Right now I should be unloading the dishwasher while Midge naps or straightening up the dining room or office which have become major dumping grounds in the past few months. But I can’t focus. I feel restless. As I type, there are decisions being made that will majorly affect our lives in the coming months. Today is, yet again, a court day.
When people ask me how things are going with Midge, I answer that they are the same as ever. And by that, I mean that we’re in limbo. We don’t know anything. There’s always another court date coming up that you put your life on hold for and that will change how things are right now. Will our baby still have visitations with both parents, and if so, how many, how long, and will I be supervising? Will I be spending even more hours in the car transporting and more hours at the Chick-Fil-A monitoring? Will she be moved from our home? You don’t plan too far ahead and you don’t get your hopes up about anything. The major players (biological parents, attorneys, judge, social workers, and case managers) all seem to want different things and you never know who will win out on any particular day. Probably not Midge.
The foster system is not functioning how it should. Kids might be taken away unjustly or returned to a home when they shouldn’t be. It’s heartbreaking to think that there are kids out there who were unfairly removed from a loving home, and it’s heartbreaking to think that there are kids out there who are being abused or neglected daily and remain where they are. Should the government have the right to poke into our private homes? Maybe not. Do these biological parents deserve to be given a free pass and another chance after abusing or neglecting their child? Only God knows that. Are there foster homes where the parents are in it for the money? Of course. The further we get into fostering, the more that this whole foster thing seems like a lose-lose situation. Kids are damaged, biological parents are heartbroken, foster parents are taken advantage of.
But what should we do? Do we leave kids unprotected, unsupported, and unloved because we don’t want to “support a broken system”? Should a child be starved for food or love or attention until the system can be fixed? How old will they be when that happens? How much damage will have been done by then? Should we leave a two year old to fend for himself? A four year old? A six year old? Think of your own kids. Should they have to find their own food and take care of their siblings? What would you do if your child had to endure beatings for spilling his milk?
To answer: We have decided to “support” the broken system. To enable the parents who are lazy and selfish. To give our time and our money and our love to a system that we might have major political issues with. Idealogically it is hard. But there’s nothing hard about loving a kid who needs you. (Note: there’s plenty of hard things about actually taking care of and disciplining and training that child…it’s the love that comes easy!) While the politics and reform are worked out in the courts and the capitol buildings, our hearts and minds are in a different courthouse downtown, where the future of “our” baby is being decided.
Our first foster kids, Baby Billy Goat and Athlete, are in a foster home with their big sister now. Their biological mother struggles to get by. She’s a small, meek woman. She’s trying to make a home for her kids with the smarts that she has and the hand she’s been dealt, and she loves her children. Imagine the heartbreak each time you lose a job and you know that it will affect your chances of getting your kids back. Or each time your boss tells you to stay at work when it’s time for your weekly visitation, and you have to choose between seeing your children and keeping your livelihood. Imagine the blame you’d put on yourself for choosing the man that you chose and letting things get as far as they did, but not really knowing another way out. The boys’ new foster mom doesn’t think their mom is going to get her children back. Imagine if the bad choices you made in life resulted in losing your kids, instead of losing a promotion or a friend or a good grade. If our backgrounds and current circumstances had been a little bit different, it could easily be any one of us.
Our current foster baby, Midge, has a mother who adores her. In fact, before fostering it was easy for me to make snap judgments about “those people” who have their children taken away from them. It’s not so easy when you spend four hours a week chit-chatting with a woman in her place. She cries when we leave sometimes. She rejoices in Midge’s smile and her giggle and her developmental milestones. We are strangely connected in our pride over Midge’s every accomplishment. I genuinely like her. We are not in competition. If she can break the cycle of poor choices she’s made, she and her daughter will be (and should be!) reunited. We, as the people whom the court sees as mere ‘babysitters’, will always wonder whether those changes are long term changes. And as we watch other little ones around us, we will always wonder who “our” little girl is growing up to be. When I let my emotions take over, it sometimes feels like a competition. We want to keep her because she’s a part of our family. No matter the outcome, Midge is going to feel the pain of the tearing apart of a family. All because we live in a fallen world and she got the raw end of the deal. Thankfully, God knows the plans He has for her. Plans to prosper her and not to harm her. Plans to give her a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27) I heard once that the second part of that verse really is related to the first, although you might miss it. If you care about the things that the world cares about, you won’t care about orphans and widows. In fact, you might not ever really notice or think about orphans and widows. They are the forgotten ones…you see the commercial or hear the ‘sponsor a child’ plea at Christmas and think how sad it is that there are people like that in the world. But until you actually see the faces of the children and parents in these terrible situations, it’s easy to dismiss them or judge them or forget about them.
Orphans aren’t only living in third world countries in orphanages without parents, although there are plenty there who need hope and help, too. In the broadest sense of the word, orphans are the kids who don’t have anyone to watch over them. It could be the kid on your street who’s always wandering and shows up to share his accomplishments or his meals with you. It could be the child in foster care who needs you for a month or a year. It could be the one whose parents are absorbed in themselves and checked out of their child’s life. Parents on drugs, parents in jail, parents who abuse so badly that they should never be allowed to be parents at all. The ways we serve these children aren’t perfect. The foster system isn’t perfect. International adoption situations aren’t perfect. Should we wait around for things to become perfect while these children grow up with nobody to watch over them? There are so many orphans who need us.
Our foster agency has an arm called Safe Families, which matches stable families with families on the edge. Their goal is to give parents a hand in getting their lives on track so that their kids don’t have to be removed from them. One local church has a ministry that goes to play with kids in group homes on a weekly basis. My friend sent me a blog link about one couple whose dream of international adoption turned into a dream to help families remain intact in a less fortunate nation. Two family friends spend their vacations providing support for a foreign orphanage in whatever way they can. And there are countless people who do things for children in need that nobody else sees.
The question is, what do I do with that twinge in my heart? God has placed a call on each one of us. A passion for some cause. Do I let that twinge pass and think, “Oh yeah, I thought about doing something about that,” and then go on with life as usual? I’ve done that many times in my life, and still do. Do I wonder a bit longer about that twinge, and what changes that twinge might mean in my life? Do I take a step forward and actually do something about it? Sometimes I have, and sometimes I haven’t. That first step might be faltering, but it will take you forward. Step by step, God’s call will become clearer, as if walking in faith brings you closer to His voice with every move. You might end up somewhere that you never dreamed you were going in the first place.
P.S. Before publishing this, I’ve heard from the social worker that everything stays the same with Midge for right now. Guess what…we’ll find out if anything changes at the next court date in a month. Are you surprised? Back in limbo again…