You know those crazy friends of yours who run marathons? I mean, cray cray. Amiright? I mean, who would put themselves through that? Obviously I’ve never done it myself. Forget about the sore muscles. Bloody, blistered feet don’t sound that appealing to me. Do you know that some have their toenails FALL OFF?! And the chaffing. Um, that’s many-a-mile of skin rubbing together. My friend has a picture of himself running the New York Marathon with bloody armpits! I’ll pass and cheer on anyone else you wants to do that to themselves.

And yet…I’m secretly intrigued. I want to do it. I’ve secretly always wanted to do it. It’s like I’m being called to it. I know my toenails may fall off, and my feet will blister. I think I have some tricks to eliminate the bloody armpits (for real, can you even imagine?!), but I know that there will be things I can’t fully prepare for when running for hours like that. But I want to do it. I have done a couple half marathons and those were not fun…until I got to the end. I did it, and if felt awesome.

Being a foster parent is sort of like a marathon. There’s a whole lot of blisters and lost toenails before you cross that finish line. With fostering though, there’s no finish line. There are water stations along the way that give you relief and that give you the boost you need. When the child hugs you. Says they love you. When there’s a wonderful, successful visit with their family. When you are able to adopt that child. But there’s also times when the marathon is cut short. The child you’ve given your heart to has to leave and you are left empty. Many of us cheer from the sidelines because we feel like the love foster parents give is incredible, yet we feel we couldn’t go through the pain. Just like running for hours isn’t for everyone, being a foster parent isn’t for everyone.

So, what keeps foster parents running? When there is so much heartbreak, why do they keep doing it? I asked a few friends and perhaps their experiences will shed some light into the heart of a foster parent. This is their why.

“Because I hope that someday I can adopt. Because I made a commitment. Because he’s the cutest little boy and I love having him in my life for a moment.” — Anonymous

“It is heart wrenching and pure joy at the same time! Why do we foster? There is nothing as heartwarming as hearing a child laugh from pure happiness when you know it has been a long time since they have ever laughed. Taking a child to see their first movie. Pick out new underwear and socks is like getting a new bike for most kids. Yes, it is painful but your goal is to bring joy safety and happiness even for a short term. Those children will remember it forever.” — Anonymous

“We keep going because we know we can help and we hope to adopt again, if these children can’t return home we hope to give them a loving home and family.”  — Amber Hoellein

“Why do we foster? We got involved in it because we wanted to adopt. Which we still do, but our goals have shifted a little. We would like to be a safe place for children to land. Because they are worth it. Yeah it’s hard, and sometimes it sucks. But these kids need someone in their corner and their parents need positive support.” — Anonymous

“My husband and I struggled for 10 years to have children. We tried private adoption, but nothing was happening with that. Many people suggested we look into foster care. Eventually we decided to start the process to get licensed and we’re glad we did! We got two foster kids right away (we’ve had them for almost a full year!), and we have loved giving them a safe place to live while their parents do what they need to do to get their kids back. We’d love to adopt if we got the opportunity, but we’re also happy to help get families back together. It’s hard thinking about having kids leave us after getting attached to them, but it’s also a wonderful feeling to know that we did our part to help another family. Kids deserve a loving home and a loving family.”  — Rebecca Adams

“Because every child deserves a family. Every child deserves a chance. Every child deserves a loving home. And usually, parents deserve a second chance.”  — Amy Madsen

Do you feel that? These are the marathon runners. These are the ones that don’t give up because they understand what it’s like to get to those water stations and then to cross the finish line. These are the foster parents who give us hope when we feel called to it but may be a little scared. Their love is so strong…and that’s why they do it.