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.
Tag: foster parents
I foster every day...I encourage and promote growth and healing in the lives of my bio children and in the youth who I mentor. If I were just to tell you that I foster, you probably and most likely, would think that I am talking about “foster care.”
Lottie didn’t have a typical childhood. Growing up with her dad who lived with a medical condition that left him physically challenged meant that Lottie had to carry more of the caregiving duties because he wasn’t able. Everything in Lottie's life took a backseat to her dad's condition and needs, including school and her own social development. Eventually her dad’s condition worsened and he was moved into a full-time care facility. Without any family, Lottie was placed into foster care at the age of 14.
I love my job! I work with amazing kids, the best colleagues in the business, and fabulous foster parents. Some people have questioned my sanity when I talk about “loving” my job. “It must be so hard,” they say. “How do you leave it at the office?” they ask. For me, it is the people, the kids, my colleagues and friends, and the foster parents and their families who helped shift this from a “job” to a career, a passion--a mission, if you will.
Coral was 11 years old when her mom, recently incarcerated, decided to relinquish her parental rights, putting Coral’s care into the hands of the state. While Coral’s life up to this point was not like her friends’ lives--her “home” was either their car or a motel room, and Coral’s mom slept most days because she’d be up all night with her friends, leaving Coral to feed and take care of herself--it was the only life she had ever known. It was familiar.
I once worked with a youth who had been in the same foster home for about two years. By the time I joined the youth’s team, he was tired of being in his foster home and wanted to be reunited with his family. For those of us who got the honor of meeting this young man, we got to experience his joy and humor--he was a very happy young person to interact with. When I met him he’d already waited a long time and had done a lot of work to reunify with his family.
“In these chaotic times...” Over and over again, in some form or another, I come across this phrase in my conversations--when I turn on the t.v. and as I scroll through social media for just a few minutes. Fires, floods, war, rumors of wars, pandemic illness, reeling economies, scarcity of resources, and community shutdowns have all become characteristic of 2020. While several of these things stem from natural causes, I of course find myself considering the human contributions that have exacerbated them and created the others. How did we get here?
May is National Foster Care Month –– a time when we get to celebrate foster parents, a group of caring, committed people who are too often underappreciated! I count myself amongst the very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with foster families since the early 1970s. I certainly appreciate and admire all of the Amazing Families that have served children under the Family Care Network umbrella over the last 32 years. As our organization has grown, I have unfortunately been further and further removed from the day in and day out contact with our foster families.
It's not uncommon to see two youthful brothers fighting. On the way to dinner, they push each other to see who gets there first. At the table, they argue about who got the bigger piece of pie. On the way to the park, they fight about who will carry the football; it never occurs to them to agree to let one of them carry it to the park and the other back home. There is no interest in "reasonable" solutions; it's all about contention. And sometimes the contention gets excessive.
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson