What holds me back from telling you how I really feel are a thousand little voices on my shoulder. One voice says that I’m a bleeding heart and I should shut up. Another voice says that the only reason I’m here is because I haven’t been able to get pregnant and sustain a pregnancy. Yet another voice says that it’s annoying to sound this trumpet over and over again, that people don’t want to hear it. And still another says that if Jeremy and I are this scared every time we get a phone call, every time we say yes, then who in their right mind would willingly join up?
The voices are going to take a back seat for a minute. I have something to say.
The need for loving, mature and capable foster families is huge. It is huge and it is real and it is not going away anytime soon.
As soon as one family takes in a kid—whether for a short duration or a long one—another child is in a bad situation and will need a home. As soon as one bed is filled, another bed is needed. We could talk until we’re blue in the face about why this is. Why does foster care exist? Why are people so terrible to their children? Why are people irresponsible and why does the government, of all entities, have to step in? We could get absolutely lost in those types of conversation and then miss the fact that the most vulnerable in our society still need beds and warm showers and three square meals a day and, oh yeah, adults who love them.
When you read a story in the newspaper about a drug bust where children were present, you can bet a foster family is getting a call that very night to take in those children. When you hear a story on the news about an infant found in squalor in an apartment, perhaps with roach eggs on his feet, you know a foster family’s phone is ringing. When you hear that a parent is cited for neglect because their five year old was found wandering downtown streets at 11 o’clock at night, you know a case is being built and perhaps that child will need another home for a time until their parents can figure out how to parent a little bit better.
The need is real. The need is huge.
There are stories we all hear, but then there are actual phone calls I get. I recently got a call to take a one week old infant and had to say no. It broke my heart to say no, but with our health concerns, I simply couldn’t tend well to the needs of a newborn and still tend well to my own needs. This was wise, but it was sad, too. Awhile back I got a call for two little sisters. Their mom had lots of services to help support her family but she still chose not to protect them from dangerous people. They needed a place to go. Another call involved sisters again who needed a home while their mom went into drug rehab and yet another involved little boys whose mother constantly neglected them. One series of calls revolved around a baby boy whose outlook for life was pretty rough after he sustained tremendous abuse from an adult in his life. Did this little guy need a lot of care? Absolutely. Is he worthy of care and respect and love as long as he needs it? Again, absolutely yes.
My request is that you open your eyes and simply do what you can. Don’t pretend like these kids don’t exist or like their lives don’t matter. But do what you can! If you can become a foster parent, sign up for the next session of classes. Babies, toddlers, middler schoolers and high school kids all need homes. Kids without support systems can use your help. If you cannot foster, support these kids another way. Lincoln is full of charities designed to aid kids in need, not just foster kids but other at-risk youth, too. Project Everlast, Lighthouse, Christian Heritage, Cedar’s, City Impact, the City Mission, The Bay, so on and so forth. You can give money, you can volunteer your time, you can rally a group of moms from your school, workout partners from the gym, neighbors and/or friends to do something big together. You can also provide support to foster families you know by taking meals, sending encouraging letters, providing diapers, sharing baby supplies, driving their kids to therapy appointments, getting background checks so you can babysit and so on. Your support is incredibly valuable if you didn’t know it already. That pack of pacifiers or diapers may not mean much to you, but I can guarantee it means a lot to the foster family who is working fast and furiously to prepare for new little people in their home.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you’ve read my words and have kept an open mind, thank you. If you’re supporting the kids of my beloved city, thank you a million times over.
I can say with utter sincerity, these kids are our future. They are our most precious commodity. Let’s take care of them.