Over the course of the past month, I have given extra thought to the concepts and reality of “foster care”, primarily because May is National Foster Care month. As I thought about “what” foster care really is and includes, I quickly became overwhelmed. Broken down into small parts such as foster children, foster parents, Foster Family Agency, social worker, therapist, Community Care Licensing, etc. and “foster care” can be understood and managed in my small mind. However, “foster care” in its entirety is a complex and complicated system. As I struggled with the question of “What is foster care, really?” my simple mind would soon turn to thoughts of Disneyland. Now, those of you who have been or are currently in foster care or may have a daily connection to “foster care”, are probably thinking: “This guy has lost all connection to reality,” because foster care and Disneyland may seem like complete opposites.
However, there is a very specific place and attraction at Disneyland that is a great analogy for what Foster Care is. You can find this attraction in Tomorrowland, close to the entrance of Space Mountain. It is a giant granite sphere that gently moves on a thin layer of pressurized water. It is technically a sculpture known as a Kugel Ball. Although it is easily overlooked as people rush to the more enjoyable attractions, it is quite impressive--much like foster care. The massive granite ball weighing six tons is representative of the weight of responsibility that we all share in caring for children who are unable to live with their family. It is a huge and unmovable weight, and the responsibility to bear such weight is too great for any one person or group. However, the true marvel of the Kugel Ball is not just in its weight, but rather, it is in the pressure of the water beneath it which allows even a small child to move its six tons; even the smallest hands can spin the giant ball. But remove the granite ball, and, reportedly, this water will shoot 210 feet into the air.
If in my analogy the six ton granite ball is the weight of responsibility of foster care, then the pressurized water represents the actions of individuals and groups which keeps the crushing weight of this responsibility manageable for everyone; including:
- The child who perseveres and holds on to hope;
- The child’s parent who comes face to face with the reality of unplanned for consequences;
- The foster parent who loves without selfishness;
- The Social Worker and therapist who loses sleep trying to find “better solutions” to difficult problems;
- The school staff who give more than they have to give out of their compassion;
- The judge and attorneys who accept legal responsibility for the otherwise unprotected;
- The CASA, tutor, mentor and other volunteers who fill in the gaps;
- The different state and federal governmental agencies and representatives who regulate and fund foster care;
- The board members of Foster Care agencies and other nonprofit agencies who support “foster care”;
- The financial donors who help support “foster care” agencies; and
- The people who work behind the scenes, working out all the minute details and complicated paperwork of “foster care”.
These individuals and agencies, (and more who I failed to mention), are the constant pressure and force who work collectively to lighten the heavy responsibility of “foster care” for those of us who also are working to carry the load.
If you are reading this blog, there is a high probability that you are in some way a part of the awesome force that is Foster Care. So as National Foster Care month comes to an end, I would like to say, Thank you for accepting responsibility. You have made the burden lighter.