In the past month and a half, we have had seven different children come and go from our home. We have loved them, and we have had to say goodbye as they go on to a long-term placement. It has been extremely hard to watch these kids, and it has been extremely rewarding.
But every time we invite one of them into our home, we are reminded of the evil that lurks in the shadows, just down the street from our own front door. These children come with baggage–even the babies. They come in need of baths, food, and love. They have no boundaries and wander around our home in awe of all of the toys that we have. Some have brought a few items of their own, and some don’t even have a diaper to spare.
In some ways, we are finding that emergency and respite care is a lot more difficult than if we decided to keep them long-term. These children are not given time to acclimate to our routine before they are whisked away. They attach to us quickly but don’t understand common courtesy and sharing. We love them, but they leave and forget us. Two of the children were with us for less than 24 hours. Did I even make a difference in their little lives?
One of our respite kids lives with some friends of ours. We saw how this little one responded to her environment and to her foster family when she first arrived–almost a year ago. She suffered from anxiety, over-stimulation, drugs, and a myriad of other problems. She refused to leave the confines of her foster mom’s lap. She was terrified of new people and hated going to daycare. But they have loved her well. They have given her all they possibly have to give. And now that little girl is an entirely different person. She has more confidence. She actually interacts with other people. She will leave her foster mom’s side to go and play. She did wonderfully while she stayed with us. Her meltdowns are fewer; her sleep patterns are better; and she actually plays in groups now.
What made the difference for her? She was loved well.
This weekend, we had the privilege to attend an adoption party for a little girl who has been in foster care for three years–pretty much since she was born. She has had the opportunity to live with the same family for most of those years, and they were finally able to make her legally theirs. They saw a baby in need of security and love, and they took a chance on her. They risked “getting attached” and decided to be the safe haven she needed–regardless of how long she would stay with them. And now, that little girl is so confident, loved, and wanted. She doesn’t even remember being taken into custody. She only knows that she is loved well.
What if these families had said that they would love to foster but were worried they would get attached? What if there were no safe homes for these kids to go to? Can you imagine that there is a chance that neither one of these beautiful children would be alive today? Or, if they were to live, do you think their existence would be a happy one?
Some of the reactions I have noticed as we do short-term care include people pulling their kids away from the foster children, hiding their purses, and sharing with me that they had nightmares that our foster children would give their kids lice. These kids did not ask for this life, but they don’t know anything different. They don’t know that it’s not okay to have bugs in your bed or that sleeping in a car is bad. They don’t know that their parents are making illegal choices in exchange for the health and well-being of their children. They don’t know that it’s bad to take things that don’t belong to them. How do you think they’ve been surviving?
Just like we nurture and develop babies into human beings who know boundaries and manners and healthy sleeping patterns, we need to help these children learn these things as well. No one has taught them, and no one will if more foster families don’t step up to risk “becoming attached.”
I am here to advocate for them. I am here to ask you, to plead with you, to start praying about becoming a foster family. Maybe you can only do it short-term like we have chosen for our family right now. That’s okay. The need is great for emergency homes, and foster families really appreciate respite help.
Maybe you can’t bring foster children into your home right now, but you can still advocate for them. Can you volunteer as a guardian ad litem? The need for volunteers to advocate for these kids in court is just as needed.
Or perhaps you can work as a mentor for at-risk youth. Maybe you can’t take them into your home, but do you have some time that you can devote to them? Children’s homes especially need people who are willing to take time with these kids. They need someone who cares.
Sometimes, I feel like I am just yelling at the wind. There are so many hurting kids, and the need seems so great at times. But seven kids came and went from my home this month, and I love them so much and need to know that they are being taken care of. I need you to let down your guard and open your home before it’s too late for them.
One less…one less…one less.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?39 And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”–Matt. 25:31-46.