You’re a good parent. I know you are. And, if you’re not a parent yet, guess what? I know you’ll be a good parent. You’ll feed your kids, dress them in weather-appropriate clothes, make sure they get to school and back home safely, buy them presents for Christmas and their birthday and twelve other made-up holidays, give them a bed to sleep in and lots of hugs and kisses. You’ll probably scour Pinterest for hours and throw them outrageous parties to celebrate their milestones. You’ll take them on vacation and build sandcastles and climb mountains and ride roller coasters with them. You are a good parent!
I know you’ll never burn your child with a hot iron when you’ve had a bad day. You’ll never lock them in a closet while you go clubbing or lay on the couch stoned for a week while they lay in their crib starving. I know you’ll never be one of those parents because you’re a good parent.
But imagine if your child were taken into state custody. Say there’s some bureaucratic nonsense that you get tangled in and your child becomes a foster child. And, don’t say it won’t happen because I’ve heard enough stories to know that it could happen. To you.
Did you know that it’s likely your child will spend their first night or two lying on a floor or couch or cot at a state government office? And, then, they’ll likely be transferred on a daily basis among various foster homes. Yep. All their personal items will be packed up in a trash bag, thrown into the trunk of some random person’s car and, moments later, carried into a stranger’s house.
But don’t worry too much. They’ll still be taken to school or daycare, although it might not be the one they’re used to going to. And they’ll still be fed three meals a day, although let’s just hope they aren’t being shuffled around on their birthday because heaven knows that a birthday cake is the last thing on the mind of a stressed out caseworker or foster parent. After a while, things may finally calm down and a more long-term foster home might be found for your child, but chances are it’s in a different county that’s hours away, so count on your weekly visits being cut to a minimum.
Sounds like a blast, am I right?
Of course, I’m only kidding. You don’t want your child in a scary situation, shuffled around by strangers, living with strangers, completely out of their element and their comfort zone. And, who can blame you? Children need to feel secure and loved in a familiar environment with people they trust and who care about them. But, I’m sorry, they’re not going to get that because there aren’t enough foster parents.
Are you angry? You should be. Children deserve so much better. After all, it’s not their fault they’re in foster care- but every moment they are suffering under the weight of enormous psychological stressors and the best we adults can give them is a pathetic makeshift attempt that, at best, meets their most basic physical needs.
But, you should also know that you can do something about it. You can become a foster parent yourself. Sound impossible? It’s not. It’s frustrating, and challenging, and rewarding, and eye-opening, and miraculous, and transcendent at times, but it’s not impossible. Not for you. Because you’re a good parent- or you’re going to be- and good parents like you make the best foster parents.
You are the difference between a child crippled with gaping, bleeding emotional wounds and a child thriving with scars that were bandaged up and kissed with love.
You are the difference in a child taught to react to life out of fear and a child taught to engage life out of love.
You are the difference maker in a child’s world.
YOU are the difference.