The Foster System: Rachel Hollis Struggled as a Mom

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you considering becoming a parent in the American foster system? Are you already a foster parent and dealing with the many struggles that come with it?

For a time, Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face was a foster mom in the foster system. She shares the difficult and personal journey she had to go through in her hopes of adopting a daughter.

Keep reading to hear about Hollis’s foster system experience and her tips on how to persevere through difficult times.

Navigating a Difficult Journey Through the Foster System

Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face, tells the story of her family’s adoption journey because, though it was incredibly difficult and painful, she hopes to empower and inform other potential adoptive families or those entering the foster system as a foster parent.

While pregnant with her third son, she and her husband decided they wanted to adopt a little girl someday. They decided on international adoption in Ethiopia because they were moved to help the orphan crisis in that country in a small way. After two years of paperwork, blood tests, interviews and all the red tape required by international adoption, they were informed that Ethiopia was “pausing” its adoption program. They had faith and stayed in the program, but six months later, the country permanently closed adoptions to the U.S. 

Still believing they were meant to find their daughter, they decided to pursue adopting through the foster system in the U.S., knowing how many children were in need of love and care. But they had no idea how difficult the foster system-to-adopt program would be, including managing relationships with biological parents and experiencing the trauma of children being transitioned out of their home.

They were called to care for a medically fragile baby, then asked to take her toddler sister, becoming a family with 5 children overnight. After those children transitioned out of their home, they were asked to care for newborn twin girls who would be available to adopt. Despite prior hurt and misgivings, they accepted and were thrilled.

The Struggles of Being a Parent in the Foster System

While caring for the twins, they found out they were under investigation for child abuse after an anonymous call to a child abuse hotline. This was traumatic and upsetting to the whole family. The charges were unfounded, but an in-depth investigation had to take place. Anyone can make an anonymous call and it’s quite common for it to happen out of spite or revenge. 

She felt awful exposing her kids to intense interrogations and realized how naïve she had been about the reality of the foster system world. Worst of all, in the midst of this investigation, they found out their twin girls weren’t actually available for adoption — a biological father had wanted them all along. They had been lied to, misled and taken advantage of by the foster system — and still had to endure the intense ongoing child abuse allegations, which ultimately were labeled “inconclusive,” which is as good as it gets. 

After this devastating experience, Hollis’s husband fought to continue their journey through independent adoption. Though wary and daunted, she agreed not to give up, and they were ultimately able to adopt their daughter Noah through independent adoption and not the foster system.

Through this painful journey, she chose to have faith, move forward, and see her experiences positively instead of being angry. She found the good in the situation:

  • They learned about the orphan crisis both internationally and domestically, and donated time and money to helping.
  • She got to know and love 4 little girls to whom they were connected for a time.
  • They built a stronger marriage by going through these experiences together (Hollis wrote this before her divorce).

Opening up about her painful, personal story is a way to help others. Her lesson: she kept showing up and trying, with courage and honesty, even when things got difficult.

Tips on Being Honest About What You’re Going Through

Try these strategies when you decide to be open about a painful situation:

  • Take the plunge. When you’re honest about a painful situation, it’s like being thrown in the deep end of the pool. It won’t be easy or pleasant, but once you’re in, you’re in. The longer you live in a state of honesty, the easier it gets to exist there.
  • Find others who are honest. When you surround yourself with people who’ve been honest about difficult situations and feelings, you can learn how they found courage.
  • Research stories like your own. Seeking out a community that understands your path helps you feel less alone. 

The Foster System: Rachel Hollis Struggled as a Mom

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Rachel Hollis's "Girl, Wash Your Face" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Wash Your Face summary:

  • Why you should accept that life can be messy
  • How seeing that you're in control of your life can help you live more joyfully
  • The 20 lies you might be telling yourself

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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