I have no idea what it is like to be a child in the foster care system.
I can’t imagine the confusion, loss of identity, fear, anger, hurt and sadness that children face when they find themselves separated from their parents, their family, their community.
For some, to be sure, it is a welcome relief. They recognize that their family should be the place where they are cared for and loved. They understand that they shouldn’t be hiding bruises and covering for their parents’ addictions.
For others, no matter how chaotic their lives, their family is still their family. They love their parents and they want to be with them.
And probably for most, there is a feeling of guilt. They feel relief that they no longer worry about having what they need, but sad about leaving their family. Then, there is the immense guilt they experience when they are happy. They know they should be thankful for safety, but they miss the way their mom made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Unable to verbalize, afraid to hurt anyone, they internalize a sense of guilt for their very existence, and they begin to refuse being loved by anyone.
I really don’t know what it is like to be a child in the foster care system. I can only guess.
I do, however, know what it is like to be a foster sibling. And I know what it is like to be the mother of a foster sibling.
This past week I have watched my teenage daughter’s heart break for her friend, Faith*. They knew each other from school, but their bond was formed when we brought Faith into our home for a few weeks. For different reasons, we have been unable to provide a permanent home for this 15 year old girl, and she has bounced around from home to home. Now, Faith finds herself in a group home a few hours away. The truth is, there are and have been many people who want to love her. Good people who desire to become her family. My daughter tells me, with tears in her eyes, that Faith was being interviewed and having pictures taken for the Nebraska Heart Gallery. The Nebraska Heart Gallery is a website listing children who are in need of a family. This is a last resort for children finding a home.
My daughter shares all of this information with me as we sit at another young lady’s graduation party. This young lady had been in our home for awhile, she also needed a family to care for her. We loved her but knew we could not be the one. I reached out on Facebook to my friends and asked them to pray for her, many said they would. Two years and many homes later, she is in the best family for her. She became guardian-shipped, and now she has graduated!
My daughter is rightfully angered by the outcomes of children who don’t have a family. She knows they end up homeless, sometimes on drugs or in jail, and often pregnant too soon. The thought of these outcomes for Faith absolutely devastate her. Faith spent most of her life in a home very much like ours, one block away from ours and in the same schools, but as they both propel toward graduation, one child looks forward to college and the other worries about basic necessities.
You might be the one who can make a family possible for a child just like Faith.
May is National Foster Care Month. Not everyone is called to be a foster parent, but there are a lot of other ways to get involved. You can support the work of Compass in guiding, building and restoring children and families financially, sign up to help provide care short term for children, volunteer for Foster Parent Night Out, or respond to needs on CarePortal. If you have questions, please reach out! [email protected] or 308-440-6759.
*Name is changed to protect confidentiality.