With everything that happens in the foster care system there are a lot of tears to shed. Hopefully the most obvious to you is the stories we hear about the children and what they've been through. Then there are the stories of the foster families who give up so much of their hearts caring for children only to see them go back to the families that once abused or neglected them bad enough to get them removed from the home, which in my experience so far takes a lot. But there are other tears to cry that may not be so obvious.
We have no qualms about sharing that when we intended to get into foster care we did so in the hopes that we'd quickly find a sibling group to adopt and after that happened we'd stop. My husband used to say "We'll do that 2-3 times and if it doesn't work out we'll go toward straight adoption". I've mentioned before that once again God surprised us in His plans for us in that we really love the foster care part too - it has changed from something that we once did just to get through to adoption to something we've been called to do, at least for this season of our life.
Termination of parental rights is the step in the foster-adopt process where a biological parent loses all rights. They no longer become the parent in the eyes of the law. This sometimes happens by way of mutual decision (parents "sign over" rights) or sometimes biological parents fight the process tooth and nail. Regardless, when termination occurs the decision is final (pending appeal of course) and permanent. The next step for a child is to find a permanent home through adoption or other type of permanent custodial situation. You'd think if one of our cases were to go to the point of termination (meaning, in most cases, we'd get the first chance to adopt the child) we'd be celebrating, particularly in light of why we got into this ministry.
The truth is termination makes my heart break. Don't get me wrong - I think it is absolutely necesary in certain cases and certainly something I look forward to when we get our "forever kids" in our home. But the weight of that decision weighs heavily on me. Not that it's mine to make, but being a part of it still makes my heart grieve. Of course I grieve for the lost purpose - the intended design for parents to provide Christ-like parenting to each of their biological children. Sure, I grieve for the child, who has had to experience this challenge in their life and who will have to someday wrestle with the idea that their biological parents "didn't want them", "at least not enough to do what it takes". But in these cases I know that a) Christ is a redeemer and can be trusted with the children's future and b) Christ can be trusted to provide good alternative parents to them.
What I struggle with the most at that point is the broken heart of a mother. I grieve for the parents who've lost their children forever. Sure they may deserve it - this isn't the type of grief that makes me feel guilty for the termination or feel like it's so sad so we should give them their children back - but it's a permanent thing that can't be reversed, ever. My mother's heart chooses to believe that for these parents, especially the mothers, they love their children and for that reason alone this may be an unrecoverable blow. If I lost my biological son for some reason, though I know God would have his hand in my life, I feel like my heart would die. If I could never see him again, or if he could never see me again, this is unfathomable.
We've had a few cases head toward termination. In one case the child stopped having visits with the parents only a little while after he/she came into care (joined our home). I remember the day I got the call from the caseworker vividly - when she told me this child's visits were being canceled because the parents weren't showing up, rather than being elated that this indeed maybe headed toward termination and perhaps adoption for us, I was devastated. This child may never see the parents again, ever. These parents may never see this child again, ever.
And I shed a few tears. Months later there indeed has been 1 more visit. And now for every visit we may have in the future I'm reminded that indeed that one may be the very last time. And my heart breaks for the child. And my heart breaks for the parents, even if it is the right thing to do.