Foster Parents—When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

by | 16 Nov, 2018 | 10 comments

Most days, I love my son greatly. I’ve become increasingly patient, responding to hostility with gentleness. I listen. I try to understand his perspective, taking into account his past affliction while holding him accountable as he needs.

Other days, I want to punch him in the face.

I’m not the perfect foster/adoptive father. Are you?

Parenting is hard work, no doubt. It always has been. Yet, our age presents unique challenges. Culture, media, the internet, the descent of our entire nation into godlessness— all conspire to mold your children into disciples of Satan.

Now, add a healthy dose of trauma.

System kids need perfection. Their trauma demands it.

And I’ve screwed it up, a thousand times.

I’ve been lenient when I should’ve stuck to my guns. I’ve been harsh when I should’ve shown mercy. I’ve lost my temper, been too dogmatic, focused on the less than important, not followed through, demanded more than necessary, expected too little. You name it. I’ve messed it up…and I’m tired.

Perfection is exhausting.

They Look So Normal

My sons look like any other kids.

In fact, they are handsome boys. I know I’m biased. Several of them look like the typical All-American kid— sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, the whole bit. The others sport year-round tans with mops of dark, curly hair—cute or handsome, depending on their age.

The trauma remains hidden…until it’s not.

It has no choice but to manifest itself in their actions.

I will never understand their trauma. I am only now coming to terms with its existence.
Consider, as a child, having your entire life ripped to shreds, repeatedly. A stranger shows up in the middle of the night and takes you…to a stranger’s house. The trauma of forced separation alone is stunning to consider.

They lack certainty and assurance. Who will love them? Who will take care of them? Will they ever see their parents again? Each move sets them back months in development. What happens after the fourth move, the fifth?

Physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or the fallout from drug abuse—all prevalent in system kids—darkens the reality further.

Episodically, all of my sons have been betrayed by those supposed to love them the most. Several suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or prenatal drug exposure. They witnessed violence, against their mothers. They were exposed to rampant drug abuse. They suffer physical, psychological, and emotional conditions.

And I expect them to act just like any other kid?!?

What About You?

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair to the kids. They didn’t ask for this hand. They were dealt it by the sin of another, through no fault of their own.

And now you have to deal with it. It’s not fair to you either.

They need a perfect parent. They need one who is compassionate, patient, loving, kind, understanding, steadfast, and firm. They need a parent who resonates with grace, one who emanates mercy.

They need a parent unlike you, or me for that matter.

In case you haven’t figured this out, you’re not perfect. Nor am I.

My son and I had a confrontation that went poorly. I prayed before speaking with him, but the issue became heated and before I knew it, he stormed out the door to the streets. In that moment, I failed him. He needed more than I had to offer. He needed something I did not give. This wasn’t the first time either.

After he walked, I retreated to the upstairs bathroom and wept bitterly. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. My failures, my shortcomings, my imperfections as a father, overwhelmed me in that moment.

I needed to be reminded of a few truths.

Academically, I know these truths, but in my desire to be what my sons need, I need to be reminded myself. Perhaps you do as well.

1. They don’t need perfection. They need advocacy.

My wife embodies the advocate.

There is no limit to which she will not go on behalf of our sons. She will move mountains, storm the very gates of hell, on their behalf. She battles red tape, the system, lawyers, and doctors on their behalf.

She took a catatonic, FAS baby and loved and advocated that child to health and vitality, to life. Woe be the person, system, or process that stands in her way.

When they lost their families, my sons lost their advocate. They needed another to champion their cause. They will never know the extent of her advocacy.

Yours won’t either.

They will never see the sleepless nights, the tears, the hours spent on the phone with uncooperative government agencies. They will never know the turmoil in your own life wrought by the turmoil of theirs, the uncertainty you deal with.

They just will never know.

And that’s okay. It has to be.

2. They don’t need perfection. They need love.

Can you love someone who doesn’t love you in return?

Can you love someone who cannot love you in return, who lacks the sheer ability?

They desperately need unconditional love, just like everyone does. Yet, their affliction will oftentimes render them unlovable. They lash out, they rage against the invisible constraints of that which they cannot understand. They misplace hate and anger, maybe direct it towards you, the very one trying to help them.

They run and rebel. They resist overtures and maintain baffling loyalties to those they ought to hate.

It doesn’t make sense. It’s hard. It’s frustrating.

Love them. You’ll respond inappropriately. I promise. You’ll get frustrated yourself. You’ll return anger for anger. You’ll make decisions in response to their aggression and then you’ll second guess yourself, maybe doubt.

“What am I doing? I’m not cut out for this.”

But love them. You must.

3. They don’t need perfection, they need Christ.

How could I father without Him?

As often as I’ve failed, as often as I’ve dropped the ball, I have Christ to rest upon.

Who embodies advocacy but Jesus?

He presently sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty interceding for us, advocating for us. (Romans 8:34, 1 John 2:1) He is our voice, our righteousness. In the great transaction, He imputes His righteousness to us and we our sin to Him and forever, He is our champion.

Who embodies love but Jesus?

Really. Let’s talk about it. Imagine marrying a woman or man knowing that every single day for the rest of your life, they would cheat on you with another. When I was in my most unlovable condition, while I was yet a sinner, a hater of God, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8) He decided to love me, he decided to set his affections on me.

Your foster children need this, they need Jesus, desperately.

Like anyone, He is their only hope. Yet, their affliction denies them the one who was supposed to bring them to the cross, their parents. Their suffering builds a great callous upon their hearts. The hardness is astounding.

Let your advocacy, let your love, fully demonstrate the love and advocacy of the risen Lord Jesus.

And let Him be your strength. Let Him be your rest. Let Him be your comfort, your strong tower, your rock, your help, your happiness. Let Him empower you.

Let Him free your foster children with the burden of your happiness or satisfaction.

My son needs perfection. I don’t have it, but I do. He needs perfection, so I give Him Christ, as much as I can, as often as I can, imperfectly, but perfect in my imperfections. When I tire, when I fail, I go to Christ. When I sin against my son, I repent. I ask Him to forgive me and then I ask him to forgive me. I lift him in prayer, do my best, and trust in the Savior.

Take heart. This is all you can do.


  1. Kim

    Thank you! My husband and I are currently fighting this battle. Yes, it is a battle every day. Five years ago we adopted 4 children who had been abused. We love them dearly and only want the best for them. Our son is rebellious, disrespectful, and aggressive. He continually tells us that he is not part of this family and we are not his real parents. It is exhausting! MANY days we want to give up. But we know that God brought us these children for a reason. He wants us to teach them to love Him. So we push on and frequently fail. Please keep us and these beautiful children in your prayer. We can’t do it alone. We need God’s help and guidance.

    • Bradford Smith

      Praying for you this morning, that you would have a spirit of steadfast love toward these children, that you would find all that you need, your peace, your rest, your strength, in the risen Lord Jesus.

  2. Stacey

    Nice written. One question that I have for all foster parents of faith. How do you deal with LGBTQ children placed in your home. How do you advocate for them ?

    • Bradford Smith

      Wow, that is a great question and one we haven’t had to face yet. I would say that their needs are not any different than the needs of another. They need advocacy, love, and ultimately, Christ. Now, how would we “advocate” for them, meaning advocate for their LGBTQ identity, I’m just not sure at this time. Have you had this situation? I’d be interested to hear.

  3. Libra

    This article has definitely brought up some thoughts and rings close to home. I’ve been told I’m the best advocate any child could ever have, I’m patient, I’m understanding, I work great with children, etc…and like many of you I don’t feel it. I see all my flaws and know I’m not perfect, I beat myself up regularly. Being a single parent of two small children who have past trauma and one child on the autism spectrum (and other issues) can be exhausting but I wouldn’t change my decision regarding the children for the world, God put us together as a family for a reason.

    • Bradford Smith

      Ma’am, may the Lord bless you for your commitment and love for these children!

  4. Ruth zarb

    Sometimes I loose all my faith in Christ as I pray for my foster child every day but he is getting only worse and I am loosing my strength fighting with myself to take the best decisions, to consider the best interest for the other members of my family. I get tired and depressed I only ask him to get help but he denies it, being 17 years I cannot force him and still I love him so much that I rather die than see him ruining his life.

    • Bradford Smith

      Ma’am, I am praying the Lord’s anointing upon you. May you have a spirit of steadfast love for your foster child. May the Lord bless you and sustain you. May He be your strength and your rest. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    • Rula

      I will pray for you and him too, there Re truely lots of tistemony anout the same ur sit3even God, and how God in his due time, ripe time, will restore everything, u cannot see the seed of ur efforts, prayers and tear to him but God has his Tim to grow it into something glorious, don’t give up, God is on the move in mighty ways, but something we cannot see it now in this moment but it will be there, ask God to open his heart and heart u can fast for him once every week, God sees, ur gonna be a tistimony to others who needs or will need it in due time, believe and trust God, be still and know that I am God.

  5. Ruth

    I am living day by day with him sometimes i see a light then it is dark again i try my best tjsnjs fot your comments


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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).


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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen


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