A six year old boy, learning how to laugh. Slowly at first, as if he were too nervous to allow himself to find joy in life. A six year old boy who had only known harsh, physical abuse by both his parents; those sworn to protect and love him.
Helping a 17 year old boy, abandoned by his mother, discover that he does have value and worth in his life, that he is important, and that he can accomplish great things. A 17 year old boy graduate from high school, and enroll into college, thus beating the odds against him.
Foster parenting has been a tremendous gift to me.
Before I was a foster parent, I had some mixed views about the foster care system. To say that I was unaware and ignorant of what foster care was about is quite the understatement. I had two views of foster care. First, foster children were trouble makers, and it was their fault they were in the system. Second, foster parents were pretty weird people. Well, I got one thing correct; the second part. I was REALLY wrong about the first part. Foster parents are a little weird people, and I have been a foster parent for 15 years as I write this. We have to be a little weird to do what we do, don’t we? After all, foster parents dedicate their lives to serving other people by bringing into their homes and families children who are in need, children who are often troubled, and children who many times have a variety of challenges. To be sure, foster parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done, and continue to do. Perhaps this is why so few do answer the call to be foster parents, as it is a job that requires a great deal of sacrifice from the adult, and from the family. Yet, the rewards are so very great, for all involved.
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Perhaps you have the desire to help out children who suffer from abuse or neglect, Maybe you feel compassion for children who face malnutrition or even drug related problems passed on from a mother’s addiction. Possibly, your heart goes out to those children who are rejected by those who were supposed to love them most: their parents. After all, you feel that every child deserves the right to be in a healthy and supportive home, and most importantly, every child deserves to be loved unconditionally. As a foster parent, you have the opportunity to help these children in need. When you foster a child, not only do you invest in the future and well being of a child, you are also changing the life of that child.
To be sure, there have been those placements that have been more difficult and more challenging than others — placements that have left both my wife and I weary and exhausted. At the same time, every child that has come into my home has helped to make me a better person, and has helped my family to be a stronger one, as well. For this, and for the many children from foster care who have come to live with me, I am most thankful, and am a much better person for each child that has come to live with my family, and in my home.
Sometimes, we may not be able to save a child from having a horrible and tragic experience before they come to live with us. Yet, we are given the chance, as foster parents, to save them from experiencing other future horrors, and taking them away from dangerous situations. Without a doubt, this is a joy itself. As a foster parent; indeed, as a parent, you are making a difference! You are saving a child from harm! It is my hope that you continue caring for children in foster care. There are so many children in care, yet so few willing to help. May you have the strength and resources, compassion and support; and may you continue to change the life of a child in foster care.
My own heart is full. Through the tears of grief and sorrow and the joys and laughter, I have found that my own heart is rather like the Grinch’s. Remember in the classic 1966 Christmas cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when his heart grew so large it burst out of the x-ray device? That is how my own heart is. I have experienced so many diverse and intense emotions through the years that my heart is flowing over with love for all.
Are you ready to have your heart overflow with love and joy? Are you ready to help a child in need?
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