Friday, March 16, 2012

She's Gonna Make It (The Blessings of Being a Foster Parent)

This post has been updated to include a picture of the (now grown-up) foster kid I wrote about more than two years ago. She's now married and in college. I got the privilege of making the cake for her special day. I'm so glad I got to be part of this special celebration for this amazing young woman. 

This has been a crazy and highly emotional week for our family. Among other things, we've had two sets of sibling groups stay with us overnight as emergency foster care placements. In both of these situations we knew the kiddos, so it was a no brainer to have them at our house instead of staying the night in a complete random strangers house while their long-term arrangements were being made.

It's always a bit surreal to get a phone call that a kiddo is in process of being removed from whatever home they're in and needs a place to stay for a little while. A little bit of my heart breaks every time, knowing that their whole world is being flipped upside down and they're staring into the reality of a future completely unknown. If they are coming to our home it means that their parents are unable to care for them properly and they don't have family that is able or willing to take them in.

I can't imagine my kids being removed from my home and placed in the care of complete strangers. My heart aches at merely such a thought. The number of kids who have experienced this harsh reality in our community alone is quite significant. These aren't just statistics, these are real kids. They have names. They have faces. They have stories. They have feelings. Real, deep, hurt, sad, scared feelings.

Last night we had two of those kids, just for the evening and overnight. These were two kids that we met about this time last year when they stayed in our home for just over a week. These were two kids that stole my heart from day one and were hard to say goodbye to the first time around.

They just left our house after school today and are settling into a new home. It turns out that saying goodbye to them a second time wasn't any easier. Luckily, the home they moved to is one where they know the family. There's comfort for them in that. I hope. Any way the cookie crumbles, transitioning homes is difficult for any child. New people. New rules. A new family culture.

This one particular girl makes my heart happy. She is a teenager, just shy of official adulthood, but no stranger to filling a grownup role. She is resilient. She is hard working, kind, mature way beyond her years and full of character. She makes good choices and surrounds herself with good people. She's gonna make it in life. I guarantee it. 

Despite awful circumstances way outside of her control, she's determined to make something of her life. I am confident that she will do so and in the process she will also change her family tree. She inspires me. And I'm grateful to have gotten the chance to know her, if only for a little while.

There are perks and drawbacks to being a foster parent. Sometimes you have to watch a child leave your house and wonder if they're going to make it in this life. Every once in a while though, you get the opportunity to watch a kid leave your home and know, with everything in you, that they're going to make it. Even if life tries to knock them down and throw them curve-balls they are going to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and persevere. Throwing in the towel and letting their circumstances define them simply isn't an option. This girl is one of those people.

Some people say that we are a blessing to these kiddos (and indeed, in some small way I hope we are), but what most people don't realize is that through this process of caring for foster kids we are blessed beyond belief as well.

I am blessed time and time again to get the chance to meet, care for, interact with and pray for all of the kiddos that God brings into our lives. I am blessed by their smiles. Their resilience. Their warmth and their kindness. I am blessed to get to a chance to know each and every one of them, if only for a short time. At the end of this really long week that brought a record breaking total of 5 separate kids through our home I am tired. I am worn out and I am emotionally exhausted... but I am completely and utterly blessed.

Have you ever considered being a foster parent? I'd love to share more about this amazing journey with you if you're interested in becoming a foster parent, or just curious about the process. Leave a question in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer your questions in an upcoming foster parent Q &A. 


Anonymous said...

Have you ever read the book "Three Little Words" by Ashley Rhodes-Courter? If you haven't I highly recommend it.

I currently volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for kids in my county. While going through the long and intense training we were given this book to read in order to better help us understand what can happen to kids if we (the courts, CPS, CASA, etc.) are not vigilant in keeping an eye on where these kids end up. It's a powerful and moving memoir.

I have met more kids than I'd like to count who have been through similar situations. In Fort Bend County (where I live and volunteer) we are lucky enough to have one CASA volunteer for every child or sibling group that enters the system. (And we're a pretty good group, if I do say so myself!)

In Harris County (Houston), there are over 5,000 kids in the CPS system and only a handful have the protection of a CASA. It's sad and heart-breaking. Not to mention those kids that have not only been abused or neglected by their parents but also then abused or neglected by the foster parents who were meant to protect them. (That happens more than it should in Texas, unfortunately)

Anyway, sorry to wonk. I just wanted to recommend the book if you haven't already read it. And say "Thank You" for opening your home and your heart. Being a foster parent is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and it takes a special kind of person to be able to do it so THANK YOU!!!

Robyn said...

I haven't read it, but I'll have to see if our foster parent lending library has it. Thanks for the recommendation. I am so grateful for the work that CASA's do in the lives of these kids. I wish it were a guarantee that kids were always better off it foster homes, but it's sad to know that it's not always the case, as I'm sure you've seen.

Thank YOU for doing what you do, it's so valuable too!