Putting Care back into Foster Care
Most stories and social media posts concerning #FosterCare gravitate to the dark side- the mishandled foster care system, the #political promises, stories of #exploitation, and caregivers spending funds on themselves while children barely have needs met.
We hear of children going from place to place with a garbage bag holding their belongings, #abuse by other kids and parents, of older teens running away, overdosing, or spending their adult lives in #prison.
There is a very real dark side to foster care, but there’s also a bright side, a side where darkness has been interrupted and children have discovered that it’s the little things that pop up each day that bring happiness.
My husband and I have our own personal stories of struggles and experiences that led us to help children in #crisis. Whether through school programs, assisting teenagers going through drug and alcohol rehab, #youth #ministry, or #teaching and supervising at a group home, we have seen the tears, tantrums, and questions that always surround children who don’t understand why no one wants them.
We have held onto a child that was brought back to the group home because the adoptive family decided the child wasn’t what they expected, so they returned him like a puppy at an #adoption center. We have sat with kids all night who ask why families never want to spend time with them, why their parents never call, and question what is wrong with them and why they are unworthy of #love.
Yes, this is #reality. This happens daily, and it’s a side that is often taken and exploited in the media.
Some of those days, though, are different. Some of those days are filled with laughter, sharing, and tears of #joy. These are the days that you don’t often hear about. These are the days that people claim are staged for publicity, the days that no one believes exists, because how could a child with no family be happy?
I’ll tell you how…
These children find joy in the little things, in a hug, or in someone asking them if they want two pancakes or three. They crave #love so badly that they are willing to hold onto the smallest act of kindness. They don’t always run around angry at the world, in fact, you would be surprised at how happy they can be with the things other children take for granted. The right environment, with supportive people and adults who truly want the best for them, makes a big difference.
I’d like to tell you a story that we will always remember.
One cool Christmas morning, my husband watched a little boy ride his brand-new bicycle up and down the road in front of his cottage. My husband asked him how he liked the bike. The boy looked at him and asked when he was going to have to give it back. Confused, my husband asked what he meant. He explained that he thought he would have to share the bike with the other children. My husband told him that the bike was his, and his alone. That sweet child broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably, because he had never had a bike of his own. After a long hug, and eventually laughter, the boy jumped back on his bike and rode around with incredible enthusiasm and a smile that took over his entire face.
This is the flip side of foster care. This is the side that many people don’t hear about.
There’s another part to this story. It’s the part that you get to experience many years down the road, when your phone rings and an adult asks if you remember him, and if your wife still makes the best pancakes ever. This is the part of the story when you find out they have a family of their own, a good job, and when tears start forming because that child who used to drive you crazy with screaming fits, and who used to run down the road cursing you and the world, calls to say thank you for never giving up. This is part that makes sense, this is the day you hope and pray will eventually come.
It is time to realize that one day these forgotten children will become adults. Who is going to guide them and show them what it means to take care of their own families? Do you really want them to rely on the example they were given by their own parents? They must know what it’s like to have someone genuinely care for them, to show them boundaries, responsibility, and what it looks like to take care of a family.
This is the reason why we need to put the CARE back into foster care.
About the Authors:
James and Angela Walsh are the program directors at a home for girls in need in the Houston area. Through an alliance between Imagine Foundation for Kids, Stevens and Pruett Ranch, and Azleway Children’s Services, a commitment has been made to create homes and therapeutic communities for kids who need families. The #Houston area girls ranch is the first in this venture, and is in the final stages before the doors will be opened for girls who need a family. Through intense training, education, and experienced staff, children will find the families and support they need to heal and find hope again. If you would like to help #support this cause, please consider making a #donation to any one of these foundations, any amount is greatly appreciated and needed. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and please continue to pray for all of us as we move forward to help kids in need.