Close your eyes. Well… don’t because you can’t read this if you close them… but just go with me here. Imagine you’re sitting in your favorite house. In your favorite room. Wearing your favorite clothes. Holding your favorite childhood toy. In the floor next to you lays your favorite childhood pet. You’re comfortable and content. Suddenly, there’s a knock at your front door. Someone has come to speak with your parents. There’s some arguing, maybe some shouting. A stranger comes and tells you to pack a bag… but you can only take what you can grab in 2 minutes. That you’re going to live with another family for a while. And the next thing you know your pet, toy, clothes, room, house, and parents are all fading in the distance. You’re placed with a strange family with strange rules and given a bed that just doesn’t feel right. You don’t know where your parents are or when/if you’ll even see them again. Everything you’ve ever known your entire life has changed in just a few moments. That’s the life of a child in foster care. That’s the life of more than 11,000 children in North Carolina alone.
This scenario isn’t even the most traumatic. Some kids are taken because they are living in drug houses where meth is being manufactured. Some are taken because of cases of rape, abuse, or just neglect. I say “just” neglect. But sometimes I think that’s the worst. Because those kids are just ignored. Just forgotten. Left to fend for themselves at ages where most kids wouldn’t even be left alone with a known babysitter. It hurts my heart.
And here’s the part that’s the hardest for me to wrap my head around… despite all of the reasons they were taken away. Those kids, most always, miss their parents. They want to be back with their families. They just want their normal back. Even when their normal wasn’t good. I think that’s been the hardest part for me in the adoption of our oldest girls. Even in the midst of how good things are now and how bad they used to be… they still long for their bio-parents. And my heard hurts for them because I know there will come a day when they will fully realize the situation they were in as babies. And, most, likely, that will change their view of their bio-parents. And the truth is, I’m not sure that’s something I want for them. Yes it would take away some of the confusion surrounding their past. But I would love if they could keep that childhood innocence.
The goal for foster care is always reunification. But parents must meet, and often times exceed, guidelines set for them by DSS before this can be possible. So often children spend years in DSS custody. This is where foster parents come in to play. Foster Families are tasked with taking these children and loving them through the toughest trauma of their little lives. We have to meet the basic physical needs of the child. Clothing, nutrition, hygiene, safe bed to sleep in. But we also have to work on the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral needs of the child. Not to mention the psychological impacts that being in foster care can cause. In addition to managing the details of what the child needs, foster families are also expected to work with the bio-parents. To co-parent with the assistance of DSS. You’re the go between for visits. A lot of times, the beating stick for verbal parental aggression. And the hard line of protection between the child and their past. And then there’s the part that no one really talks much about. How to manage your own self-care as a foster parent. It’s easy to let your needs and the needs of your own family get lost in the tremendous task you’ve dug into. But when your tenacity and consistency pays off and you have a child who learns to feel like a normal child again… the rewards are indescribable.
The most frequent question I get asked is “why do you do it?” followed by the statement “you’re such a good person for doing this”. But my response to both is a quick “it’s not me, it’s a God thing”. There is no way I could EVER do this without Him. He set this up perfectly in my heart. In my husband’s heart. And in the hearts of our family and our support system. Every last detail of His plan has already been thought over and perfectly laid out before us. I keep that in mind when I get caught up in the small things. A “C” on a test might have drawn a grounding for my kids… but now there is a new perspective, especially for a child who missed 90+ days of school the year before. There’s a bigger picture at play. And I think that’s a lesson I hope to share with everyone. Yes the details matter… but humans are petty. They (I’m included here!!!) get caught up in things like “why”. But really, we should be focused on “how”. It’s not “why” be a foster parent, it’s a “how”. If you’re asking “why”… God has already shown you the need. When there’s a need, instead of trying to figure out “why” you should step up… figure out “how”. What steps do you need to take? There’s something everyone can do. From fostering, to providing respite care, to donating items the kids will need, to just simply praying for a foster family. Every bit helps. It really does take a village to raise children. And these children are the future of our communities. So it’s time for us to step up and help raise them.
A few links if you’re interested: