In a way, foster care is a necessary evil. Evil is a strong word, depending on your perspective, anyway. These kids are removed from situations that they shouldn't be in. In our case, Kaleb and William (and their older siblings) were hungry, dirty, and living in filth. There was also the added bonus of their caretakers being shot and thrown in jail, leaving them alone. Because, you see, their birth mother was already in jail.
So, obviously, they shouldn't be there. Obviously, foster care is better. Obviously, it is a wonderful thing that our country tries to protect these children. Obviously, the kids who can't go back to their homes should be adopted. Obviously, they shouldn't spend their lives in foster care. But, sometimes, they do.
What's up with that? The system is flawed. Our community is flawed. These kids are aging out of the system - flawed. They come fully equipped with their primal wound of knowing that the people, in the beginning, who were supposed to love them forever - didn't. For whatever reason, they didn't. Then, although, I have no doubt that they encountered many kindnesses through the years; in the end, no one wanted them forever.
One of my favorite lines, from "A Streetcar Named Desire" is "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." Well, for me, that's foster care. They are depending on the kindness of strangers. Some strangers are wonderful and really do just want to give you candy and others, not so much.
I've worked in residential facilities. These are not foster homes, per se, but they house the same type of kids and it's what I know. I've seen the kids shown great love. But, I've also seen employees turn the air down low because it will make the kids fall asleep faster. And, I've seen unauthorized and clearly painful restraints. (Yes, I reported it.).
I've listened to a little girl scream gibberish for a seemingly endless amount of time. Because she was so traumatized by the abuse that she faced in her biological home, that she didn't cope well, to say the least, with life. While I was still employed there, she was placed for adoption. I was heartbroken because I missed her so, but, of course, it was a good thing. Years later, when Brian and I were just starting the process and I was obsessively looking at pictures of available children; I found her. I wanted to march into the AdoptUSkids' office at that moment and say "hand her over!" But, of course, we had just started, hadn't even had a home study, and, who are we kidding, we wouldn't have been qualified to care for a 17 year old with issues and a mental disability. I tried, after that day, to find her again, but I can't find her anywhere. So, yeah, that haunts me. I hope that she knows that I loved her and I hope that she's ok.
I don't know what happens in foster homes. I know that William said that Antwan was always in his crib or play pen and he never really got to play with his brother until they came to us. Judging by Antwan's initially sullen personality, I believe it might be partially true. But, I also know that my friends who foster and have adopted, have opened their home to many children. They immediately treated them like their own, as they hoped that they would be one day. They took the best care of them that they could and I believe that whatever happens to those kids, they have benefitted from getting that love.
National Foster Care Month, for me, is an opportunity to appreciate the amazing foster parents out there. Because, really, there are. But, at the same time, remind us that there shouldn't need to be so many amazing foster parents out there. Because these kids should have permanent homes.
If they can go back to their biological families, great. If they will step up, get off the drugs (I don't know what the statistics are, but I believe that drugs are usually involved) and put their children first, great.
If not, these kids need to be adopted. They need the people of our country to step up and, basically, save them.
And, yes, if you adopt older kids, you get their issues. My teenager's issues drive me crazy. And, yes, I struggle with feeling overwhelmed by parenting a teenager while lacking the foundation. It will be easier to parent my younger three when they become teenagers because we will be able to ease into it. I will probably not make the same mistakes with them that I make with Kaleb, sometimes, on a daily basis. But, I do make those mistakes and, all I can do is learn from them.
Yes, he came to us with more issues than our younger children did. But, does that mean that Kaleb who, through no fault of his own, lived in his biological home, then a foster home, then an adoptive home, then a residential facility, then a foster home, then a different foster home, then us; does that mean that he doesn't deserve to a forever home?
My neighbor was recently telling me about a song by a Christian Rock artist. I don't remember his name. If he wasn't in a superhero movie, I'm kind of at a loss. ;) But, this artist said something in a song that I really respect. She explained that, in his song, he was having a conversation with God, I can't remember if he said he was dreaming or just straight out praying. But, I remember this. He was complaining that God lets these children suffer (in this context, he was referencing starving children in other countries). Why would God do that??? And, the message that he got was --- that's why I created you. So, you can do something about it. So, he did. He adopted a child from Asia.
So, I don't know his name, but he made a good point. We have to do something. If we want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change. (Yeah, I totally stole that from Michael Jackson.)
I have great respect for agencies like AdoptUSkids and the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption. They are doing something. So many people are. So many foster parents are. Sadly, there's more work to be done. There is no easy fix, so we have to just keep working.
So, this month, and every month, thank you to the devoted foster parents out there in the trenches. Thank you for taking these kids in and giving them love. Thank you for trying to understand their issues and helping them deal. Please, keep doing what you're doing because we need you. I sincerely hope that we won't always need you like we do now. I hope that next year, more kids have permanent homes. But, in the meantime, thank you.