in a difficult situation, unable to function on her own. But when liberated from her abusive partner, she took charge of her life. She worked hard and made a home for Riley and his sisters. It was time for them to become a family again. While I knew it was time for Riley to go, I knew it was still going to hurt.

Our last few days with Riley were filled with snuggles, photos, packing, and lots of giggles mixed with a few tears. My husband gave Riley his last bath and tucked him in one last time the night before his homecoming. The next day, he kissed him and left for work with tears streaming down his cheeks. A friend offered to watch my other children while I took Riley to his birth mom. The kids also hugged and kissed Riley goodbye. They were very somber and Riley seemed to pick up on this.

It was finally time. I met Michelle in a parking lot and loaded all of his belongings in the car before taking him out of his car seat. Hugging him one last time, I placed him in Michelle’s arms. I was able to smile as I took a picture of the reunited family but then quickly waved goodbye and drove off with tears overflowing. I made it one block before I had to pull over because the sobs were making it impossible to drive.

I texted my friend, Nancy: “Why are we doing this again? It hurts so bad.”

Nancy: “Because if we aren’t there to be Jesus with skin on, his mom may have never felt Jesus’ hands and feet restoring her family and those kids may have never felt safe and clean and loved and valued. It does hurt. Praise God that your heart is still tender for these kids and not calloused!”

The most common misconception about foster parents is that they have hearts made of steel. I can assure you that this heart is not made of steel. It’s tender and bruised. But I have a God bigger than the hurt. A God who comforts me, heals me, and prepares me to love another child in need. A God who uses my hands and feet to point to Jesus.

P.S. Riley went back to his family three months ago. Last week our family met Riley and his family for the first time since his homecoming. He watched me from his mama’s arms for a minute then reached for me with a shy smile. After an hour of passing him around our family, watching him toddle around furniture and snuggling, Riley gave me a big sloppy baby kiss. I gave him a photo album of his time with our family. The last page features the photo I took of him reunited with his family and the caption, “Happily Ever After’ begins now … with your family.”

*All names were changed to protect privacy.

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  1. What a great article! Thanks so much for sharing. I to am a foster mom and adoptive mom of 6 Children. Each story is unique but all tied together by Jesus. It is amazing when you look back at these stories and can see that it could have only been Jesus. Keep being those hands and feet and loving these kids as Jesus does. May The Lord bless you abundantly!!!

    1. I could never see myself as a foster mom – could never be strong enough to let them go. But we adopted our first child last year and the foster parents made it such a smooth and positive transition from their home to ours. I am very thankful for foster parents – we wouldn’t be a family today without people like you!

  2. Jennifer Goins says:

    A precious article today! LOVE!

  3. Sniffle! You made me cry, sweet friend! I love what your friend told you. We must be Jesus’ hands and feet to those who are hurting. Thanks for doing that in such a profound, self-less manner. I admire your courage and the love your family has for the hurting.
    Love you, sister!

  4. Praise God that He lead me to read this today. My heart is breaking as I have the same thing coming up. Thanks for the words and the reminder why we do this work.

  5. As a foster parent, I agree with you whole heartedly. I’ve said goodbye to seven babies and sobbed through each each goodbye. The pain makes us qualified to be good foster parents, as my fostering hero said.

  6. Praying for you. As a foster mom myself, I understand the mixed blessings of bringing these children in our homes. The hardest part is goodbye. In May 2012, my family had to say goodbye to our foster baby, whom we had from birth until 19 months. We were told that the parental rights were going to be terminated and wrongfully told that we would be able to start getting ready to adopt her. 3 months later, we found ourself in the agency, handing over our baby to the parents she barely knew. We still are greiving the loss of her and will never truly heal from this. We have had 11 fosters in our home and miss them all dearly…. I will truly keep you in my daily prayers. Thank you for the courage to talk about this experience. How could we do this without our faith and our God’s love and help?

    1. We went through the same thing. We had 2 little angels, ages 1&2, in our family for 20 months. We too were told that the biological parents tights would be terminated and we were prepared for adoption only to have these angels taken from us, the only family they remembered and returned to strangers. My heart will never heal from this. Struggling to go forward after this heartbreak.

  7. Great article! This is exactly how I felt when we had to let go of our first placements (3 sibs) three months ago. I hope to be able to see them soon. Miss them so much!

  8. This made me cry. I just said goodbye to my first foster baby yesterday and I never knew anything could hurt so bad. I’m praying and have faith but I need wisdom…this is such a hard pain…

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss and pain, Joy, but so thankful you were willing to love and let go. It’s ok to cry and hurt. Jesus didn’t promise us a pain-free life- in fact, He promised us pain but that He would walk through it with us! Keep your focus on Him and He will comfort and strengthen you. You have made an ETERNAL difference in the life of that baby!

  9. I loved this article! We foster too and I’ve shared our story about it on my blog, The Proverbs 31 Project at . It is so encouraging to hear your story and know that I’m not the only one sobbing like mad when a precious kiddo goes home! It has bothered me that people say that they wouldn’t be able to give them up- like I am somehow detached or cold because I love my kids like they are my own. I love how you say that God is bigger than the hurt- such a great way to put it! Thank you for sharing!

  10. We have been fostering for a year now, and have had seven kids in our home at various times at this point.

    Yesterday, we said goodbye to a little one who had been with us for 7 months. A friend posted this article on my wall, and it was truly, truly, exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for sharing.

    (I did quote you in a blog post I did today with full links, please let me know if that’s okay.)

    Again, this post soothed my very broken heart, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing yours.