September 18, 2018

The Promise

Once upon a time, many, many Sundays ago, I walked into the sanctuary just a few minutes before the service started, and sat down next to some friends of mine.  They started joking, No, no, this will never work.  We need to sit boy-girl-boy-girl.  You know, because that’s how mature we all were in our 20’s.  After a little bit of shuffling and rearranging, I ended up sitting next to the very guy that my friend had been wanting me to meet.  

All summer and autumn, my friend had been telling me, You need to meet my fiancé’s roommate. I think you would really like him!  My answer back to her was always the same:  I don’t want you to introduce us or set us up or plan a blind date.  If God wants me to meet him, we will meet.

And unbeknownst to me, my friend’s fiancé had been telling his roommate for months and months: You need to meet my fiancée’s friend.  I think you would really like her! His roommate’s answer was always the same:  I don’t want you to introduce us or set us up or plan a blind date.  If God wants me to meet her, we will meet.

Well, there we were that Sunday in November, sitting right next to each other in church.  Apparently, God did want us to meet!

He turned to me and introduced himself, shaking my hand, and then said probably the most original “pick-up line” that has ever been spoken:  So, I hear you want to be a missionary!  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did want to be a missionary.  He had heard correctly!  

That was my heart’s desire . . . to spend my life doing something amazing for God. To tell others about Jesus.  To love and serve and give all of myself, no matter what, no matter where.  And the thought of finding someone else who had the same passion in his heart?  My friend and her fiancé were right . . . this guy and I would really like each other!

And the rest, as they say, is history.  Only seven months later, on a warm day in the middle of June, I walked down the aisle, and that guy became my husband.  We promised to love each other in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or worse, until death parted us.  We were excited to see what the future held for us.  We were excited to see where God was going to ask us to go!

June 5, 2018

When You're Drowning


The enormous waves are crashing all around, first one, then the next, getting higher by the minute.  You feel yourself sinking fast, and panic fills your pores.  The howling wind pretty much drowns out your desperate cries.   Help!  Please, please help!  Save me!!

You had started out so brave.  Your faith had once been so strong.  What happened?  How did you end up here, drowning in this violent storm?

You have been following Jesus for a while now, and sure, you have experienced your share of hardships, but getting to know Jesus personally, learning from Him and walking side by side with Him.  You wouldn’t trade that for all the fish in the sea! 

During these past few years, you have seen first-hand the amazing, miraculous things that He can do.  The broken have been healed.  Hunger has been satisfied.  Prisoners have been set free.  You know, you just know that He is who He says He is!   You vow in your heart that whatever He asks you to do, wherever He asks you to go, you will say yes.

So when He calls you to Come, to step into the unknown, to walk by faith in a way that you never have before, you are thrilled!  This is the moment you have been waiting for!  The moment when you yourself get the great privilege of seeing your life go from ordinary to extraordinary,  Of being a part of the miraculous!

May 27, 2018

What Pure Means



The kids had just finished up their lunch, and if I was smart, I would have kept to our regular schedule and settled them into their beds for an afternoon nap.  But the gorgeous weather outside was calling to me, tempting me to enjoy the sunshine on my face, even if only for a few minutes.

After quickly tying my hair into a ponytail, I unfolded the double stroller and buckled the two little ones into it, and helped the older ones fasten their bike helmets into place.  The sun and fresh air that day felt just as glorious as I had hoped it would!

We hadn’t even reached the end of the block, however, before the delightful moment ended.  The baby started crying, and when I stopped to pick him up, he vomited all over me.  Meanwhile, the ones on their bikes were getting a little bit too far ahead for comfort, and I yelled out a reminder to them to Stop at the corner! 

My fashionable neighbor arrived home at that exact moment, and I’m sorry to say that inwardly I cringed a little bit.  She climbed out of her Cheerios-free car and walked towards me, her heels click-clacking on the sidewalk, a dazzling smile on her face.  I felt instantly ugly. 

While I struggled to clean up and comfort the baby, and look frantically down the street towards the diminishing figures of my children on their bikes, she stood right next to me trying to engage in conversation.  In her hand was a leather Bible and a cute little flowered notebook. 

Apparently, she had just arrived home from a weekly ladies’ Bible study.  The one that she led.  At the church where her husband was a pastor.  Great.  Now I felt instantly ugly and inferior.  I am certain that as she was standing there looking at me, she was thinking to herself, This lady needs Jesus!

Because the children who are always with me have varying sizes, shapes, and skin tones, I am pretty much a walking advertisement for orphan care.   When I confirmed that yes, these little ones with me were indeed my foster children, she blurted, Oh, that’s wonderful that you do that!  My husband and I have talked about getting involved in foster care, but we wouldn’t want to give up our date nights.

May 19, 2018

What They Hear

Our son was about 2 years old at the time.  He was just finishing up with his bedtime snack, when a “grown up” movie started on the television.  Wanting to protect his young eyes and ears, I said, Hey Buddy, let’s go in the other room.  This is a Papa movie, and it might be a little bit scary.  His eyes got big as he looked up at me and asked, Do you mean it has spiders in it?

Spiders?!  That was the scariest thing he could imagine!  I loved the innocence of it!  And really, isn’t that what parents want to do – to preserve their children’s sweet innocence as long as they can?  To protect them from the harsh realities of life?  The world can be full of danger and disappointments and brokenness, but do they really need to know about all of that just yet?

When we welcome foster kids into our home, we are doing the exact opposite of protecting our own children’s innocence.  We are exposing them, from a very young age, and most likely before they are mature enough to process it all, to the grim facts.  To the darkest, most awful, most shocking ways that people live.  We are showing them, firsthand, how people hurt one another.  How poor choices can lead to such devastating consequences.  How families can fracture and leave broken children in their wake.

Before our children are old enough to understand the meanings, they hear ugly words like domestic violence and restraining order.  They hear about addictions and mental illness.  How can a child who has only known a loving, stable, safe home possibly understand what child abuse means?  Really?  Parents hurt their children?  On purpose?!

May 14, 2018

Don't Waste This

It is such a beautiful spring morning, but the weather is completely hidden by the dim lights inside the church.  The rows of chairs are filled with friends and family, so many well-wishers who are gathered to surround this family with support and solidarity during their time of unspeakable loss. 

When the father, a foster parent friend of mine, steps up to the microphone and describes the moment last week when he placed his baby daughter into the doctor’s arms for the last time, and then used the pen to sign her death certificate, and then realized that he would never get to hold her again, there is not one dry eye in the room.  Heartbreak beyond explanation.

He is transparent in his grief.  He speaks of sobbing in the night, crying out to God, Please don’t waste this!  Meaning, please don’t let my baby girl have died in vain.  Please use her death for a greater purpose.  Please give meaning to our devastation.

It’s not fair!  Why would such a terrible thing happen to such a nice family?  A family who has stepped into this hard calling of foster care and has committed their life to serving the most weak and vulnerable?  After all they have done and given and served and sacrificed, shouldn’t good people like them be somehow exempt from tragedies like this?  Shouldn’t God be protecting them from suffering like this?

March 21, 2018

Our Rescue

The outburst at school is completely unexpected, and catches his teacher by surprise.  In the whole time that he has been in her class, she has never seen him act this way before.  She knows a little about his story – about his rocky start in life, about his birth mother who was incapable of caring for him, about some of the trauma and uncertainty and upheaval that he has experienced during his childhood, about his multiple disruptions and moves during his journey through the foster care system.

Still, it’s been more than a year that he has been with his current foster family, a family who is loving and involved and who want the very best for him, and he seems to have settled in nicely there.  Where could all these sudden strong emotions be coming from?

A brief conversation with his foster mother clears up the mystery.  Yes, he fits in well with their family.  Yes, they love him passionately.  But they recently found out that everything will soon be changing.  His birth parents’ rights are going to be terminated in court, and he will be free for adoption.   While this is what he ultimately needs – unconditional love and permanency and stability -  this also means yet another move from his current foster family to an unknown adoptive family somewhere.  This will mean yet another painful, difficult, frightening transition.

He had been brave when they first started talking about it, asking questions and trying to imagine what the future might look like for him.  But he realizes that the permanent loss of his biological parents means that any hope he might have been holding out for reunification is now over.   That door is forever closed. 

And now the loss of his foster family too?  The loss of his friends and church and school and neighbors, everything that is familiar?  The fear and grief eventually came bubbling to the surface at the most inopportune time – in the middle of class! – and thus, the emotional outburst.  Everyone understands but, although they are sympathetic, there is nothing they can do to change this boy’s situation.

This child needs a family.   A family who will gently, patiently help him deal with his grief and loss.  A family who will love him as their own son, who will embrace his disability and provide him with opportunities to excel.  And now that he will soon be entering adolescence, he needs a family with a father who will walk alongside him as he navigates the tumultuous years into young adulthood.

For most of us, when we hear his story, there is a little stirring in our hearts, a spark of compassion for this boy.

March 13, 2018

We Do

Before the church service began, we could tell by the muted noises up front that it would be a special one.  Little ones dressed up in their best outfits, parents doing their best to shush them and keep them calm for just a few more minutes.  Little girls with pink bows in their hair. Baby boys with miniature suits. 

Several times a year, our church has a Child Dedication ceremony – an opportunity for parents to commit to raising their children in a godly, Bible-focused, Christ-centered home.  It’s a sweet, tender moment, a solemn vow that these parents are taking.  And for some of us, it’s a poignant reminder of our own children, and our own commitment not too long ago to raise them to know and love the Lord.

This brief ceremony is also for us, the Church Family.  The pastor asks us if we will commit to walking beside these moms and dads on their parenting journey.  If we will encourage them when the days get hard.  If we will mentor them and counsel them as they seek wisdom.  If we will pray for them and support them and partner with them along the way, doing everything within our power to help their children come to a personal relationship with Jesus.

Yes, we say, with enthusiastic agreement.  Yes, we commit to stand with these families and their beautiful young children in the days and years to come.  Yes, we promise to help them keep the vows that they have made today.  Yes, we do!

March 8, 2018

Waiting

These hard plastic chairs in the hospital lobby were certainly not designed for comfort.  I sit here listening to a talk show host drone on the television that is mounted on the wall in the corner.  I watch the other patients coming and going and wonder idly what emergency would bring them to this place on a cold night like this.  I hold this little child on my lap, this child who is completely dependent on me to take care of his complex medical issues, and silently try to calculate how many hundreds or possibly thousands of hours I have spent just sitting.  Waiting.

Sometimes I imagine that I am a Warrior Mama, fighting for these children, protecting them, advocating for them at every opportunity.  And I am!  Quite often I am the one who speaks up for them, defending their best interests, pleading with the courts and social workers and whoever else will listen the importance of permanency.  Communicating how complex their needs, how delayed their development, how fragile their emotions.  Fiercely protecting them!

Sometimes I do need to Go.  To act and speak and do and move and fight.  But more often, if I’m honest with myself, this journey is mostly about doing exactly what I am doing at this very moment:  waiting.

February 20, 2018

Unexpected Gift

Sometimes, when you least expect it, the extraordinary happens.  You open your hands wide to receive the gift, and find that it is more amazing, more remarkable than you could ever have imagined.  You find that you are holding something beautiful, a priceless treasure wholly undeserved.

I know, because it happened to me.

I watch this little one running down my driveway, full steam ahead, hair streaming behind her like long brown ribbons.  Her strong legs pumping with energy and enthusiasm, her back strong with confidence.  And my heart overflows with love for her.   With gratitude for this immeasurable gift.  Moments like this almost take my breath away.  I look at her, amazed, and can hardly believe that this beautiful child is mine.
Three years ago, I had no idea that when I answered the phone one winter afternoon, that my life, and the lives of our entire family, would forever be changed.  I said yes to the woman on the other end of the line, asking if I would please come to the hospital as soon as possible, because there was a baby, a precious newborn there in the plastic bassinette, waiting for a family.

February 11, 2018

Bleed

It’s an ordinary evening in every way.  I am standing in front of the stove cooking dinner for my family when my phone chimes, alerting me of an incoming message.  I glance at the screen, assuming for a second that it is most likely my husband, letting me know that he is on his way home from work.  But when I read the words on my screen, even before my mind fully processes them, my heart, always leading out in front, stops for a beat or two.   I have been expecting this news for a few days now, but here it is in black and white, a simple text that will forever alter the course of my foster son’s life.   It is confirmation that he will be leaving.

I turn off the stove – because even in my shock, I am perpetually responsible – lower myself to the floor in a near-fetal position, and bawl my eyes out.  This year-long season of pouring out and loving and serving and becoming exhausted and sacrificing everything for this child’s well-being.  This season is over.  

This is not how I wanted it to end.  I wanted to be the rescuer.  To remove him from his brokenness and be a part of his healing process.  I had hoped that there would be a happily ever after.  I had prayed, countless times, begging God over and over again to please, please do a miracle.  A miracle that never came.

January 19, 2018

Walking in the Rain

The first hint of worry about the impending storm surfaced in my heart, but I ignored it, convinced that I could weather it just fine.  After all, I was confident and capable.  It would take more than a little rain cloud to quench my faith.

The rain began, innocently enough, with tiny droplets of water, only a light mist of disappointments.  Not all that concerning.  But then the rain began in earnest, quickly drenching me completely.  A foster child so traumatized and damaged, that my very best efforts were utterly unable to help him heal.  A dreaded medical diagnosis that taught me what it means to truly fear.  A grown child who has chosen a different path, leaving me shocked and devastated, sobbing into my pillow at night, wondering what went wrong.   It wasn’t long before the light sprinkles became a steady downpour, a deluge of wind and driving rain, and I could no longer pretend that my faith was strong.

God, if You are even listening at all, why have You led me to this dark and lonely place?  My faith is so weak!  And if I’m deeply honest, I’m pretty sure I might be losing my faith altogether.  You promise that You will work all things together for good, but how can this, this downpour, be for my good?   I have cried out to You again and again to please help me be strong, and yet day after day, year after year, You remain silent.

This journey has indeed tested my faith almost to the breaking point.  I have been discouraged so many times, disappointed in myself that the trials of this journey have proven – to me and to everyone who knows me - that my faith is not very strong at all!

But what option do I have?  Give up?  Hide?  Do nothing?  Let the darkness win?  If I did that, what would I say?  Sorry, I can’t serve you today; it’s raining.  Sorry, I can see that you are drowning, but I can’t help you into the lifeboat; I’m too discouraged.  Of course not!  I think of King David who described his "downcast" soul and the tears that soaked his pillow.  Clearly he walked in the rain, and yet God called him - and equipped him - to rule an entire nation!

But how?  How can I keep loving the children the Lord has brought into our family?  How can I keep ministering to the least of these?  How can I keep serving and giving and doing?  How can I keep walking in the rain?  

January 12, 2018

Poster Child

One day you sit back and take a good look at your life, and you are overcome with gratitude.  You suddenly realize that everything is almost picture-perfect.   Your home is orderly and organized, the clutter under control.  Your children are well-behaved and happy, not perfect of course, but generally manageable.  You are happy.  You have a predictable routine, wonderful friends, enjoyable hobbies, big dreams.  You are the poster child for a comfortable, cozy life.

And so you ask yourself, innocently enough, why not?  Why not share this beautiful life with a child in need?  There are so many forgotten children who do not have a family to call their own, why not share yours?  After all, you reason, you have a lot of love in your heart.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to make a difference in someone else’s life?  To give someone else an opportunity to thrive?  To give someone else hope for the future?

It is not an easy decision.  You know, in the corners of your heart, that it will be difficult.  Life-changing, even.  Of course there will be an adjustment period.  Some getting used to.  But, you tell yourself, you are a fairly intelligent, competent, confident person.  How hard could it really be? 

And secretly you think, maybe you can become the poster child for this brave new thing.  If you can do it, maybe other people - your friends, others in your church, your contacts on social media – maybe they will follow your example and be inspired to do it too!

October 17, 2017

A Different Story

Because she is unable to adequately care for the needs of her child, the little one has been taken into protective custody, and placed in the safety of my home.  That makes her the villain and me the hero.  She’s the bad mother and I’m the good one.  Right?

How did we get here, exactly?  Her story is so different from mine!

Even before I took my first breath, my story was relatively smooth and straightforward.  While she was born into a fractured and flawed family that sort of limped along, each one managing the best way they knew how, my parents were committed to staying married and raising their children together.  They taught me the meaning of “family,” setting for me an example of faithfulness, love, patience, and enduring hope.  They taught me about healthy relationships and the importance of making responsible decisions. 

October 6, 2017

Small Stones

It is just sitting here, this plain glass jar in my bathroom.  The jar is clear and simple, and inside the jar are smooth colored stones, all shiny and perfect.  The centuries that these stones spent tossed in the relentless waves and sand of the Atlantic Ocean have perfectly smoothed away all the rough edges, leaving them sleek and glossy, almost as if an unseen hand has deliberately polished them.  Oh, how I love these serene and beautiful stones that have been sitting here on my porcelain counter for so many years.

Sitting here for so many years, that is, until my two-year old daughter stands beside me.  It takes one curious little hand just one moment to reach for the jar, and in one horrifying crash, the floor is covered with small stones and shattered glass.  Utterly wrecked.  Beyond repair.

In an instant, before I even know what is happening, I am screaming at my daughter, What did you do?  Look what you did?  Look at this mess?  Why do you have to touch my stuff?  Why do you have to break everything?  Do you understand how furious I am right now?  The blistering words spew out of my mouth like an active volcano, sizzling and scorching the innocent little one in front of me, melting her into a puddle of tears.

Whoa!  What just happened?  I am shocked and alarmed at my sudden outburst.  Where did this outrage come from?  What made me lose control like this?  Why would such a minor incident cause me to respond with such a vicious tirade?

September 30, 2017

Connect: How Professionals Can Promote Stability

I just want to quit!!   Even if those exact words have never escaped our lips, many foster parents have certainly thought them!  And even if we haven’t thought about giving up our foster license altogether, we have certainly thought about giving up on a certain foster child in our home.

Of course we know that children need the love and nurture of our families.  Their health and development and very future depends on the stability of their placement with us.  We’ve read the statistics and seen the study results, confirming that moving children multiple times throughout their foster care journey can have serious long-term impact on their future success. (1)

We hate disruptions. (2)  It’s tragic when children are uprooted.  Forced to transition to new communities.  Adapt to new schools.  They lose touch with relatives, and tragically, are separated from siblings.  They learn that it’s normal to say goodbye.

But what can we do when we want to quit?  When our endurance is depleted and we don’t feel like we can take another step?

Or more specifically, the question might be asked, what can Child Welfare Professionals do? (3)  This is the question asked at countless staff meetings and during federally-funded research projects and through state-wide initiatives. You have devoted your careers to serving these children, and it’s heartbreaking when their placements are disrupted again and again and again.  How can you improve placement security for these precious foster children you serve?  How can you turn multiple disruptions into long-term stability?


RECEIVE

We don’t know what we don’t know.  How could we possibly anticipate the needs and behaviors and challenges that will arrive at our front door when that first foster child is placed?  Licensing Specialists, please ensure that we receive quality pre- and post-placement training, which absolutely should include an understanding of how trauma affects a child’s behavior and development.  It should at least mention the possibility that the foster children in our home may have difficulty attaching, and what that might look like.

Most (maybe all) states have this requirement, but it’s one thing to attend a class; it’s another thing entirely to truly understand what welcoming an abused and neglected child into our homes will look like.  We need to receive practical tools for raising children from hard places. (4)  To hear from experienced foster parents.  To have access to books and other resources that properly prepare us for this role.  Being well-equipped is one of the best ways for us to have realistic expectations . . . which may make us less likely to disrupt a placement or quit altogether.
  
Placement Coordinators, before placing a child in “an available bed” that we might have, please ensure that we receive all the information that is available about the child.  You might even give us a list of questions to ask the social worker, doctors, or other professionals involved before agreeing to the placement.  Prior knowledge can prevent future heartache.

Placement Coordinators, your personal connections with your foster families is key to preventing future disruptions.  Know our strengths, weaknesses, personal preferences and experiences.  Every child has potential just waiting to be reached.  Serve him well by making every effort to connect him with compatible foster parents who can help him thrive.


BELIEVE 

Foster parents are on the front lines.  Sitting in front row seats to our foster children’s stories as they unfold.  Because we live with these children 24/7, we are in a unique position to notice behaviors and patterns and habits that the child welfare professionals on the case may not see.

When we tell our case managers, social workers, or guardian ad litems about our concerns, please believe us!  When we tell you about the 3-year old in our home who frequently says the F-word, why would we make that up?  When we notice that our new little girl has sexual knowledge way beyond her years, shouldn’t you make note of that?  When we encounter an inappropriate interaction with birth parents.  When we notice negligent or unjust actions of a professional involved.  When we admit that we are exhausted and overwhelmed.  Some of us are hesitant to speak up, and when we do, please listen, and please acknowledge the importance of our words.

We need you to take our observations and uncertainties seriously, without being dismissive or condescending.  At the first sign of trouble, the questions you should be asking us is, What can I do to help?  What do you need?  The problems need to be addressed immediately when they arise.  Once we ask for a child to be moved, it might be too late to salvage the placement.

Here’s the thing though.  Foster children are not the only ones who need continuity and stability.  So do foster parents!  It can be disheartening to have multiple social workers during a child’s placement with us, and with each new worker assigned to our child’s case, we trust just a little bit less.  Each staff transition feels like starting all over again.  Why would we confess our struggles to someone who doesn’t know anything about us or the children in our home? 

Do Child Protection Agencies want to reduce the number of disruptions for the children they serve?  Perhaps if you could focus on recruiting, training, and retaining excellent child welfare professionals – people who stay! - the connection between your staff and your foster parents would deepen.  The mutual respect would grow.  We would feel more comfortable voicing our concerns, and if addressed early enough, perhaps those concerns could be resolved.  The children’s placements could be preserved.


RELIEVE

Welcoming a child into our home is a huge responsibility!  Not only are we caring for a child’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and education, but we are managing behaviors we may have never seen before.  We are filling out paperwork and documentation.  We are requesting developmental evaluations; making appointments with doctors, specialists, dentists, and oral surgeons (you would not believe how many foster children come to us with oral decay!); registering for school; shopping for clothes, shoes, pajamas, underwear, and jackets; transporting him to visits with his parents; participating in treatment team meetings and court hearings; attending ongoing training classes to keep our license current.  This is in addition to holding down full-time jobs and caring for our homes and other family members.  It’s no wonder we so quickly become overwhelmed, exhausted, and burnt out.  Sometimes when we say, I just want to quit, what we really mean is, I can’t do this by myself.

Case Managers and Social Workers can help relieve some of these endless responsibilities by partnering with us.  You can let us know about resources and support groups in our community. You can provide transportation to visits.  You can help fill out medical paperwork and application packets for special education programs.  And when you attend the child's medical appointments, developmental evaluations, and school meetings yourself, you can hear first-hand from the professionals, instead of requiring us to take our time to send you updates.  It would feel more like a team effort.

You can offer recommendations for services our foster child needs.  When the foster child in our home needs counseling, for example, this may be something new foster parents know nothing about.  Where do we find a good therapist in our town?  Google?  Wouldn’t it be so much better if our Social Worker could offer a first-hand recommendation based on personal connections?

This is, again, why it is so important to focus resources on retaining capable and competent Child Welfare Professionals.  As you gain experience, you gain wisdom and can offer sound advice.  The longer you serve in your role, the more contacts you have and the more community resources you know about.

You are in a unique position because you know other foster families who might be in similar situations.  Can you connect us with each other?  Surely my foster child isn’t the first one to navigate the maze of the special education system in our county school system.  Perhaps there is a foster parent who has just brought a baby home from the hospital, and is struggling through those middle-of-the-night withdrawals.  I might have some words of wisdom and some practical suggestions based on my experience.  Connecting us with each other can make our foster care journey seem less confusing, and daunting, and complicated. 

And most importantly, you can relieve some of the crushing weight by simply asking – often!! - What can I do to help?  What do you need?


REPRIEVE  

As much as we hate to admit it, foster parents are not invincible.  Sometimes when we cry, I just want to quit! what we really mean is, I just need a break!

Child Welfare Agencies would be wise to recruit and train respite care providers.  People who are willing to partner with us to provide our children with a safe, structured environment from time to time.  We so desperately need time, not only to rest and recharge, but to give some much-needed attention to the other not-so-needy children in our home. 

We cannot always assume that our friends and family and “regular” babysitters are knowledgeable enough about our child’s needs to provide them with the appropriate care.  Their good intentions to connect with our foster child, for example, may inadvertently undermine any fragile attachments that we have worked so hard to build.  And at a minimum, a change in routine can be so upsetting to a child who has trouble self-regulating.  If we do need someone to watch our children for a few days, it’s imperative that the care givers know us and our family, and are willing to partner with us.

Do you want to preserve these children’s foster placements?  Please, we ask that you do everything you can to connect us with qualified respite providers. 


GRIEVE

Sometimes, no matter how much we wish the circumstances could be different, a foster child moves.  Sometimes he is reunified with a parent or goes to live with a relative.  Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, he is moved to a different foster home.  No matter the reason for the child leaving, child welfare professionals should understand that we need time to grieve. 

We knew going into it that the placement would be temporary.  Foster care, by very definition, is temporary.  We may be feeling guilt that we weren’t as strong as we thought we were.  We may be feeling disappointment that we didn’t make as much of a difference in that child’s life as we had hoped.  If the move was our choice, we feel the full emotional weight of it.  And if the move was not our choice, we may be feeling anger that the courts made a decision that we did not agree with.  Regardless of the circumstances, please understand that we grieve the loss.

However, the end of a child’s placement with us does not necessarily mean the end of our foster care journey.  Perhaps the social worker or case manager could be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.  Perhaps you could write a note of encouragement or say thank you.  When we have that personal connection with even one professional in the system, it could mean the difference between giving up altogether, or finding the courage to say yes again.  To welcome the next child who needs the love and stability of our home. 


ACHIEVE

Child welfare professionals, you have within your power to help achieve stability for the foster children you serve.  The key is to build connections!  Sometimes the only thing standing between us quitting and persevering is one supportive professional.  Sometimes when we cry, I just want to quit! what we really mean is, I just want someone to understand!

Be the one who takes the time to connect with us.  The one who connects us with children who fit into our family.  The one who connects us with resources in our community and with other foster parents who are on the same journey.  The one who encourages us to press on. 

Be the one who asks regularly, What can I do to help? What do you need? 

Together, with that connection, we can achieve stability.

1.    Foster children who “age out” of foster care without the permanency of a family are much more likely to experience homelessness, crime, proverty, substance abuse, and unplanned pregnancy.  www.adoptioninstitute.org/news/the-importance-of-home-permanency-for-foster-child-development/
2.    According to a recent report in a nearby county in my state, “some children are shuffled to 15 or more foster homes before they are adopted or age out of the system.”  15 times?!  When we say that children do better in families, what we need to clarify is that children do better in stable, consistent, permanent (or at least long-term) families!  www.fayobserver.com/news/20170925/cumberland-county-has-most-foster-kids-in-nc-nearly-900
3.    Child Welfare Professionals include a wide range of positions including CPS (child protective services) investigators, placement and intake coordinators, social workers, licensing and training specialists, agency case managers, clinical specialists, child advocate attorneys, and guardian ad litems.   Because the roles sometimes overlap, I use the general term “child welfare professionals.”
4.    A valuable resource for anyone who works with children from hard places is the Empowered to Connect conference and simulcast.