I am so glad the holiday season is behind us if for nothing else, then perhaps I can stop seeing the commercials for the ASPCA or UNICEF. Ok, now don’t get all agitated with me thinking I don’t love kids and animals. I do! I truly do. If my house is any indication, you’d know. All our animals were shelter animals and with 5 kids (and the desire for more) I think that’s a statement in itself.
Here’s what I don’t like about these commercials: Heart wrenching as they are showing sad puppies that have been abused or showing the distended bellies of hungry children in a foreign country….WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN HERE? It’s estimated that more than half a million kids are in foster care in the United States*. By far, not all those kids are in foster homes. A lot of these kids are in shelters or group homes. A lot of these kids “age out” of the system and hit the streets without a loving family to nurture them, support them, or be their safety net if they make a wrong choice. A lot of these kids are born drug addicted and have been listed “failure to thrive”. A lot of these kids have issues of severe neglect and abuse. A lot of these kids have behavioral issues. A lot of these kids just want to be loved and accepted. A lot of these kids, although they don’t realize it, want boundaries and security and someone else to take care of them instead of them taking care of themselves.
Yes, it’s true, that there are kids in foster care that do get adopted. Our own family story includes adoption from foster care. I have several friends who have adopted from foster care. But the reality is, a lot more kids don’t get adopted. Babies with no issues are far more easily adopted out then say a 9 year old with lots of behavioral issues. I get that. I understand that. I live that. So, what are we teaching these children? That they aren’t worth it? Hey, they see those cute puppy dog commercials too and see people ooohhing and aahhhing over the plight of the abused dog and sending money. Or they hear the stories of people driving hours to rescue a dog from euthanasia. But while that 9 year old is sitting in a group home hearing about the rescue of the dog….who is working with that 9 year old telling him/her that they are worth it too? Have we just sent them a message that they aren’t? Have we just told them that their life is meaningless? This is the future generation and we are teaching them that they aren’t worthy enough to be treated like a dog.
I understand that not everyone can be a foster parent. It’s hard work. Believe me I know. There are joys unspeakable and sorrows unimaginable. We’ve fostered 22 children over the years. For the record, only 4 (2 sibling groups) went right back home to their birth families. The others went on to continue in foster care for extended periods of time. I know what it’s like to become attached to a child and not want to ever let them go.
I know what it’s like to bring a newborn home straight from the hospital that’s been born drug addicted. I’ve seen the pain that baby goes through as the poisons are released from their small bodies, screaming and crying through the day and night, while I am powerless to do anything except pray over them in their crib or hold them and rock them while in a darkened room because light was too much for their eyes to handle.
I know what it’s like to have a 5 month old in my arms that had a broken leg and only got one bottle a day, and was so neglected that he had already mentally “checked out.” I know what it’s like to hold that baby, gently forcing positive eye contact, while feeding several bottles throughout the day and night, feeling the weight slowly build up on his little bones, and seeing a smile finally creep back into his eyes while he playfully interacts with me or my hubby.
Or the one that had cigarette burns on her head. Or the one……you understand where I am going with that. Yes, I know how hard it is. I know how hard it is to pour my heart and soul into these babies and children for weeks and months, only to have my heart ripped out by the ringing of the phone and the words “it’s time for ‘Little Susie’ to move.”
But then I think of that baby that was labeled failure to thrive who could stare right through you and wouldn’t smile, coo, react to anything and after a month was giggling and finally learning to crawl. I think of the baby who couldn’t sleep because there was so much toxins in it’s small frail body and the pain was too much, but after 4 days of no sleep, some of the effects started to ebb away. Yes, it’s hard to be a foster parent.
But can you imagine how hard it is to be the child in this situation. I talked about some of the babies above. But what about the older kids?
(This post is listed in several parts. Please visit again to read more of the story.)