Dear foster mama, 

I’m writing this letter to you, my younger self, when you had just started fostering and had no idea what to expect. You sat through countless fostering classes and had an air of naiveté that’s almost laughable now. You believed that love, patience and a bed was all you needed. 

I can’t prepare you for the days ahead, but somehow you will hold immeasurable joy and crushing pain. Please don’t let that stop you from taking the next step. I’m hoping this letter offers some reassurance when you need it most, but if I’m honest, maybe I need it, too. Maybe these words will remind me of truth and ease some troubling thoughts. 

I CAN’T PREPARE YOU FOR THE DAYS AHEAD, BUT SOMEHOW YOU WILL HOLD IMMEASURABLE JOY AND CRUSHING PAIN. 

Fostering is difficult. You will walk a fragile journey that is completely different than what you anticipated. Nothing prepares you for the unexpected calls and emergency placements. With a simple ring of the phone, life will change. Suddenly you will become a mama for the in-between time. You will not have nine months to purchase all the necessary things. You will never post a picture on social media or make a public announcement of a child’s arrival. You will have no idea if this little one will stay for three days or three years. And yet, in a whirlwind, your schedule will adapt and suddenly you will be walking the gentle path of caring for a child you barely know.

There will be moments when you feel unequipped and unprepared. There will be moments when your heart is shattered. And perhaps even moments when you find yourself exhausted and crying on the kitchen floor. You might wonder if you can make it to the next day. But you will. 

Through tired eyes and unpredictable days, you will do the hard things because you see what most don’t. 

You will be a caregiver. You’ll spend days trying to learn all about this little stranger. You’ll do school drop-offs, visits to the doctor, laundry, family visitations and nighttime stories. The mundane tasks will become adventures with lost sweaters, messy bedrooms and snacks galore. 

You will be a chef. You’ll learn to create meals with unfamiliar ingredients to soothe rumbling tummies and offer little pieces of comfort. 

You will be a grief holder. You’ll hold nervous hands and sit in the disappointments. You will journey through complex feelings and bear witness to heartbreaking moments. There will be questions you’re unable to answer and promises you’re unable to fulfil, but you will hold space for their weary hearts and remind them they are loved. 

You will be an encourager. You’ll learn to love hockey and cheer from the sidelines. You will sit through frustrating math homework and edit English essays. You will buy tutus and ballet slippers and give standing ovations at dance shows. You’ll celebrate each step because they are worth it. 

You will become part of their story. You might be a mama for the in-between, but for those moments, each “huggle,” each kind word, each nod of reassurance are gentle reminders that will stay in their journey forever. 

You will be entrusted with the sacred. You will share in first words and first steps. You will hear them read their first book and watch as they find what brings them joy. You will walk them through first dates and high school drama. You will hold their hand through the scary and you will carry their tears through the uncertainty. 

You are their mama for the in-between. You’ll see their strength and their ability to persevere. You’ll fall in love with their smile and be mesmerized by their heart. You’ll be captivated by their life and suddenly that precious life, once unknown to you, entangles with yours. You’ll forget that you are the mama for the in-between because love, patience and a warm bed don’t have time limits or restrictions. 

My dearest foster mama, whether it is three days, three years or beyond, lavish them with love. 

Love them when they are scared and dropped off at the door of a strange house with unfamiliar faces. Love them when they’re angry and throwing a doll house across the living room. Love them when they’re sad and you’re not enough to soothe the pain. Love them when they are excited for family visits. 

Love them enough to get attached, to let them overtake your home and capture your heart. And if the day comes when the in-between time is over, take a deep breath, say a prayer and love them as they wave goodbye. 

For you are their mama for the in-between. 

CAPTAIN CRYSTAL PORTER is the territorial Indigenous ministries consultant. She and her husband, Captain Norm Porter, have been foster parents for eight years. 

Illustration: MeganNicoleArt 

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Comment

On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Irene Baker said:

You dud an awesome job with writing about your experiences in fostering these special children. It takes a lot of courage, love and devotion to being in-between momma and daddy to these children and though it may be as in-between parents, your influence on them will carry them through their growing up years whether it be short or long times of caring for them. I'm so proud of you both! Love you!

On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Yvonne Gillard said:

Beautiful Crystal! 🥰🌹

On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Fern Penney said:

I watched you grow up and I always knew you were going to make a big difference in this world and it happened to be with foster children. Not everyone could do what you and Norm have done and I’m sure will continue to do. I know that God has placed just where he needs you. May he continue to use you for His Honour and Glory.

On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Jackie Sheaves said:

Crystal thanks for sharing your journey about fostering. It is a great article! I am so proud of you both for opening your door and hearts to these wonderful children. I have witnessed some of the journeys that you both have went through as foster parents and seen the joy on the kids faces knowing they have someone to depend on and to love them when they need it the most. The Foster system needs more parents like you and Norm. ♥️

On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Barbara Rideout said:

Captains Crystal and Norm, God has certainly blessed children who get to have the support from you when they need it most. The love shown to these children who are placed with you, doesn’t go unnoticed. You simply let them in and foster with care. You will be richly rewarded for that sacrificial love. A true act of being Christlike.

On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, Phyllis Chislett said:

Crystal this is an amazing story. You and Norm are so wonderful for sharing your home with these children. They are very lucky to have you as their in between mama.

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