May is National Foster Care Month, a time of thanks for our nation’s foster care system and prayer for the 415,000 children in foster care in the US today. Who are these children and who are the many people committed to caring for them every day?
Being part of the foster care system requires love and courage. Read on.
It takes courage to be a foster kid. To be removed from your biological family, through no fault of your own. To be placed with a family you don’t usually know and to be uprooted overnight, literally, to a new house, new address, new neighborhood, new bus, new school, new classmates, new teachers, new coaches, new rules, new family, new expectations, new everything. Statistics say kids in care move an average of 8 times in their young lives.
Each move means you lose things that matter to you. Pictures, mementos, clothes, favorite CDs, books, connections, sometimes even your siblings who are moved to other families … all a part of your personal identity. Everyone else controls your life and you don’t have a say. Why is this happening? Does anyone you care about even know where you are? Do they still love you and want you back?
It takes courage to ‘age out’ of care without the love and support of a family and to make it in life anyway. To not become a statistic for homelessness, incarceration, or early pregnancy. It all takes courage.
It takes courage to be a family in the foster care system. It takes courage to be a biological family who temporarily relinquishes their child to foster care so they can get their life together and become a good parent. Sometimes temporary turns into permanent relinquishment.
It takes courage to be a foster parent or adoptive parent and raise kids who are not your own. Kids who are hurting, confused, lashing out. It takes courage to love them unconditionally through their pain. To be the heart that listens and the voice that reassures. Foster parents know they will likely return to their biological family or move on to another foster family. Adoptive families know that connection with biological families isn’t always easy but important.
It takes courage to volunteer as a respite family and provide the needed breaks so foster families can re-charge their energy and then go at it again. Thank you to all families who love and care for these vulnerable children. We admire you. It all takes courage.
The Village & Daily Life Support
It takes courage to step up and take a stand, to pay attention. Thank you to teachers, coaches, club leaders, doctors, nurses, classmates, mentors and businesses who pay extra attention when they see a child who is hurting and in need. Thank you for ‘saying something’ whether it is a word of encouragement or reporting a suspected abuse. It takes guts to step up and take a stand, to risk possibly being wrong and the labels that go with that. You didn’t look away. Thank you.
Thank you to classmates and friends who stood apart, saw the new kid with clothes in a trash bag and reached out anyway. You are stronger than you know. It takes courage and you did it.
The Legal Support System
It takes courage to defend the rights of our most vulnerable citizens, those with the least power and least influence. Children in the foster care system have little, if any power. They rely on the knowledge and passion of lawyers, judges, child welfare professionals, court appointed advocates, law enforcement officers, elected officials, counselors and life coaches to work on their behalf, to understand what they are up against and make the right decisions. Kids in care are often frustrated and hurt. They push back and they push hard. Adults who have the lives of these kids in their hands must see through that, to be bigger than the easy call and risk the tougher call. It takes courage to slow the system down and take a stand. Call it for what it is. Decide. The least powerful need the strongest shoulders and the most courageous spirits standing with them. Thank you.
It all takes courage
There is an African proverb that says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. In society today, we know that to be true. The primary responsibility is carried by parents and guardians, as it should be. And every member of the broader village must do his or her part to support, encourage, stand up for and defend children. Sometimes it takes great courage to make that choice. I’m blessed to know there are many of us willing to do just that. Our society and our children are worth it.