My wife and I are now adoptive parents to our two girls. We adopted them from the foster care system. When we started fostering, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fostering and adopting our girls is one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. But it is hard to understand the foster care system and what these children go through from outside of the system. When you delve into this world of fostering, you start to understand the real need there is in this world for caring, loving parents. At times it is overwhelming, especially for my wife who was also employed within the system for some time as well.
Let me give you an example. One day, my wife came home exhausted and almost in tears. On that day, she had seen nine newborns arrive into the system. Just so you understand, these are nine newborns arriving into the foster care system but not necessary into foster homes. It is important to understand what happens when a child is removed from their home. Usually, the child arrives in a receiving area or office. In the city we lived in at the time, it happened to be a place called SafePlace, which is operated in partnership with a local church. Those children are not allowed to stay there. They must be placed somewhere, either in foster homes or somewhere else. On this day, of the nine babies, only four made it to a foster home. The other five had to be placed in a group home until they could be placed. I hope you can understand the emotional roller coaster of a day like this.
This is just one story, one day of the life of those involved in the foster care process. But days like this play out again and again in our country. In many areas of the country, there are more foster kids entering the system than there are foster parents willing to take them in. What invariably happens is those foster parents are called on to take in more children. In other cases, foster kids are placed in group homes, where they are looked after by employees working shifts round the clock. As tirelessly as these group homes work to look after these children, it is not the ideal situation.
In our society today, we are looking at an ever-increasing problem, many children coming into a system without enough loving foster parents available. Without enough people willing to take that leap of faith, who will provide the safe space these children need during one of the most difficult times of their lives? The result can be seen throughout our country. Foster kids today who don’t fall in to the right foster and adoptive families often end up aging out of the system. These kids often become adults ill equipped to move into adulthood successfully. This can sometimes mean homelessness, jail time, or worse. Of course, not all foster kids end up in these situations. We have all heard the courageous stories of kids who have come out of the foster care system to great success in their lives. But the reason they often make the news is because it doesn’t happen enough to not be newsworthy.
Look, I get it. Not everyone can be a foster parent, just like not everyone can play football or fly to the moon. We all have our strengths and abilities. But if you want to know why you should consider helping a foster child, consider this. What if that foster child had been you? You may have grown up in a wonderful family, but we don’t get to pick our biological parents. These foster children were put into this situation through no fault of their own. If that had been you, wouldn’t you want someone, anyone, to step up? Wouldn’t you have wanted a safe, loving place to lay your head at night?
Here’s something else to think about: In this country, we expect our government to be there for us. We expect the government to be that safety net for those in need. But the reality is that if we want our neighborhoods to be safe, happy, and successful, we all need to step up. As we speak right now, there is a good possibility that somewhere near you, a child is being removed from their home. Your community may or may not have a place for that child. When you lay your head down at night, do you want to feel like you have done something that will outlive you? Do you want to know that you did something you can proudly tell your grandchildren, an incredible selfless act that made a difference in someone else’s life?