For the better part of five decades, I have worked with Foster Parents. This group of extraordinary, unique individuals have certainly left an indelible, positive imprint on my life. I am not sure I have the skills to craft an appropriate expression of gratitude I have for those who have turned their homes and lives into sanctuaries, hospitals, safe havens, classrooms and sometimes even battlefields for our children and youth (and not without costs)... but here I go.
As I have sojourned through seven decades of life, I have been in awe of the individuals who have been gifted with skills and abilities so beyond the norm. There are musicians, scientists, athletes, writers, artists; people in all walks of life who have a Special Calling to bless humanity with their unique gift. The contributions of the uniquely gifted make life rich, more meaningful and better for everyone. But, let’s not forget – each one of us has unique gifts and skills to contribute to the grand scope of life.
There is nothing more gratifying to me than to hear that a youth has been placed in a new foster home! Knowing the many months of “self-discovery” a family has weathered during the Foster Home Certification process and now, finally, they’ve come to the time of welcoming a youth, is amazing and wonderful!
As someone who has worked in the field of social work for a LONG time, I’ve encountered my fair share of amazing--amazing kids, stories, people. FCNI foster parent Maureen Nettles has to be very near the top of this “amazing” list. As a foster parent for somewhere near 25 years, she is the epitome of an individual living out her true calling--her mission, if you will.
When I picked up Joe* for the first time from school, I saw a tall kid with dyed hair towering over a group of teenagers. The group all wore black and had an assortment of different hair colors and cuts. Joe and I made eye contact. I saw him begin to slowly walk over to me. I next noticed he had wireless earbuds on under his shaggy hair as it flopped around. I quickly greeted him and showed him to my car. I noticed his breathing beginning to get shallow once he stepped into my car. He quickly pulled out his Nintendo switch and turned it on.
Imagine being rudderless on a rough sea. Imagine rock climbing with no safety harness. Imagine boxing with no gloves. Imagine scuba diving with an empty tank. Imagine a house without a foundation. Now, imagine being a teenager...with no family.
The first morning I stayed with the people who became my Legal Guardians, I rolled out of bed to find the father figure in the kitchen gracefully sprinkling garlic salt on a mound of potatoes and eggs, serendating them with his own rendition of “I Feel Pretty.” He looked like a cross between a retired football player and Hagrid from Harry Potter, but sang like a gigantic angel. ([To this day,] I’ve secretly thought of him as my Fairy Godfather). He has always called me, “Pumpkin” and used phrases like, “diglty dangit” when frustrated.
November is National Adoption Month. In today’s culture, Adoption is a very common, valued and esteemed activity. That has not always been the case. Here is a brief history of adoption in our country to provide a greater appreciation of our current social experience.
I stood there quietly, my hands covering my eyes. I was smack dab in the middle of a families’ living room, unsure of what would happen next as with this family, interactions had historically become volatile. I was counting to 30 in my head while listening intently for a sign that my intervention may be needed. I heard my 16 year old client attempting to help his adoptive mom find a hiding spot, trying unsuccessfully to whisper as he walked her through various options. Suddenly, and without warning, laughter erupted from across the room.
Five years ago this month, my wife, Melissa, and I started to entertain an “out of the ordinary” idea. We were living in Tanzania while working at a nonprofit, but we were visiting the central coast as my wife was in the final trimester of her second pregnancy. Already with our two year old daughter, Promise, in tow, and a baby boy just weeks away, we started to consider how we might continue building our family through adoption, specifically by adopting an older child.