A friend of mine, along with her husband, is currently looking to the foster care system to find a child. I decided to look into the kids "available" to get an idea what she was in for.
It was interesting, and I found myself saying that "yeah, if we change our minds, I can do this", thinking an older child would save the trouble of younger kids, which is the main part of childrearing that I am not equipped to handle.
But then I read their descriptions. Behavioral disabilities, learning diabilities – I've long thought that I'd never be able to deal with a child who wasn't smart. And these were the "special ordered" kids I chose when I went through the checklist. I took out kids with physical and developmental disabilities completely. I found myself looking at what the future would hold for a kid like this. What if they weren't equipped for college, ending up like my brother? Bad decision-making skills run with the men in my family, but I can't imagine raising a child like my brother — 28, living at home with his daughter, no follow-through skills, no ambition… I would lose my mind in my mom's position. While I know many of these kids just need a loving home to turn them around, how many of them have wounds that go so deep that there would be a lifetime of self-sufficiency issues? It sends shivers down my spine.
As I found myself picking and choosing the kids that would be acceptable, I remembered a big reason why we don't want to do this: it's a crap-shoot. What if we ended up with a child with a temperament like our middle nephew, with a "sensory disorder" and ADHD? Or a girl like my cousin with a major learning disability so that she's at the same reading level, in the 7th grade, as my 7-year-old niece. Of course we could potentially get lucky enough to get a kid like C, or my best friend's first son (jury's still out on the baby!)… but who knows!
The times when I feel that maybe I could handle kids, it's always a best case scenario. 100% of the time I think handling one of the aforementioned "bad seeds" (god that's mean) and all it does it reinforce that I don't want to do that. It actually starts happening even when one of the good kids starts acting up, and again the 24/7-ness is a dealbreaker.
But my point is, when I found myself picking and choosing the elements in a potential kid (7-11 years old, minor emotional or behavioral issues, zero physical, developmental or learning issues) I realized that only under those circumstances could childrearing be for us. I still think a foster child would be the best bet for us if we did decide to do this, but I'm not sure we'd be able to get over the potential issues.
My friends who are looking into this are much more prepared for this reality than we are. They've been fostering traumatized greyhounds for years and while it's not the same, it's definitely a stepping stone. She is also an ex-foster kid (one who turned out okay), so she knows more about the system than most. I don't know how someone could look at that list and say "I can do this" when hearing about the kid who has trouble with animals, or has violence issues. The poor kids… thank the gods there are people who can do this. I guess my heart's just not big enough for that.