Foster Care: A Love Letter to My Biological Children

Javan and Tiras,

I love you, and I’m sorry.

Foster Care: a love letter to my biological children
Photo credit: Deanna Reese Photography (2015)

Foster care, like parenting or driving a car, is one of those experiences that can’t really be understood until you’re doing it. Months of classes, home visits, and conversations with other foster families didn’t really do it justice. What’s worse is that, to the extent your daddy and I felt ill-prepared for this journey, there was even less we could have done to prepare you.

Not surprisingly, the two of you have been champs about all of this. Since beginning our foster care journey seven months ago, I have become keenly aware – more than I ever was before – of the capacity for your hearts to love others. At first, I worried about this; despite your unique personalities which have, at times, made one of you the chief annoyance of the other, you are, without a doubt, best friends and I had a hard time coming to terms with the idea of another child changing you. And it has changed you, hasn’t it? As the initial excitement of a second brother wore off, it wasn’t long before you became acquainted with phrases like “sibling rivalry” and “the third wheel” – when tears and hurt feelings were the order of the day. When seating and sleeping arrangements changed. When playdates with friends became few and far between as the weightiness of what we’ve had to deal with seemed to distance our family from those around us. At times, our home has become a three-ring circus of sorts – the kind people want to watch and talk about from outside the tent but would never pay money to see.

No one ever said this would be easy.

But you didn’t give up. During a recent phone call with M’s teacher regarding a number of issues including his inability to establish healthy friendships at school, Tiras overheard the conversation and shouted “but WE are his friends!” His teacher says that he talks about the two of you often; the refrigerator drawings of our family or the “Magic Tree House” books he borrowed from his teacher to share with Javan are a testament to the meaningful bond you have created with him these last seven months. Even as he longs for what will hopefully be the reunification of his biological family, you have given him a glimpse of what love is and for that, I could not possibly be more proud of you.

Foster Care: a love letter to my biological children
Photo credit: Melissa Sherman Photography (2014)

I’m sorry about how hard this has been on all of us. If I could take back all of the hard days, the nights lost to therapy appointments or canceled family visits, the difficult conversations in our living room or the behaviors that just don’t make sense, then please know, I would. That said, when you are older, I hope to help you understand that the reality of thousands of foster kids everywhere – including ours – is far more difficult than these last seven months have been. Every day, I have to reconcile his reality with our own – what is best for him versus what is best for us. When you are older, you will be faced with similarly difficult questions; the only thing I can ask is this:

love as hard as you can. Some days, it’s the only thing we’ve got left.


When life becomes overwhelming, I step outside and lift my gaze to the heavens. For I am convinced that the God who holds the stars in place will hold us through the night.

~ Sheila Walsh

Tonya is a wife and mom of six – two biological children, sons Javan (9) and Tiras (6), and four children (7, 6, 3 and 6 months) by way of foster care. She is a Kansas City transplant from Aurora, Colorado (by way of MIZZOU and Jefferson City, Missouri) who enjoys BBQ, taco trucks, and sports of most every variety. She’s passionate about foster care, living organ donation, social media and its many uses, and movie theater popcorn. Love is best expressed to her in the form of Excel spreadsheets, cute office products, and fountain sodas from Quik Trip.


  1. As a foster parent myself, I identified with your story. Fostering is the hardest job, it does change your family. I have 5 kids ranging 28-14, all of them are more empathetic who think about the needs of others and have a mindset to change the world and make it a better place. 3 of my kids are talking about fostering and foster to adopt along with having bio kids! It hasn’t all been easy but it is worth it. Good luck!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Shawn. It is important (though hard, at times) to remember the bigger picture and how that might influence our children (hopefully for the better!) in the future. It’s important work, for sure!

Comments are closed.