Nobody chooses the families or circumstances that they are born into but we all have a responsibility to help those who are vulnerable.
For the last 2 years, I have spent my Monday evenings volunteering in a local group home reading bedtime stories to foster children. I arrive in time to help in any way that I can with the bedtime routine; maybe help with last minute homework or play a few card games and then I read bed time stories. It is only an hour and a half of my week and it seems small but I pray every week that God would use that time to provide peace and comfort to these kids who are often going to sleep afraid and lonely.
This last week, a little girl was able to make a phone call to her mom before bed and something was said during that phone call that made her afraid. She got off the phone and had to go right to bed. She asked me if I would please read to her until she fell asleep because she was scared and didn’t want to fall asleep alone. About 10 minutes in, she opens her eyes and says, "Thanks for reading to me. Your voice is so soothing." My heart basically exploded. I don't know much about her situation or what her future holds but I know that, at least for that one night I was able to play a tiny part in bringing some comfort to this sweet girl.
My sister adopted twin babies through the Foster System so I felt that I had a handle on what things were like and how the system worked. However, when I went to my training at the group home I walked out 2 hours later completely unsure of what I had just signed up for. They prepared us for a lot of “worst case scenarios” and it terrified me. I didn’t think I could handle being witness to the emotional baggage that many of these kids carry. It would just be too hard. I talked this through with a few close friends and each one basically said how sad it would be to allow my fear to get in the way of this amazing opportunity. I had prayed for this opportunity; to have some sort of an active role in caring for orphans and the fact that I would just walk away from it because of fear was a shame.
The reality is that yes, foster care IS hard, but it is so necessary. We live in a broken world where many children are without a safe place to stay and when we turn away because it’s too hard to look at, those children are still left needing homes. The problem doesn’t go away.
I am 33 years old and single, which is not at all what I had planned for my life. I imagined that I would have the opportunity to foster/adopt myself by this point. For awhile I felt like my hands were tied. Over the last few years, I discovered that there is SO MUCH that people can be doing to care for orphans, aside from the more obvious of fostering/adopting.
We can all play a part. For some, that looks like becoming foster parents. For some that can look like coming alongside a foster family and providing meals, regular babysitting or a weekend of respite care.
Foster children are often coming from a place of trauma which adds an entirely new dimension to a parent/child relationship. The amount of energy that a parent has to expend to build trust and relationship with a child who has experienced hurt or loss can be draining to say the least. Look for a way to lighten their load so they can recharge and spend their energy on doing the hard thing of parenting a child who is suffering.
Provide rides for foster children/families. The sheer amount of appointments that a foster parent needs to be present for can be overwhelming. Also, when children are placed in a home, they are often kept in their original schools in order to maintain some stability and it is common that these schools are in the next town over or on the other side of the county. Think of the burden that could be lifted by offering to pick up the kids from school once or twice a week.
We need to be people that are willing to face hard circumstances in order to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Ashley, Foster Care Volunteer