Today's guest post comes from the blog Word From the Wallaces. The original post can be found here. Lindsy is a parent of two biological children and two children through foster care. In addition, the family is also waiting for a little boy through international adoption!
Our foster care social worker makes a visit to our house once a month to see how we are doing as a foster home. She is assigned to look after us; the boys and their mother have another worker assigned to look after them and work towards the goal of reunification.
Our worker, we’ll call her “Susan”, was here last week and we were talking about how understaffed the department is. SO understaffed, she almost called us about a baby. A baby with a “concurrent” goal. (For those of you not in the foster care world, the term “concurrent” means they are working towards adoption for this baby.) Did I mention we're talking about a BABY?
Susan knows we are not in the place to adopt a baby. Susan knows we have our "hands full". Susan knows we have a little boy in the Congo coming home soon-ish. But she had no one else to call. “All of our homes are full.” she told me. “We don’t have enough homes – even for babies.”
Do those words stop you in your tracks? Not enough homes? For babies? In Kentucky?
William and I never intended to become foster parents. We never even considered adopting domestically. The thought literally never crossed our minds.
Do you ever speak words that come back to haunt you? I did once. Ok, a few times, but at least once on this very topic.
The day before "T" and "M" came to live with us I attended Created for Care, a retreat/conference for adoptive moms. I was speaking with a woman whose family had been praying about starting the journey of adopting from Ethiopia. She asked me a question I could tell had been on her mind for some time. She asked me how I answer people who want to know why we are adopting from Africa and not “here”. Here being in the US.
I gave my wise Christian answer (insert sarcasm here) - we prayed about it and feel like God has our children in Africa... and then I told her the need is greater there. Kids in the US have roofs over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their tummies. Their parents are not dying of AIDS at alarming rates and they are not dying themselves of dirty water. Simple. The need is greater. I. Spoke. Those. Words.
Friends, I was wrong. Hear me. I. WAS. WRONG.
While yes, children in Africa (or Russia or India or Haiti) are more likely to be on the streets in the only shirt they own begging for food and living in a cardboard box because their parents are dead or sick, the effect parentlessness has on them is NO GREATER than the effect of parentlessness on vulnerable children right “here”.
Dr. Purvis says “their brains are different”. Kids from "hard places" - their brains are different. The reason their brains are different is because of the lack of nurturing they received prenatally and during the first few years of their lives.
Their brains are different because no one nurtured them.
No one met their needs.
No one loved them.
There are six risk factors that put a child into this category: difficult pregnancy, difficult birth, early hospitalization, abuse, neglect and trauma. (Certainly malnutrition plays a critical role and can have dramatic affects on development but a child who was hungry and nurtured will be better off than a child who had a full belly but no nurture.)
When T and M came to live with us I was SHOCKED to see the exact same behaviors we had read about and come to expect from our little one coming to us from an orphanage in a third world country. In my naive mind they would be "normal". They had a roof, clothes and food. (most of the time) They even had a parent. I thought they would be a little shaken up but fair pretty well.
I was wrong.
Their brains are different BUT their needs are the same. The same as children in Africa. Children in Russia, India and Haiti. The need for lovers of Jesus to fight for them is the same.
When we went through foster care training over the summer our instructor shared statistics that were startling to me at the time. I just didn't know:
246 kids in foster care ages 0 - 5
118 kids in care ages 6 - 11
344 kids in care ages 12 - 19
50 kids in care ages 19 - 21 (this number may be the saddest as these kids are holding out to the very last minute for a family to call their own)
Nearly 800 kids are in foster homes in Jefferson County. 800 kids. Ironically, in the state of Kentucky there are 800 KIDS READY TO BE ADOPTED. Did you know that? Six months ago, I did not.
There are a lot of myths regarding foster care and adopting from the foster system. Unfortunately, the only stories that receive media attention are ones where a birth parent shows up years later and demands their kid back. Or stories of kids who linger in the states care for years and years. While these things do happen, they are not the norm in Kentucky. More importantly, the system may be broken, but God is sovereign.
No one reading these words is immune from receiving a phone call today that will change their life. Your life. My life. We are not in control. Of anything. Biological kids, internationally adopted kids, foster kids.They all belong to Him.
Did you know...
Did you know adopting from foster care is essentially free? FREE.
Did you know biological parents have no way of gaining back custody of their children once parental rights are terminated? NO. WAY.
Did you know children enter foster care through no fault of their own? They are victims of the adults who were supposed to take care of them.
Did you know in the state of Kentucky the Safe Families for Children Act prevents kids from lingering in the system?
Did you know you are provided a per diem to care for the foster kids in your home? Did you know this per diem continues for most children even after they have been adopted? Did you know kids from foster care can go to any state college for free?
Did you know you can take your foster kids across state lines, enroll them in daycare and have babysitters?
Did you know you will get attached?
And it will be hard?
In the paraphrased words of Amy Monroe "You can handle getting attached and getting hurt. You're an adult. You can handle it. They are kids."
These kids you are afraid of loving too much - they are dying for someone to love them like that. While they are not dying from poverty, disease or hunger, their needs are the same.
If you'd like to learn more about adopting from foster care in KY visit the KY Department for Family Services. If you are interested in foster care or adoption in another state visit Focus on the Family.
My prayer is that this post would shine a light on the needs of children right "here". Please contact me if you have questions about our experience or if I can help you prayerfully begin the journey of foster care. lindsy.wallace AT gmail DOT com