The topic of child welfare looms large in my novel Our Orbit, which tells the story of an Appalachian girl who crosses the tracks to become foster daughter to an educated family. Love and conflict ensue as many social issues of our time raise their sometimes ugly heads. In gratitude to those who helped me learn about the many demands and great rewards of foster care, I continue to share information on this topic.
Many thanks to today’s guest poster, Teresa Devroe Brown, a foster, adoptive, and bio mom as well as an active blogger. The following is an edited version of her blog post dated 1/10/11—
Our family entered the world of foster care in the Fall of 2003. Since that time, we have had 17 children placed in our home and provided short term respite for around 20 other children.
So much has changed in our lives since that first placement.
We have attended more medical appointments and evaluations than I can count (one child alone had over 250 such appointments while in our care!).
We have helped establish IEP goals for the children in school.
We have cared for two very medically fragile children.
We have worked with numerous counties, caseworkers, CASA’s and biological parents.
We have cared for children with more labels than we knew existed: ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD, eating disorders, “crack baby,” PTSD, attachment disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, poly-drug exposure, MRSA, skin problems, breathing problems, severe visual problems and cognitive delays, to name a few.
We dropped children off at numerous visits with their biological families, some welcomed and some “kicking and screaming” (literally) on the way there.
We have brought countless children to a scheduled visit with their families, only to have them sent back to us after waiting in a lobby for 30 minutes, telling us, “Mom (or Dad) couldn’t make it today!”
We have endured countless hours of logging the daily activities of these children to turn into the foster care agency.
We have agonized as children have had to live in two worlds, “our world” and “their world” at home. Living with us under our parenting principles and guidelines, yet “visiting” their parents under their worldviews, all the while trying to sort out and reconcile some of the comforts and security of living with us, yet their fierce and understandable loyalty to their own family.
We have sat through court hearings where decisions were clearly made “in the best interest of the biological parent,” not “the best interest of the child,” which is why the child was removed from the home in the first place.
We have watched little girls take their first dance lessons, young boys hit their first ball in Little League, teen boys get ready for their first football practice, teen girls make the basketball team and little ones memorize Bible verses for AWANA.
We have been there when a little child woke up from surgery.
We have spent countless hours creating “LifeBooks” for each child, a forever memory and keepsake of pictures to record their time with our family
We have watched two siblings leave our home after living with us for two years. Their new “forever family” snapped them into their van with a little U-Haul attached to bring all their belongings to their new home.
We have watched four kids successfully reunite with their biological parents and four others who were able to live with a relative. We have seen three children get adopted into great Christian homes, ready to start their new lives with their “Forever Family.”
And we sat through a court hearing where one of these children became our legal son.
We have seen our biological children learn firsthand about the many injustices in this world and that “family” is not always a safe and loving place or feeling. They have learned to share their space, their things, their parents and their hearts with the many children who have come and gone from our lives.
They watched a young teen Mom as she tried to manage school and an infant son while they went to the movies with their friends. They have seen the impact of raising children with no boundaries and no consequences. They have seen the hardships of being cared for by a mentally ill Mom.
And our oldest, Lauren, just graduated with her degree in Social Work and now works for Children’s Services in her county. She has seen firsthand both the benefits and the problems with our child welfare system. And she wants to remain committed to caring for the abused and the neglected.
Several years ago, in one of her college application essays, she responded to the often asked questions of, “How do you guys do it? I could never do foster care. I would get too attached to the kids. I could never give them up.” Her heartfelt response? “It is not about how we feel. It is about the kids!”
Our children have developed a real heart for the hurting in this world.
And they have thoroughly embraced, Jameson, their adopted brother.
But with all the many joys and victories we have experienced, there has also been much heartache.
Heartache over children leaving our home only to “age out” of the foster care system and be forever “on their own” and without a family to call their own.
We have personally experienced the scrutiny of county caseworkers who think we should silently “do what we are told” by “the system,” oftentimes to the detriment of the very children we are caring for.
Even when we disagree with the details of the case plan, we try to care for and love these children for as long as they are in our home. We help bathe these children. And read to them. And help them with their homework. And take them to appointments. And pack their lunches. And love them.
So today, I will trust in the One Who has called me to this life. I will choose to remain steadfast in Him. I will ask Him to help me lovingly care for these children. And to graciously forgive their families who have inflicted so much pain on them.
Today, I will braid the hair of a child who is not my own. I will take her to dance class. And cheerleading practice. I will eagerly wait for another one to come home from her basketball game. I will listen to whatever she is willing to tell me about her day and the game (she won’t say much).
Today, I will pay extra attention to my adopted son. I will pause and remember what a great responsibility it has been to parent him. I will revel in how far he has come. I will count it a privilege to be his Mom.
And I will grieve for his Birth Mother and wonder how she is doing. Does she think of him? Did her heart feel a little empty on Mother’s Day? Would she be so proud to see him now?
And when there are hard days in our foster and adoptive world, I will heed the words of my wise-beyond-her-years daughter, “It is not about how I feel. It is about the kids.”
James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Lord, may my faith be pure and faultless today!
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Thank you for learning about issues involved in foster care! For additional information—
Visit the official site of National Foster Care Month 2015.
Visit the National Foster Parent Association.
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