Sunday, October 17, 2010

To foster or to foster - significant experiences

A few years ago Blayne and I attended a training course at Open Home Foundation. We were going to be foster parents. 

To foster means:

1. to promote the growth or development of
2. to bring up (a child, etc.); rear
3. to cherish (a plan, hope, etc.) in one's mind

Over the last few years we've had 4 foster kids living in our home at various times for various lengths. We fall in love with these kids and continue to pray for them when they leave. We've also had plenty family living with us : )

So at the moment our house is quite full and we don't have extra room for more foster kids ... so how do we then continue on our 'foster journey'? God had the answer : ) 

A couple of months ago OHF sent an e-mail asking if there were families who could spend some time away from their own homes to be respite foster parents in a family home. This home exists mainly for sibling groups who wait for a more permanent placement. We decided to e-mail and say that we can do ti for a few days...

It's been a week now since we've come home from the foster house and we have still so much to process.

When asked how our week was the answer is complex and long:

"It was exhausting and busy, heart-wrenching and completely out of our comfort zones, it was phenomenal and amazing, it was a relying-on-God-on-a-whole-new-level-living-under-His-grace-alone was utterly one of the most significant experiences of our lives!"

So many questions and thoughts run through your mind during these times of interacting with children who are so desperate for love and acceptance. Children who are so desperate in need of being told that they are ok, that they matter. It is easy for anger to grip your heart and mind and to wish all sorts of plagues on those who SHOULD be the ones to love, hold and encourage these precious treasures of God. It is heart-wrenching to think of the things they've had to endure in their short lives. 

Why is not a question worth asking because it is one without an answer. 

How is a better question: 

How can we be involved?
How do we love these kids while we are with them?
How do we keep our own sanity?  ; )
How do we honour God in this?
How do we put 'us' aside and focus on others?
How do we stay true to our own families and be involved in others' lives? 

There are many more 'How' questions, but these questions have answers if we take the time to reflect on them.

So what was it like?

I like knowing what I'm getting myself into before I get myself into it, but with these things you just don't know. We had to be in the house on Sunday. Friday prior I received a phone call to say there will be 6 kids in the house, ages 1 - 14. We have 2 under 10!  Lord, help please!

Teenagers 'scare' me. Maybe it's because we don't have teenagers yet, but it is not my natural gifting dealing with these special blessings. But God is good and His grace abound and I fell in love with two amazing kids. Blayne was AMAZING with the teens.

Cooking for an army:
I had to learn to cook for a crowd! ... or so it felt : )  I am used to cook for my family of 5. To prepare 3 square meals plus snacks a day for about 10 people was ... well, out of my comfort zone. Luckily we had help during the day we managed to do it without starving anyone!

Crowd control:
Cooking is one thing, but 'controlling' everyone DURING a meal .... well.... it was an experience we can add to the CV... and it will gain us brownie points I'm sure : )

HUH? yawn....

Most days we had two amazing support workers to help out where needed. These women are amazing and without them we would have most likely fallen over completely!! Thank you ladies!!

Night time chats:
At night we tried to spend some time with the older kids. Blayne initiated it. It started out slowly, but by the end of the week it was something I looked forward to and enjoyed. It is amazing how people respond and change when you treat them with respect and dignity!  

Tears and Fears for their tomorrow:
It is difficult to find placement for children who cannot live with their own families - 
even if it's only one child...

Lack of resources
Lack of space
Lack of interest
... amongst others I'm sure

If it is hard to find a placement for one child, it is most difficult to find placements for sibling groups!

During our time in the house their was a sibling group of 3 kids and one of 2 kids. Where will these kids go? Who will open their homes to them? Will they need to be split up because there is no-one who will take all the siblings? 

This rabbit hole is deep and at times it makes me want to scream!
I want to scream because I can't fix it.
I want to scream because I don't know how it is that parents can do this to their own kids!
I want to scream because separating these siblings is wrong! 
I want to scream because there are many more kids who will come into this house and who will need somewhere else to live.
I want to scream because some placements fail and these kids go from one home to another and each time their grip on hope slips a little bit more.
I want to scream because many people don't care or choose to ignore it.
I can go on and on because negativity spirals down and fast.


Starfish (read HOPE):
Screaming all the time wont change the situation of course. 
Here is a story that coupled with our faith in God keeps me from screaming [too often]. 

The Starfish Story

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one.

It is our hope and believe that somehow the little bit that we do makes a difference to 'one starfish'.


jlsgrant said...

Beautiful post! Based on "indirect" experience, you will/you are making a big difference! You are a blessing for taking on such responsibility. As bad as it is for a child to be taken from their natural home, sometimes I think that's God's way of protecting them and showing them that their life CAN be different. Unconditional love ALWAYS makes a difference!

Elizabeth said...

Hey : )

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement!