The Worst Word to Say to a Foster Parent

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Over the course of our journey in orphan care, the number one word we hear as an excuse to not get involved is “attached.”

  • “I could never foster because I would get too attached.”
  • “Aren’t you afraid that if you foster, you will become too attached to the children who will have to leave your home?”
  • “I wouldn’t want my kids to get too attached.”


I have seen numerous posts on this subject, so I didn’t think it was a topic I would have to cover. But here I am, talking about “attachment” because it is still being said by too many people, and there are still over 500,000 children in our foster care system who need a home!


– “to fasten or affix; join; connect”;

– “to join in action or function; make part of”;

– “to bind by ties of affection or regard”


Why is attach the worst word you can say to a foster parent? Because attachment is exactly what foster care is all about! The majority of children in foster care have been pushed aside, beaten, neglected, misused. Many of them have simply been forgotten. A number of the infants who come into foster care have no idea how to attach to another human being. They have never been taught.

Attachment is not something to be feared! Attachment is a beautiful thing that comes from loving others well! Jesus commanded us to become attached:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” – Jn. 13:34.

I quoted Alfred Lord Tennyson at the top of this post because this is an oft-used quote to share with someone who has had their heart broken. But why do we use this philosophy on romantic love and allow the smallest, most innocent, most helpless in our society to be cast aside because we are afraid of attaching to them? Don’t they need us even more?

Even if we can only love them for a short time, isn’t it better that they were loved at all? Each one of us has an opportunity to impact these hurting children, whether it’s for a day, a weekend, a month, or a year. Our love can plant a seed in their heart that will stay with them when they feel lost. That seed will be watered by each person who loves them – even if just for awhile. And someday, maybe they will be able to stop the cycle and love well in return.

Attachment is hurled at foster families as though it is a dirty word, as though the foster parents don’t have hearts that break after each child leaves their home. Do you think my aunt and uncle were less heartbroken over the two children who were with them for five days than they were when the other two children left them after over a year? Do you think that my friend didn’t ache when they took a baby back after only 24 hours in her care?

Foster care is about attachment. It’s messy. It’s ugly. It’s broken. The circumstances that bring a child into foster care portray the worst of our world. We see evil rear its ugly head, and the vulnerable are the ones who suffer.

Attachment in foster care is an opportunity to join with a hurting child in healing from evil. It’s a chance to connect with someone who may otherwise never know the gentleness of a human hand. It’s about making someone in need of a family a part of your family – even if it’s only for a short time. It’s about “binding with ties of affection or regard.”

So if you have said one of the above statements about attachment, let me give you some clear answers.

  • Don’t foster if you won’t become attached. You won’t be helping anyone, and the child will suffer even more because of your unwillingness to love them. If, however, you know how to love, then foster care is right for you!
  • Go ahead and assume that a foster parent does, in fact, become attached to the children who come and go from their home. These are not cold, heartless people welcoming foster children into their home because they make “good money.” (They don’t, by the way, profit monetarily.) They love each and every one of them, and their hearts ache when they say goodbye.
  • My kids will become attached because I am teaching my children to love others well – just as Jesus told us to do. They’re a part of the mission as well, and their lives will be more blessed because they had the opportunity to love. Plus, my kids have the assurance and confidence that they have a safe, warm bed to sleep in tonight, and they will not go to bed hungry. They can love others well because they are well-loved.

I know that this post is a little harsh, and I mean it to be. We need to set aside our own feelings and look well to the ways of others – especially the ones who are hurting the most. It’s unacceptable that there are over 500,000 kids in foster care in our country. There are more than enough homes that could provide for these kids!

This post is meant to speak to YOU. What are you doing to help?

  • Become a foster parent.
  • Donate diapers, formula, clothing, baby gear, etc. to a foster agency or to a foster family you know.
  • Register to be an approved babysitter for foster kids in order to give the foster family a break (this just requires a simple background check by DSS in our state).
  • Train to become a respite/emergency family if you can’t take in children on a full-time basis.
  • Advocate.
  • Pray.

And please stop talking about “attachment”!

For more information on how you can make a difference for foster children, visit http://www.heartgalleryofamerica.org.


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