My husband and I talked after I read him a brief account of Pat Williams’ adoption story (he has adopted 14 children from 4 countries). The masses of children in our world that need loving, stable homes are staggering. The state of orphanages, and orphans is both tragic and heart-breaking. Many children who have been abandoned, are living on the street or in town dumps, where they race others to, and fight others for, the meager scraps they can find. It’s not the Boxcar Children, for sure. Remember, too, that for every story you hear, there are thousands that remain untold.
And yet, there are orphans (thousands upon thousands) who are often overlooked. These orphans have no homes, and whilst they may not be living in the streets or in dumps, they are living in a nightmare of their own. Often they do have family…people they once lived with and may have been very close to. Those relationships may not have been healthy, the kids abused or neglected, yet they still love their families. At some point in their young lives everyone and everything they knew was ripped from them – through no fault of their own. All their friends, relatives, toys, clothes, and other belongings are gone! They are separated from their mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Instead, they are taken to the home of a complete stranger and told that they will be living there now. Imagine how you’d feel if this had happened to you. Imagine your brother or sister had been taken too, but were placed with a different family. You have to go to a new school. You feel completely disconnected and alone. These are our foster children.
The life of a foster child can be very difficult, even when the child is placed in a loving family. Walking the fine line between overwhelming grief at the loss of everyone and everything they ever knew, fear and wonder of living in a new (and hopefully, loving and stable) new home, the child (whether infant, toddler or school-aged) faces long months of roller coaster emotions, oscillating between fear, anger, depression and sometimes, excitement, love and joy. Throw into the mix the trauma of occasionally having visits with their biological family (if/when they come to the visits), wondering when/if he/she’ll be going home, having to meet with social workers, psychologists, and even being moved from one foster family to another (some children are moved multiple times, which can cause great psychological damage) – you now have a recipe for domestic disaster.
While there are thousands around the world needing and waiting for adoptions, there are thousands around the United States that need adoption too. They may not live in orphanages (most orphanages in the US were closed in the 1960s or earlier), but their need is no less than those you see and hear about in periodicals and documentaries. It’s not an easy road. International adoption isn’t simple either – it can be quite expensive and time-consuming. Foster-adopt parents can experience significant head-ache and heart-ache both during the fostering period and post-adoption; however, the children are no less needy or deserving of help, love, security and adoption than children born outside the USA.
I had an epiphany while reading an article a couple of years ago about a program in Cal State schools. Cal State instituted a program specifically targeting those foster children that had the tenacity to overcome their numerous disadvantages and gain admission to university; foster children who, having never been adopted, were emancipated at age 18. Foster children who, at Christmas or other holiday breaks, have no family to visit, nowhere to go. Cal State’s solution is to keep one dorm open during the holidays so these kids have somewhere to spend the break from school. But that got me thinking… why not find mentor families willing to house one student each year? Take the child in and give him/her a family experience, something to look forward to?
Rather than going on and on (believe me, I could!), I challenge you: if you are considering adoption, consider foster-adoption. Help one of the thousands of children right here in this country that need a home. Pray about whether you should become a foster-parent, even if it’s something you never imagined doing. If you aren’t looking to adopt, look for other opportunities to help. There are still many ways you can get involved to help a foster (or former-foster) child – Royal Family Kids Camps, CASA, Sharefest, Big Brother/Sister programs, etc. Or, check out some of these links for more ideas: