Seth is one of those people I wish everyone had the privilege of knowing and learning from. He has consistently proven to have a humble heart, is eager to learn, and loves really well. I know to my core that Seth wants the best for every person he encounters, and all the others he never will.
When Seth and Lacey decided to become foster parents in 2016, I was on the edge of my seat, thrilled to witness their journey unfold. I knew it would break them down and build them up and shape them like all hard but redemptive things do, but more than that, I knew I’d learn from them things I’d never learned before.
Their journey has not been easy or smooth by any means. I have shed many tears with and for my friends and their kids, feeling the depths of loss that comes hand in hand with saying yes to kids from hard places.
It’s easy for the onlooker to watch foster parents and think they are some form of superhuman. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “Oh I could never do that,” when really, I think more people actually could.
I reached out to Seth because he is wise and kind, thoughtful and understanding, honest and real. You cannot get much better than real.
Here’s a peek inside of Seth’s head, heart, and experience as a foster dad:
NB: When and how did you and Lacey come to the decision that becoming foster parents would be your first and initial journey to becoming parents?
Seth: When we first got married, we had talked about the idea that adoption was going to be a part of the story we lived out in marriage…but as we moved into the Portland area, we realized the intense need for people willing to become foster parents in this community. After volunteering in a local foster parent’s night out for about a year, someone approached us, asking if we’d be willing to temporarily foster a child that had been living with them. That was over a year and a half ago, and we’re still going.
NB: How long have you been a foster dad?
Seth: A year and a half-ish
NB: What did it mean to you to “attach” to your foster children before you became a foster dad? Has that changed as you have parented your kids over the years?
Seth: I sort of had this idea that I’d be able to emotionally separate all the parts of our weird life. As if I would be able to just love and love and love and then not really let myself attach to the idea of parenting any child. I don’t think that’s helping anyone. So that didn’t happen. I totally fell in love with our kids even knowing it was supposed to be temporary, and I’m glad we allowed ourselves to be the best example of being all-in toward your family. Even in its imperfections, doing the dance of giving and pushing away that is what both I and the kids did.
NB: What has been the most vulnerable part for you as a foster dad?
Seth: When I got married, I always told people I didn’t realize how much of a mess I was until I was giving my whole messy, broken self to someone everyday. There is nothing I could hide, even when I wanted to. Bringing kids into your home with their own hard pasts combined with all your own crap into this space where you are all sort of powerless and just relying on love and grace to get you through is about 100 million times harder and more revealing than even marriage. It’s vulnerable and hard but completely worth it.
NB: What has been the hardest part of this journey, for you, as a foster dad? What are a few other hard pieces of this journey you wish you knew before beginning?
Seth: I think having to know that you’re giving your all, and at the end of the day, you ultimately have no control in the outcome of a kid’s life is so hard. It’s really disempowering for all parties on this end of things. There are no promises or assurances you can give. You are literally just sitting in the mess with vulnerable children, and all you can really do is keep going and sitting with them when they can’t anymore.
I think I just wish every foster parent had a community like ours to keep them going through those moments when everything feels hopeless. We could literally not do it without them; they don’t talk about that in the trainings as much as they need to.
NB: Is there any way to prepare to become a foster parent?
Seth: I would say that it’s important to know other people already on the journey to get a good picture of what you’re stepping into without some wild, romanticized ideas that you’re “saving kids” or something dramatic like that.
The journey is dramatic enough without savior complexes. I would say that just practically. I wish I had known more about the way trauma impacts kids (ACES, TBRI, Connected Parenting).
NB: What resources have you found to be incredibly useful and helpful? Books, blogs, websites, podcasts, organizations?
Seth: Anything from Karyn Purvis Institute, Confessions of an Adoptive Parent (is that the name?), local foster/adoptive support groups, Embrace Oregon/Every Child.
NB: What have your foster kids referred to you as and has it changed?
Seth: When our first placements (I sort of hate that term, but…) moved in, we wanted them to call us whatever they felt comfortable with. We suggested uncle and aunt because it felt familial but also wasn’t confusing them further (in our heads anyway) as they’d called several sets of people “mom” or “dad” at the time they were placed with us.
As time went on and things became less short-term, they kids began calling us mom and dad more often, and we were encouraged by counselors to let the kids take the lead on what they’d like to call us.
NB: What are your thoughts about parents going into foster parenting with the intention of adopting, even if the children are not yet legally free?
Seth: So risky for the heart of the kids and for the heart of the parent. In our state, DHS is very clear that they do not want people to foster just so they can eventually adopt.
Every kid and every case is different and life is not linear, but I’d say that it’s important to know your role, honor kids, honor biological parents, and stay in your lane until there have been significant changes to what is going on.
NB: When people ask you about your (foster) kids’ story, right in front of them, how do you respond? How do you WANT to respond?
Seth: Oh man. I want to say, “Are you serious? Do you just drop your life story full of complexity and trauma to a stranger in the produce section of Trader Joe’s? Neither does a 5-year-old, so back off!”
But I think some better responses are: “It’s not my story to share, thanks for your concern.” “We’ve all got stories of our own, don’t we? Thanks for asking, but this is not the time for that.”
NB: How can or how have others supported and helped you on this journey?
1. Listening instead of advice giving.
2. Bringing us food.
3. Babysitting or providing respite care.
5. Gift cards for coffee.
NB: What are the best parts of this journey and what makes it worth it?
Seth: I think getting to do this with my partner/wife is one of the best things I’ve ever been able to be a part of. It is straining and tiring and frustrating to parent together and parent well when you’re trying to love kids from hard places, but the opportunity to love wins out…most times.
Getting to learn from kids is probably the greatest privilege. To know their courage and brilliance in the face of so many difficult things is the biggest honor I’ve ever known.
NB: If you could tell the world anything about being a foster dad, what would you tell them?
Seth: I’d say, it’s worth the risk. There is so much much that feels unbearable about it, but there is so much that is beautiful about it.
NB: If you could tell your kids something and they’d hear it fully, what would that be?
Seth: You are loved in all the ways that love is real, that is here for you.