Featured in our April edition of The Ottawa Advocate
Braving the Hard Road.
Foster families rarely follow a straight path. There are blind corners and speed bumps, twists and tangles. Half the time the headlights are out and radio is blaring. Oddly, the oncoming traffic seems not to be trying to avoid collision, but at times, forcefully crash. And once the destination has been reached, or at least the destination for the day, the front tire is flat, battery has gone dead, and an extra passenger (or two or three) have appeared in the backseat.
Enter an afternoon of respite or a frozen pizza or 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Then, it’s back on the road at the crack of dawn. This is the path a foster parent chooses. This is the path Ross and Krista Brower have become accustomed to.
“The need is bigger than we could have imagined and we can’t look away.” – Krista Brower
“We knew it would be hard,” Krista commented, “but we could not imagine how hard it could be.”
Throughout their journey, Ross and Krista have been fortunate enough to witness successful reunification and have worked to build sustainable relationships with their foster children’s parents. The Browers have seen the amazing results that develop when foster parents and parents in care truly come together.
Krista says their intentional efforts to connect with one of their foster children’s parents in particular “started us on a really good path with [them]. We worked together for the eight months we had our foster daughter, and we felt so good about her returning when reunification happened. We are still in touch and love to hear about how well they are doing. It just felt like the whole experience was exactly how foster care is supposed to work,” Krista explained.
Like so many foster parents, though, the Browers have also been swallowed by conflict and sadness over foster children they knew had to move on, children who would find greater success with a different family. Another child, one they cared for over a significant period of time, has been maybe the hardest lesson they’ve encountered along this road.
“We loved our foster daughter for the two years that we had her. However, it became clear as time went on, that she was not meant to be in our family forever,” Krista said. For foster parents, these intersections of life come with no roadmap to reveal what futures lie ahead. There are midnights laden with questions, prayers for clarity or closure, and guilt that threatens to hold foster families in its grip indefinitely.
“that was still the hardest decision we have ever made,”
“There were so many signs that it wasn’t right, but that was still the hardest decision we have ever made,” she continued. “We felt like terrible people and had an incredible amount of guilt. We know it was the right decision, but we struggled (and still do) with anxiety and depression because of that situation.” This is the reality of so many families who foster, and it is through sharing these struggles with one another that families can start to heal. The Browers have been courageous enough to open up about their journey, and through both counseling and confiding in others who have experienced similar grief, they are working through the recurrent pain. They understand the hurt that comes is a byproduct of all the love they have cultivated.
Recently, this family has boldly stepped in to yet another unknown. After having put their license on hold after a difficult loss, the Browers were contacted to care for the sibling group of their adopted daughter. Again, the Browers made the hard choice and welcomed these small children, taking their household from five kiddos to eight overnight. This is no simple feat and the overwhelm that follows such a decision can be suffocating at times. However, the family is resolute and walks in to the giant task at hand day by day. “We tell ourselves, “We can do this today. Then, tonight, we will say, ‘We can do it tomorrow,’ but we could not do any of it without our foster community wrapping around us like they have.”
After all the Browers have endured, it would be easy to understand if they chose to call it quits, to take a straighter path for a while or forever. Thankfully, for the children in their home and the ones who’ve come before, the Browers do not scare easily. They are firmly committed to families in care. “The need is bigger than we could have ever imagined, and we can’t look away,” Krista said.
““The need is bigger than we could have ever imagined, and we can’t look away,” Krista said.”
And so, the Browers continue to face the blind corners and charge on ahead, certain in their call to keep moving forward, grateful for the community that gives them the strength to keep their wheels in motion yet another day. They choose to stay the path despite the bumps and bruises they know will come. “We can sacrifice our broken hearts if it means these children can experience love and safety,” Krista added, a conclusion with the power to reframe the world of foster care if only more people were as brave as the Browers.
By: Ashley Wirgau, Michigan Fosters