Foster care runs deep in my family. For different reasons and in different places, we are no strangers to the many children needing a home and a family for a night, a month, a lifetime. It began in the summer of 2012 when Mark and I took in a beautiful 9 year old girl who had lost her parents in a country far from here, and found herself in a heartbreaking situation once stateside.
Since then, my extended family has been through the hours and months of training and preparing and opening their hearts to many different children who for varying circumstances have needed a soft place to land. We have been witness to heartbreaking trauma, soul-challenging obstacles, and mind blowing accomplishments. One of the most surprising moments however, came more recently. I suppose there is a certain stigma people imagine when they think about foster care, but it really hadn’t occurred to me until these words pierced me like a jolt of lightening. [Summarized] “I could never do it. I would want to hurt the parents for hurting their child.” That was the moment I realized that perhaps the world is under the misunderstanding that an abusive parent is the only reason for foster care. I don’t dispute there are cases like that; we know of many, but let me take a few moments to show you another side.
There is the story of the children whose parents have tragically passed away; the children who have no living kin, and have nowhere to go but the sacrificial arms of a foster family seeking to fill those gaps, but there is another story closer to my heart. There is the story of a child so deeply and irrevocably loved by his parents, that the only way to save him was to say goodbye. There is a boy who despite the caring and stable home he was raised in, saw and felt greater trauma and loss than his tender heart was ever meant to bear. There is a boy who couldn’t seem to grab the lifeline of hope and healing in the middle of his grief, and his heart straight cracked in places no one knew. The only way he could figure to make the hurting pieces less jagged was to force himself to stop feeling. There is a boy who saw his parents call and reach and beg for him to let them help carry his burden, but his fear of losing the people he loved most caused him to run blindly in the opposite direction.
This boy built unscalable walls to hide his bleeding, and though he knew both parents stood on the other side of those walls, willing to take him back again and again, he continued to run faster, desperately seeking any possible means to numb the throb that he felt. Repeatedly this resulted in his ensnarement in traps far darker and more painful than the imagination cares to venture, but every time he found this bottom he also found his mom and dad there, waiting and ready to pick him up and dust him off again. It was no light work on their part; they sacrificed their own comfort, friends, reputation, money, jobs, and homes in hopes that this time would be the last time. They repeatedly showed up to gather his sharp edges again, even when the razor sharpness sliced into their most tender places.
There is a boy in foster care not because his parents were too neglectful or abusive, but because after years of the boy’s broken heart pushing him farther and farther to prove that he was incapable of being hurt again, he reached a place so far they could only stand by and watch in horror. Yet they did; they stood there. In the pouring rain of the deepest, most painful valley, they stood as close as they could get, nothing left to offer but to cup their bleeding hands around the cutting edges of his brokenness and quietly say, we will never give up fighting for you.
He wasn’t carted off because of parents who refused to care for him, rather his mom sat heaving deep, excruciating sobs in the dark after she was told he wouldn’t be able to come home, and she wondered over how to tell his siblings. They don’t fail to show up for visits because they can’t be bothered, rather they drag themselves beaten and weary to his side every chance they are allowed, so that together they can help him as he wakes to his reality and begins the long journey toward victory.
There is a family who cries and clings together to comfort each other in the moments that pass without their son and brother in their daily lives. There is a family who still drags themselves to standing, fresh scars catching the daylight as we keep fighting for the boy we still call our own, until the joyous day we get to say, welcome home.
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