“That so many thousands of children around the world are available for adoption is a sign of our impoverished humanity. That so many persons around the world open their hearts and homes each year to embrace a few of these children is a lasting testimony to humanity’s enduring nobility.” – Deborah A. Beasley, Successful Foster Care Adoption
By Dawn Onley
There are 428,000 children living in foster care in the United States. These children are just like any other kids – they like school and sports and video games and books and their cell phones. They like their friends and animals and music and art and their little brothers and sisters (sometimes). They love their parents and don’t understand how they ended up here.
Yet, unfortunately, here they are in a situation that is not of their choosing – sometimes one for which they are vehemently opposed, if they are old enough to know what’s going on.
Such is the scenario that foster parents inherit when they go to parental and trauma training, take the requisite classes to get licensed, and sign on to serve as caregivers to foster children. Foster parents open up their homes to inspectors, social workers, the court-appointed guardian ad litem, sometimes the biological parent(s) or other family members, whatever it takes to satisfy the conditions of the agreement the foster parent has with the agency and to make the child feel as protected and loved as possible. Although they know their job is temporary, they get their hearts broken, again and again, as children are shuffled back and forth, children that they grew attached to and grew to love. It’s what they signed up for, but it’s never an easy thing.
Foster parents get a bad rap and it’s usually for the few that appear on the nightly news for doing atrocious things like neglect or abuse, but the majority of the foster parents I’ve met in training and in monthly support meetings are do-gooders trying to make a difference in a child’s life and knowing that to do so would also enrich their own lives. They tell stories of how some of their former foster children, even years – sometimes decades – after they left, still drop in to visit them or call, hoping to run something past them in need of advice. Some of these foster parents went on to adopt the children in their care, when the opportunity presented itself.
May is National Foster Care Month. I’d like to salute these parents for all of the work they put into fostering children. Please consider how you might help support a child in some capacity or another – by mentoring, making a donation (clothes, toys, books, and/or a financial gift) to a foster care agency, or becoming a foster or adoptive parent.
Let us all champion foster kids of all ages in the myriad ways we can serve our communities. Let us all strive to be a part of a solution that sees all kids flourish to their full potential and grow up to become productive citizens of our great nation.
It starts with us.