January 15th – Do you know what you were doing last year on January 15th? I do; Today is our foster anniversary.
Last year, January 14th started just like any other day in the chaos known as the Griffin Home. Kids were everywhere doing their school work and avoiding chores, and I was running about attempting to contain the mayhem. My phone rang and when I answered, I heard my flustered husband talking a mile a minute. The next twenty four hours were a whirlwind of investigators, doctors, specialists, police, and three hurting little kids.
Anytime you hear DCFS or CPS or whatever version of the acronym is in your state, a certain sense of apprehension fills your mind. It is scary. Even if you are not the person being investigated, it is scary. You have read or heard about so many cases of families ripped apart and most are deserving of the intrusion, but some truly are not. I really do not have any other word for it other than “scary.” What if you are one of the cases that does not deserve it? What if it happened to you?
When you step into foster care, you are willingly allowing yourself to be investigated.
You are willingly allowing these people into you lives and home, and it is scary. Even though we saw three beautiful little people needing what we could give them we were terrified, but we still signed on the line. We jumped in with both trembling feet.
Our first thoughts were a couple days, maybe a couple weeks, or at the most a couple months…. and then it kept changing. Then we heard it would be at least a year. Here we sit one year later, and we have no idea what the future holds. That again, is SCARY.
When people ask me about being a foster parent, I tell them that is one of the hardest things that I have ever done, BUT also one of the best things that I have ever done. Foster parenting is just like marriage and parenting, there are a lot of wonderful days and there are a lot of not so wonderful days. If you believe marriage is forever, you stay and you work at it even through those really tough moments, but you know you are going to stick. If you have kids, they are forever, and you trudge through the bad days too knowing you will always be a parent. Foster parenting, you never know if there is another day or another month or another year. You are in the system, and your lives revolve around the system.
Visits, appointments, regulations, court dates, and an endless list of acronyms complicate your life. Just like having your own kids, but a whole lot more. You are subject to some one else’s rules in your home, and not only your own. Control is a hard thing to give up! I like to be in control of things around here… or at least to THINK that I am in control.
Parenting a child that is not yours brings on a whole new array of feelings. When a child is not yours, you again are subject to someone else’s rules. You are also subject to that child’s past. When a child needs correction, you have to take into consideration everything that child has been through and avoid anything that is remotely similar. You have to rebuild their trust in adults in general and parents in particular. You have to give them enough love that the walls can be rebuilt, and they can learn to trust again. You have to show them that even though the world is a scary place, you are the safe place for them to fall. You do not know how to do it all! You do not have the answers, but just like raising your own child you stumble through and you make mistakes and you learn a whole lot of lessons. Each day is new, and each day is full of surprises.
Then you look at three little lives that are different.
Then you see a face that used to avoid eye contact and now will hug the stuffing out of you. You see the frequent moments that used to bring total meltdown, but now they are rare and mild. When you step back and look you see the difference that you have helped make, you are dumbstruck. The days are difficult, and the change is so slow that you might not recognize it day by day. It is still there! Little by little all those frustrating and chaotic days add up to an amazing year.
I have always felt so strongly about foster care for many years, but despite me banging on it repeatedly, God never opened the door until last January. His plans were not my plans, but I am so thankful that I was the wrong one.
I sit here on January 15th and again do not know if it will be a couple weeks, a couple months, or a couple years. We honestly have no idea what the future holds. I want to encourage you to consider this journey for your own family. I am never going to paint a perfect picture of sunshine and rainbows, because I am not a liar. I am going to tell you that according to our agency statistics there are 16,000 children in the state of Illinois in foster care, and they do not have enough foster parents. I encourage you to google foster care statistics in the United States. You will be horrified! I am going to tell you that God will open the door if it is you that He is calling. You have to be willing to listen and obey. He will carry you through the days that you can barely crawl. He will give you joy when you feel like you cannot even fake a smile.
Christians, we are called to fatherless and the widows. (James 1:27)
We are called to love like Jesus. Maybe you too are called to love some kids that just need some love. Can you imagine if the Church were committed to the fatherless? We could change the foster care system! We can be Jesus to kids who have never seen this Savior that we hold dear! We can be HIS hands and feet! You can change a child’s world one hectic day at a time.
So what will you be doing NEXT January 15th? Will you remember today?