David and I talked this morning about what I was going to post about today. There are a whole lot of topics rolling around in my head and in my heart and even in my blog post drafts. But I felt like one of the very first posts I wrote needed to be about the biological parents of the kiddos who will be coming to live with us. Because I feel like there's a lot of misconception about foster care, about biological parents, about adoption, about reunification, about all of it.
Here's the deal. The kids who will be living with us will have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. And almost every case of that abuse or neglect will come at the hands of their parents. The ones they are supposed to be able to trust unconditionally. It is tragic. And there is no excuse for that. Absolutely none. Let me start there. But do you know what that truth means about those parents? It means they are Someone in need of grace. It means they are Someone in need of help. Often times that parent is someone who was abused him or herself. A lot of kids are in "the system" because of neglect and not abuse--because their parents don't have the means to take care of them. And I think it's a slippery slope when I start to think that I am so much better than their parents. When I start to think that I have all of the answers and can do such a better job than they could so I deserve to have these kids. During training one of our agency staff made a comment about how it's only by the grace of God that we are not in those parents' shoes. And I completely and wholeheartedly agree with that. Because it's really easy for me to look at things that are done and say that I would never do that. But I also have had 29 years of stability. I've 29 years of family and love and having every single need that ever came up being provided for. And I've been saved by a God who turned my life around and rescued me from the sins I so easily run to. And that same God is calling those parents and loves them fiercely. I wrote last week about how these kids are worth it. They are worth every ounce of me that I can give. They are worth it because they have worth in God's eyes. But I never want to forget that their parents have worth in God's eyes too.
Most parents who have their kids removed want to fight for them. They want to do what's best for them. They want to be able to take care of them. Some of them will never get their lives together enough to be able to do that. But some of them will. Some of them, with the support of CPS and parenting classes will be able to build health relationships and meet their kids needs.
It's why the adoption part of this whole process is tricky. That is hands down the most common question we are asked when we tell people we are becoming foster parents--do we want to adopt? And it's not really a clear cut answer for us. I love the idea of adoption. I love the idea of providing a forever home and family for a child that wouldn't have it otherwise. But us adopting out of this means that their parents were not able to be reunified with their kids. It means that there will always be a huge loss in these kids' lives because they were not able to be with their birth family. That's why the goal of foster care is always reunification. Because it is usually better for kids to be with their families. Unfortunately that's not always possible or safe, so in those cases there is a huge need for families that are willing to take them in. But we're not starting this process so that we can adopt a child or children. We're doing this to provide a home for a child that needs one--whether that's for a week, a month, a year, or forever. And we're doing it to hopefully provide support to their parents while they work to get things back in order so that they can parent their babies. We want them to know that they have worth and that we are rooting for them. That we hope they will be able to meet all of their goals to be reunified with their kids--even though that will bring us pain as we say goodbye, we know it's what we're signing up for.
One of the blog posts I've read this year about this topic is called We're not trying to steal someone else's kids. It's a good read about the goals of foster care and the heart behind wanting our kids' parents to succeed.
Let me also just say that I have been involved in this world long enough to know that it's not always this easy. There are times when kids are returned to their parents and it really is not in their best interest. Times when they are returned to their parents only to be abused again. There are times when they are moved from a stable foster home where they have made connections to a home of a relative they have never met. It's an extremely flawed system. Trust me, I know. I know that as we dive deeper into this I will want to fight fiercely for the kids in my home and I will be very protective of them. There will probably be times that I disagree with the decisions being made for them. But it doesn't change the fact that every single person involved in this system is deserving of grace and a chance to turn around. The parents of these kids are not the enemy. CPS is not the enemy. I am not the biological parents' enemy.
I want to start with that mindset. And I want to be reminded of that when things get hard and frustrating. When I hear the stories that break my heart. I want to remember that God protects that weak and the helpless and that I am a piece of that protection and extending that grace to the broken children and their broken parents.