Inclusion and Exclusion – Vacation and Foster Kids

When you agree to take foster kids into your home, you ought to be agreeing to make them a part of your family. For better or for worse, they are your kids. Tomorrow they might go home or they might go to a treament facility or to a new foster home.

Today, they are your kids.

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Wherever you take your kids, you take your foster kids. Going to the movies? Take your foster kids. Going to the mall? Take your foster kids. Going camping? Take your foster kids. Going to Disney World? TAKE YOUR FOSTER KIDS.

Many of the teens in foster care have never experienced things like vacation. They are excluded from family activities like these for a variety of reasons. A variety of reasons I don’t understand.

While I fully support the idea of using respite to have breathing time for kids and foster parents alike, I do not support the idea of using respite to exclude kids from family activities. Foster kids deserve inclusion in as many things as possible. If an activity is one that your foster kid can’t handle, you ought to seriously evaluate whether it is an activity your family ought to participate in.

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One of my biological sons has severe ADHD. There are things he can’t handle. If we want to participate in these things, we have to adapt. Neither Daddy or I have any qualms about skipping something that might be a difficult environment for Man #1.

When I make the choice to parent children from hard places, I’m making the choice to adapt my life so that they can be a part of everything we do. If I’m not willing to do that, maybe I should seriously consider my decision to foster at all.

We were blessed this weekend to camp with three families who also have a ton of kids. One of those families is fostering a child. There was never any doubt that he would be camping with us. There was never a moment when he wasn’t entirely included. He is one of their kids, for better or for worse, no matter what. If that changes, they will mourn the loss of him. If it doesn’t, he’ll gain their last name. But in the meantime, he is their child and he goes where they go.

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Kids from hard places are excluded from so many things. Please don’t let family vacations be one of those things!

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We are NOT Color-blind

Today I read an interesting article (How Racism is Hurting Our Nation’s Foster Children) that revealed a harsh truth in the Foster Care system.

Children of color don’t get adopted as often. They don’t get as many services. They don’t get reunited with family as often. They don’t get as many visits with their birth family. They spend more time in care. When it comes to privatized adoptions of domestic infants, they are offered at a “discounted rate.”

These details are harsh. Sometimes they are difficult for us to swallow so we pretend they don’t exist. But they do exist. Black kids, hispanic kids, biracial kids. They are waiting for us.

They need us to advocate for them as their foster parents. They need us to long for them as their adoptive parents. They need us to break into the busted system and create change.

Systemic racism is an undeniable reality across the board. We see some of the consequences of this systemic problem reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement. We know that there are problems with housing, employment, education, social services, and beyond. We do not live in a post-racial society. We are not color blind.

How do we create change that will last? We be the change. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” A quote often attributed to Ghandi, but regardless of the author of the quote, we can be the author of the change.

What happens when my children embrace true friendships with kids who don’t share their skin color? What happens when our family embraces children with black skin and brown skin as grafted-in members? What happens when we celebrate differences rather than pretend that they don’t exist?

Family happens. And isn’t that what we’re all here for; to be family? To belong? To be cherished and loved? To be given every opportunity to be the people God designed us to be?

I praise God today that my adoption into the Family of God was not contingent on something as basic as the color of my skin. It wasn’t even contingent on my behavior.

He loves us because HE IS LOVE. He calls us to do the same.

Love without condition, my friends, is the only real love.

Paper Pregnant

There is a term in the adoption world that refers to the waiting period that occurs after all the paperwork is submitted.

Paper pregnant.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever applied it to foster parents. If not, they should have. I have a pile of paperwork, albeit it isn’t as big as other piles for other adoptions, but it’s a pile nonetheless.

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There are health forms for our doctors, birth certificates, social security cards, emergency maps, floor plans, background checks, and on and on and on.

I’m not paper pregnant though. I’m about to pee on the proverbial stick. I haven’t filled any of this out yet. Wait, I take that back. Our doctor forms are finished.

So, today I’m going to dive in. The pile has to be done by the date of our first STARS class so I’ve got just over three weeks to get it together.

Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth…

What About YOUR Children?

When we first became foster/adopt parents many years ago, we didn’t have any bio children. We didn’t have any children at all. It seemed acceptable to want to take this path toward parenting. Well, maybe not acceptable, but tolerable.

Now we have six children, five in our home. Five, aged six and under. There seems to be a great deal of concern for their safety. Please don’t hear that I am not concerned about how fostering will affect my children. Of course we are concerned. There is a mighty long list of things I am concerned about when it comes to my children. That list includes things like the semi-busy street we live on, the medications my son with ADHD takes, bullies at the playground, too much tv, too little nutrition, nightmares, whether or not the baby is breathing when she is in her crib at night, and on and on and on. I am not completely disregarding the effects this giant change in our family will have on my children. We are praying for wisdom and we move forward gradually, talking as a family as we go.

Here’s the thing though…my son can’t live with the reality that there are children who live in shelters and group homes. His little heart is broken by the truth that there are brothers and sisters, just like his family, who can’t live together because no one is willing to take them all. He asks me why we still have an empty bedroom. In fact, his compassionate heart is the reason we’re here at all.

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The Lord called us to care for the children in foster care many years ago. We’ve always known the need and for the past four years, we’ve declared our inability, our unwillingness to jump back into the chaos that is foster care. We’ve made our excuses and we’ve told God that there was no way we could handle the heartache again. We talk and talk and talk, but neither of us had the courage to move forward, knowing what we know about how much it will hurt. And then…

After a conversation Man #1 had with a sweet friend at church one morning, he stewed in his new knowledge. She told him that she had a new brother. This little guy didn’t come out of her mommy’s tummy though. He had a different set of parents, ones who weren’t able to care for him properly. So her mommy and daddy were going to take care of this new little guy for a while so he wouldn’t be alone. Man #1 thought and thought, being our most introspective child. And then he spoke.

“Mom, did you know there are kids who don’t have parents?”

“Yes buddy, I did know that.”

“Mom, why aren’t we doing anything about it?”

And that was the beginning of the end. The end of making excuses. The end of guarding our hearts and our homes from the calling of the Lord.

My children will face difficulty in life. There will be trials. There will be pain. There will be loss. I can’t shelter them from these things, nor do I want to. I want to teach them how to respond in the storm. Compassion. Love. Joy. Longsuffering. Bearing burdens.

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It turns out, the best way to teach these things is to do them. My sweet son is leading the charge. We’ve been as honest as we can about the reality of taking in children from hard places. He doesn’t care. He isn’t deterred. He can’t understand why we would turn away from hurting kids when we clearly have the resources to provide them with all they need. He wants to share his parents, his home, and his heart.

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What about my children, you ask? Well, my children want to know what happens to the lost and broken children. They want to know what we’re going to do about it.

I dare you to suggest to these brothers that we ought to hide from a challenge. They might end up asking you what YOU plan to do?

Super Heroes  

Everyone Deserves a Mama

Every year, 27,000 teenagers will “age out” of foster care. For most, that means being tossed into the world without the skills or support necessary to lead successful lives.

This statistic is frightening, but it is also rather sterile. I can’t wrap my mind around 27 thousand people. I can’t humanize a statistic like this one. I can read articles like this one (For Teens in Foster Care, Adoption is a Lifeline) and I intellectually understand the need. But I don’t emotionally connect.

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Jakial, Ra’Neisha, Unique, Ky’Anndra

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Miracle, Tierracole, Azenae

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Emerald and Jade

Video of Emerald and Jade

These beautiful girls deserve more than what they have. They deserve a mom who loves them. Late night talks about boys and make-up and the future should be a regular part of their lives. Someone ought to drive them to college orientation and help them decorate their new dorm rooms. When they don’t remember how to do their laundry, they should be able to text their mama. When Thanksgiving break comes at school, they should be HOME, baking and laughing with their family. When their hearts are broken, someone should cry with them. When they celebrate, someone should cheer with them. When a sweet boy proposes to one of these girls, there should be giddy phone calls and visits to bridal shops. When she tries on her first wedding gown, there should be a woman she calls “Mom”, silently crying in the corner, overwhelmed by the beauty of her sweet girl. When that first pregnancy test has two lines, there should be joy, not fear and sadness. As the contractions worsen, a mama should be holding the hand of these young women, welcoming grandchildren into the world.

If someone doesn’t see these things when they view the pictures of these girls, the future isn’t a beautiful journey. It is a dark and scary place. There will be no one to call as they learn to be adults. There will be no one to share the joyful times and no one to cry with through the pain of growing up. Adulthood without a mom is a bleak place.

Let’s stop seeing these beautiful teenagers as damaged and intimidating. Let’s remember what it was to be a teenager and ask ourselves what we would have done without our supports, without guidance.

The Lord has been so gracious to me. He has loved me when I was difficult to love. He has shown me what it is to be a daughter of the King. When I didn’t have a mama, He gave me lots of mamas. But, my heart aches because I didn’t have one mama. My very own go-to lady who loved me and could guide me. I can no longer look at the spare bedroom and empty seats around my table, and justify the reasons why these ladies will enter the world without a MOM.

Who is the Lord laying on your heart? What are your fears? What keeps you from saying YES?

Bright Idea

I think it was Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

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We’ve been here before.

We want to love children from hard places. Children who’ve seen more than they should see. Children who’ve lost more than they should lose. Children who can’t do life like children ought to be able to do life.

They come broken and bruised and often their response is to break and bruise.

Loving children from hard places means being willing to go into the darkness, into the hard places, and pull them out. No easy task, to say the least.

Broken

We’ve been here before.

We have room in our home, our van, our hearts. We can’t unknow the known. We can’t escape the realities of nearly 400,000 broken children living in a broken system.

Swings

We’ve been here before.

He calls us into His work. He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He tells us to Seek Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly with Our God. His assignment hasn’t changed.

We’ve been here before.

We were hurt deeply by the system. Hurt as we separated from children we loved. Hurt as we realized how desparately unequipped we were for the task. We took on too much. We didn’t know enough. We didn’t seek wisdom or counsel. We moved before praying. Jumped before being still.

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Not everything is the same though. Much is different. We’ve learned so much. We’ve wrestled against the fire that was refining us and succumbed to its power. We have been humbled by the trials and the discipline of the Lord. And, He calls us again…