Saturday, July 25, 2015

A HARD KNOCK LIFE: CURRENT FOSTER CARE CRISIS

We watched the new version of Annie a couple of months ago and really liked it, and it reminded me how much I had enjoyed the old version when I was a child.  I headed to YouTube to show the girls the old version of "It's a Hard Knock Life," which is full of singing and dancing and little girls cleaning.  I loved it as a kid, and all of my children were transfixed.

But then they started asking questions.

Who are all of those girls?

Where are they living?

Why are there so many of them?

My eyes filled with tears as I tried to explain, because it represents such a real issue.  These girls are orphans.  They don't have mothers or fathers.  They live in an orphanage.  The words of the song trilled in my mind.

"It's a hard knock life for us.  It's a hard knock life for us.  No one cares for you a smidge, when you're in an orphanage.  No one's there when your dreams at night get creepy.  No one cares if you grow or if you shrink.  No one dries when your eyes get wet and weepy.  From the crying you would think this place would sink.  Empty belly life.  Rotten smelly life.  Full of sorrow life.  No tomorrow life."

I know this song by heart, because I did a dance to it in a college talent show.  We won money, so you know it must have been good.  In college, I actually majored in Family and Human Services.  I did an internship at a group-home for children that had failed out of foster care for behavioral issues, which was about as pleasant as it sounds.  That summer was so hard for me, because I saw, first-hand and for the first time, the horrors that adults can wreck into children's lives.  I truly didn't have a frame work for it, and it rocked my world.

I was at a sensitive time in my own life, because my dad was battling cancer, and I remember ending that summer completely drained and never wanting to touch foster care or social work again.  I certainly never wanted to adopt.  I had seen the dark side, and I never wanted it in my own family if I had a choice.  I craved comfort and ease and pleasant.  I still do.

Thankfully, God had other plans for my life.  We've adopted, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  It's hard and messy at times, but it is beautiful and for our good and God's glory.  One of the main ways that I get to serve the orphan currently is by being on the board of the non-profit Immerse AR.  I've talked about it many times, and it has been an eye-opening experience in its own right.

In our most recent board meeting, we reviewed where the system currently stands in our state, and it was an extremely depressing 45 minutes.  Our new governor also just reviewed all of this and released a report.  To sum it all up - there is a crisis.  There are more children entering the system.  There are fewer foster families.  Lives hang in the balance.

I absolutely know that not all people are called to foster care and adoption, but I firmly believe that many of us need to be doing more than we are.  I don't and can't know what this should look like for individuals.  I know that in my own heart I am loathe to give more, because comfort is an easy idol to look towards, and getting involved in the lives of those who are really hurting is painful and messy.  The lines are not clear, and timelines are moving targets, and we want things to be easy.  This issue is not easy.

But - as I listened to the words of "It's a Hard Knock Life", I was reminded that it really is an incredibly difficult life for children whose birth parents have failed them in more ways than they can number.  It's never easy to be them, and they have no choice in the matter.  I'm hoping and praying that better solutions can be found.

1 comments:

Christan said...

Love this post. One thing people can do, even if they don't feel they can commit to long-term foster care or adoption ... get certified/licensed/authorized (whatever it's called in your state) so that you can serve those who are fostering/fostering-to-adopt. We need people to babysit on occasion and you can't leave the children with just anyone. It might require you to go to a class or two. Maybe pray about doing respite care. Most of the time, you can't take your foster children on vacation, even if you want to. Foster parents need help and rest to do what God has called them to do. Offer to bring meals, or give a gift card to a favorite restaurant for those days that it's hard to get dinner on the table. There are a lot of things you can do without being a full-fledged foster parent.