Vol. 8, No. 1• November 2003

Some Lessons Only Children Can Teach Us

by Debbie Gallimore

Editor's Note: This was written in response to Letters from Foster Care

Out of the mouths of babes.

As a former foster parent of ten years, these letters represent the reality that I saw in the lives of the children I fostered.

No matter the abuse or the maltreatment, the children always seemed to have a place for their parents in their hearts. It took me several years before I was able to learn this valuable lesson from them. Children love their parents because they are their parents.

Birth parents are more than what they have done. They are the people who gave life to the children we love. They created the color of their eyes, the texture of their hair, and parts of their souls we can never touch.

This was a difficult reality for me to accept. Nothing in MAPP could have prepared me for this life lesson.

What I didn’t realize for many years is that the more I accepted and honored the birth families of my foster children, the more the children connected with and loved me. It seemed such a paradox. Yet I came to realize that by honoring and loving their families, I was honoring and loving them, too.

For years I underestimated a child’s ability to love more than one mother or more than one father. Once I realized how big a child’s heart could be, I started growing mine. I developed wonderful relationships with birth mothers, birth fathers, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. I learned to genuinely care about them because of who they were to the children that I loved so dearly.

One of the definitions of “foster” is “to promote the development of, or cultivate.” In many ways the children that my family and I cared for fostered us. We learned to feel frustration and love, sadness and love, and fear and love. Just like the children, we have the capacity to feel different things at the same time.
These letters reminded me of those valuable lessons. No matter the hurt or the betrayal, the human heart has the capacity to love. The longing and void that is created in our children by the loss of their birth families is something we can never fill.

All we can do is love our children.

One way to express that love is to make room in our hearts for the people who gave such amazing gifts to our world. Look between the words of anger and loss and see the love that’s always there. That’s where the hope lies—for all of us.

Debbie Gallimore is community outreach coordinator for NC Kids.

Copyright 2003 Jordan Institute for Families