Monthly Archives: September 2012

If I were a foster child….

A few months back, I read an article in our local newspaper that caused me to pause and ask a lot of questions.  Its’ message has been haphazardly rolling around in my heart and mind ever since.  The article described the work and mission of an area group called “Mercy for America’s Children”, MAC.  The article, in full here, states “one of the nonprofit’s focuses is to hold match events to help prospective families spend time with children who need homes”.  These children are older foster children.  Kids who have experienced neglect or abuse, often been moved from place to place and have lived through traumatic and painful experiences.  They are vulnerable.

As I read about the match events involving activities such as water skiing and martial arts where prospective adoptive parents come and hang out with the kids as they consider adoption, I tried to put myself in the place of a child in the midst of such an event.  Would it generate a hope deep in my heart that I might be chosen on this day or some other?  Would I figure out what this event was all about and turn on all my charm?  Would I be angry and resentful thinking that others would be chosen over me?  Would I have had so many hopes dashed before that I would be afraid to hope?  Maybe it would just seem like a fun day doing something different.  In my mind I flashed back to the day when our family visited the orphanage where one of our daughters spent almost 2 years. As we looked into the faces of older children still there I wondered what was this visit doing to their vulnerable hearts and dreams?

Another quote from the article, from a mom who had herself adopted older foster children, said this:, “You hear so many myths and misconceptions about kids in foster care, but they are just kids that need love.”  As an adoptive parent, I know that this is a tremendous oversimplification.  To sugar coat and deny the very real pain and needs that a foster child may have does a disservice to both the prospective parents and the children themselves.  As with all children, there are complex needs and responsibilities in raising them.  For a child with known trauma, the “all they need is love” approach just won’t hold up.  The journey most likely will require a great deal of resources and flexibility to meet whatever needs and challenges arise. To check my thoughts, I asked a very gentle and compassionate friend who was in the midst of fostering older children to read the article and give me her thoughts – her response was, “it just can’t be that simple”.

So, on one hand, I am glad there are groups like MAC who are committed to helping older foster children to find permanent homes – they deserve no less.  With 30,000 aging out of foster care each year without a family, it is a national crisis. Yet I also hope that the adults involved are considering the perspective of the child and their dignity as they go about such sacred work.  This particular article seems too simplistic- more of a “test driving a car” mentality than the very serious lifetime commitment to a hurting child.  Children’s very lives and souls are at stake.  I hope that we as the grown ups are mindful of the impact of our actions on vulnerable children.  If you have any thoughts, experiences or perspective on this subject, I would love to hear from you.  Healthy dialogue is a step in the pursuit of doing what is best for vulnerable children in our midst.

A code red week

It was the dinner hour one day last week in the Wilson home, and our 8 year old daughter seemed particularly bouncy.  As we attempted to settle in, it became apparent why she had a little extra energy running through her body.  She passionately began to share that during school that day, her class had participated in a “code red drill”.  My mind flashed back to early elementary school days when my school had fire drills and a couple of real live “bomb scare” evacuations of the school.  Unsettling.  Something about our precious 8 year old describing how all of the children in her class had to take cover in a place that would put them out of the line of sight (code word for fire) of anyone peering through the glass window of their classroom door made my heart sink.  Corners, under tables, all bunched together.  I could not fully let my mind’s eye go to a scene where this drill could become reality, though it doesn’t take a lot of imagination as I interact with the daily news.

As if their hearts needed to redirect after such sober matters, they moved onto lighter topics.  Suddenly we were discussing what would each of our daughters do if a boy wanted to marry them.  Their dad puffed out his chest a bit and said something to the effect of “bring them to me”.   This led into discussion of the different girl friends and boy friends dad and mom had in the past – lots of kissing questions ensued. And then our talk jumped back to what to do if someone wanted to marry one of them and they did not want to do so.  I suggested that if this happened, they should dial up a “code red” and 4 men over 6 feet tall would come running – one of the many gifts and advantages of having 3 grown, tall brothers and a daddy.

On Monday, I was responding to a summons to appear at our county courthouse for jury duty.  My name had been called and I was sitting in a courtroom with 36 of my peers waiting to see who would be called to serve.  In this setting, I lived my own “code red” moments.  A text came in to a mom seated next to me reporting that several area schools had been placed on lock down, my children’s school among them.  The far-fetched code red drill of dinner conversation seemed to be happening and I was truly grateful that they had practiced.  To add to the stress of the moment, the babysitter that I had arranged to pick up my girls after school texted to say that her high school was on lock down and she wasn’t sure she could pick up our girls.  You can’t just get up and walk out of jury duty – a contempt of court charge will likely follow.  My husband was not reachable.  Several deep breaths and a 15 minute break later, contingency plans had been made, friends filled in gaps, a vice principal explained that the girls’ school was taking precautions but the students were not on full code red procedures.  The lock down situation did resolve, our girls came home and reported at dinner they had another code red “drill”- thank you awesome school staff for protecting young hearts and minds- and all was ok in our little world.  On that day, I was not forced to explain that an ex-husband had shot his ex-wife in a nearby parking lot and been hunted for four hours until he was found dead, of suicide.   But I do pray for God’s grace and care on the three newly orphaned children and their family members who are left behind to deal with a big code red situation.  God have mercy.

Community vs. herd living

I turned to my companion Wikipedia to help define a human herd.  This is what I found:  “Herd mentality implies a fear-based reaction to peer pressure which makes individuals act in order to avoid feeling “left behind” from the group. “ I don’t know about you, but I’ve lived in a herdish place on many occasions.  We can be part of a herd that is defined by race, political bent, religion, school, civic group or even family.   There is a feeling of protection from outside threats and a level of comfort and ease in such a place.  Judgment and fear of “other” are commonly held values to keep everyone in check.  There are definite rules in place – whether written down or not – and to remain a part, we must adhere to the common code.  We don’t have to look very far during this political campaign season to see that the way of discussion and consensus are out and the way of the herd is dominant.  Disturbing the status quo can lead to dismissal from the herd.  This can happen overtly and directly or in more covert ways that lead a person to slowly drift away.  Choosing to leave a herd can result in living in a very isolated and lonely place.

But there is another way – the way of community.  To commune with others is a critical need within all of our human hearts.  God created us to be in fellowship and communion with one another.  We aren’t created to go it alone.  Rather than a connection based on fear and being against, community is an invitation to join together for common purpose.  There is joy and freedom, along with a lot of hard work, involved in being in community.  Diverse thoughts and approaches are honored and worked through in a place of discussing and sharing life together.  There is a vulnerability and willingness to look beyond the shallow and surface place of life and wrestle with and share profound thoughts and experiences.  It can be an uncomfortable and raw place yet it is so worth the discomfort and effort required.  It is a place where one can be authentically known and yet fully loved – a place we all long to be. 

About 4 years ago, a mom realized that due to the challenges she was facing with her adopted child and the judgment felt from others, she was isolated and feeling very alone.  She began reaching out to other adoptive moms and very quickly experienced that she was not in fact alone.  A group called Amazing Families was born.  I imagine that many a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-anon, GriefShare, etc. had similar beginnings – a person in pain, feeling isolated, reaching out to connect with others on a similar path who can travel through life together.   Sometimes sharing life for a season and sometimes for a lifetime.  This community of amazing families has been a safe place to laugh, to cry, to learn, to encourage, to admit defeat and celebrate victories, and to be honest as we all journey to shift our parenting paradigm and do our best with our children.  Due to our family demands, it is often challenging to meet face to face but sometimes a quick call out to the yahoo group is sufficient.  People respond – in word, prayer and in deed.  This past year a small group of moms got together to study Conscious Discipline by Becky Bailey.  I missed this community over the summer and was a bit more adrift in my parenting on many a day.  So, on this day, I join in with the apostle Paul in saying to all those who are a part of the many different parts and pieces of genuine community in my life – “I thank my God every time I remember you”.  Thanks for showing me the way to true community.