What would you do if you were taken from your parents for reasons you didn’t know, dropped off at a house by someone you didn’t know, told you were to live with people you didn’t know, to live in a house and neighborhood you had never been to for a length of time you didn’t know? To top all of that off, everything you have in this life was in a duffel bag.
Hard questions with no easy answers, yet this is the exact plight of thousands upon thousands of children in the foster care systems. It breaks one’s heart, but this is the stark reality and many times we just choose to ignore or turn a blind eye to this because the needs are so great and the resources so few.
It reminds us of the Starfish Story you may have heard.
“A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.”
“She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
“The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”
— Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley
If we are to make a difference we have to realize we can’t do everything, but we can do something. For us, that something has been our calling to become foster parents. It is not something that everyone is called to but it is one we believe is the way we can make a difference. Not because of who we are, but because of who our Savior is.
We get the opportunity to not be the savior in these kiddos lives, but to point them to THE Savior. He is the Hero in the story. In our short journey so far, we have learned a few things and we are sure we will learn more as we go down this road, but here are 5 things we have learned in our foster care journey so far.
We are not perfect parents
This is our first and foremost confession. We are far from perfect parents. We all struggle with the daily realities of competing priorities, workplace stressors, fatigue, and being short-tempered at times. We learned very quickly we are not and that there are no perfect parents.
However, we are parents who have decided to make a commitment to, provide stability for, and strive to be examples of maturity, commitment, flexibility, compassion, a sense of humor, patience, and a whole lot of love to children who are coming from a hard places where the opposite of these things is the norm.
The system is broken
This is such an understatement of reality. Paperwork, red tape, bureaucracy, regulation, etc. abound in this arena. There are tragic stories of kids and situations slipping through the cracks that make headline news often that make us reel with shock and horror.
But behind all these things, the fact remains that there are human beings in need of help. There are those unable to help themselves for which we can be advocates for and most importantly show there is one who loves them beyond any human comprehension, despite any situation they may be in or come from.
Biological parents are not demons
This is one thing that is hard to grasp and agree with. As you begin to hear the background of the parents your foster child or children have come from it is so very easy to go into full-blown judgmental mode. To become judge, jury, and executioner in your mind. To somehow place them as below you and not worthy of having the children you now are caring for.
There is no doubt that these parents have made wrong choices and done wrong things that have brought about the removal of their child or children from their direct care. But how many of these parents are caught in a vicious cycle of their own – many having experienced their own trauma of detached or absent parents?
Instead of judgement, a lot of compassion, grace, and love should be extended. It means we look for ways to be merciful when most are handing out judgement. Our hope is that they realize the cycle they are in and choose to break it for themselves and their children.
As Jason Johnson writes on his blog: “Our hearts must humanize biological parents, not demonize them. They’re real people with real struggles in need of a real Savior. It is entirely possible to see biological parents as humans, not demons, yet still stand adamantly against the heinous things they have done. We can be against their actions but still for their souls. We can hate what they’ve done but still hope they find Jesus. Hard, indeed, but a struggle worth wrestling with.”
There are awesome tools to give hope
We have learned so many things in our journey so far and know we will have more resources we learn about as we continue. One of these things that we have learned about is the parenting style of Trust Based Relational Intervention.
“TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI® is connection.”
“When you connect to the heart of a child, everything is possible.”
– Dr. Karyn Purvis
The second thing we have learned is the power of essential oils in supporting our own as well as our families health and wellness. Oils like Lavender to create a calming environment, Thieves to support our immune system, and Stress Away for high tension times. We have also learned how essential oils can be used in various other ways to create a toxin free home and even for emotional wellness and support!
When we boil it all down, we are the instruments that God can use to instill a beam of hope and love into the dark places these children are coming from. To give them an opportunity to heal from the trauma of neglect, abuse, and detachment. Most of all, we can be the ones that point them to their hero, Jesus, who loves them the most.
What is your calling in this world to make a difference in the lives of others?