By Fern Horst
During her own growing up years, Louise Witmer often found herself reading stories of children who had been abused and neglected by those who were supposed to care for them. Her heart went out to these children who so much needed someone’s love. In many of these stories, the child grew up to live a normal life as a result of someone rescuing and loving them.
Louise determined that when she herself grew up, she would work in an orphanage and take care of all the abandoned children who had no one else to love them. As she grew older, she realized that foster parenting had replaced the orphanages of days gone by. Her dream grew into a new one: to some day be a foster parent.
At age 22, after volunteering at a home for mentally handicapped children for a year, Louse approached her mother for permission to fulfill her childhood dream. At the time she lived with her mom, two older siblings, and one younger. Knowing that this was a long-time dream, Louise’s mother consented.
Within one month of completing all the preparation and paperwork required, an eight-month old baby girl was placed in Louise’s care. Little Tamara had been abandoned at a truck stop by her parents, and was in bad need of medical attention and – you guessed it – love. Louise and her sisters poured out all the love they had to give to her – which was just what little Tamara needed! When she left Louise’s home several month’s later, she was a healthy and happy baby.
One month after Tamara left, Louise received a sibling pair. Daisy (2) and Tommy (eight months) were with her for one-and-a-half years. They were eventually adopted by a couple who also adopted their two older siblings.
While she still had Daisy and Tommy, Louise soon received a phone call asking her to take another sibling pair. It didn’t take long for her to realize that these two precious children needed to be separated for a time. Having been left alone much of their lives, they had developed their own language, and between the two of them knew how to get into a lot of mischief!
And so Andrew, age three, stayed with Louise while his older sister was placed in another home. Eventually their uncle got custody of both of them when Andrew was four. In the meantime, Louise taught Andrew how to love, and she taught him the importance of obeying.
Although Louise had asked to have only one child at a time, for over a year she had three small children in her care, all very close in age. She found this to be a challenge and a dream come true, and gave them all the love she had longed for years to give to children like Tamara, Daisy, Tommy, and Andrew.
But it was difficult when they left, all within a week of each other.
By this time Louise could see the effects on her mother from saying good-bye to children that she’d poured her grandmotherly heart into. Although she didn’t take any more foster children, she soon became nanny to four children who lived alone with their father. For almost eight years she provided much of the nurture and care that a mother would have given them. Again, she poured her heart and soul into them.
As Louise looks back over her experiences as a foster mom, she finds a lot of comfort in knowing that she provided a home for at least a short time for some of the many children who needed to know what a loving home was like. “If I hadn’t taken care of them, where would they have been during that time? What would they have experienced?” At least for a short time, Louise’s children knew what love is. In her heart they are still her children, and always will be. She often wonders where they are, how they’re doing, and tries to imagine what they look like now.
The worst part about being a mom to someone else’s children? “Giving them up,” was Louise’s immediate reply. “But I’d still do it all over again.”
Does Louise feel like she gave up having her own life for the sake of the children she took care of? She says it doesn’t matter if she did. To rescue a child from a loveless childhood, to see them have the care they would not have had otherwise, to impact their lives and sow seeds in their hearts was not giving up her life. It was fulfilling her dream.
- Take into consideration the child’s past.
- Be consistent in your love and in your discipline.
- You will likely need to teach the child how to love.
- If you live with someone else, establish your authority so they know that you are the one who is their caretaker and whom they need to obey.
- Remind yourself often that they’re leaving some day; acknowledge that this pain is part of the whole package.
- Comfort yourself with the knowledge that you have chosen a task that rescues a child from possible abuse and neglect.
- Find encouragement in the fact that you have sown seeds that may not otherwise have been sown.
- Find income that you can earn from home, or make sure that at least for the first month you can be at home to establish your relationship with the child. Find a reliable and loving babysitter if you need to work away from home.
- One final encouragement — even though I lived with my mother and siblings, I carried the full responsibility for their care and discipline, and did not depend on my family for babysitting when I needed to go shopping, etc. So I believe it’s feasible for a single person living alone to be able to fully care for a child, though single parenting is not God’s ideal.