Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Story - Foster Kids

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.

When I was 6 we moved to Oregon. My mom had spent a few years there as a child and wanted to go back. This was also when they started working together as full time group home parents. We had a few foster kids living with us in California but they were the easy kind. The little kids who needed a safe place to stay while their parent(s) figured things out and got their act together. My parents always said that they wanted to serve Jesus by loving and caring for the widows and the orphans.

I have mostly fond memories of these foster kids. I remember a girl named Wendy who was my exact same age. She and her older brother and sister lived with us for a while. She had brown hair and brown eyes and I had white blond hair at the time with blue eyes. We were yin and yang.

Now my parents were going to start a group home for 6 teenage girls. This was no longer a simple act of taking a few kids into our home while we lived a pretty ordinary life with Dad commuting into the city from the suburbs. No this was a wholly new life, full of drama and chaos, teenage expletive laden rants, and being exposed to a world of evil and pain most little kids do not know exists. I learned about sex and molestation as a young child. I was yelled at and belittled by teenage girls who resented the fact that my father was not abusing me. I was introduced to the darkest of evil at a very young age.

My world was a much older place than my young age. I was expected at 6, 7, 8 to participate in the same chore chart and kitchen duties that the older kids, these teenage girls did. I was parented in the same manner as these high needs, at risk kids were parented. I was also very aware that these kids needed my parents, needed their care, even if that meant I did not get a story that night or my mom was late to pick me up after a school activity. I had my parents living with me and these girls did not. I needed to share, I needed to be willing to give unto others.

I don’t know if this was right or wrong. I sometimes wonder if my kids need to be doing more around the house, if I am coddling them too much. But I look at my 8 year old and wonder how my parents ever expected me to do all my own laundry, do all the families dinner dishes on my night, or clean a bathroom without adult help.

I also wonder if I could open my home to a group of kids who had suffered so much damage, so much harm, that the people around them are inevitably part of the pain and the healing process. At one point I remember doing family counseling, and by family I mean the 5 of us and 6 teenage girls who changed month to month, year to year. I don’t know if I could or would ask that of my kids. I guess if that is what God has called us to do we would. And my parents were always really adamant that this was their calling, that God had told them to do care for the orphans, not just in spirit or with donations but in our home.

A few years back when I was talking to my mom about how I was having a hard time with the monotony of being a young mom, she told me something that sort of changed my understanding of my parents being foster parents. She mentioned that she was so bored with just the two of us, my brother and I, being a stay at home mom that they decided to bring in more kids. We were probably 2 and 6 years old.

This new kernel of information tainted my altruistic feelings of taking in the orphans and those in need. I understood her boredom, but was it the right decision for her kids, for us, to bring more kids into the family just so she wouldn't be bored. It certainly makes me wonder how many times really good acts are based on selfish motivations, selfish desires that may be harmful to those around us. The story of my parents taking in foster kids eventually did harm my family. I know that many kids were helped through the years, but when I saw the end results, it made me ask was it the right decision?

I don't have the answers. I know that being a foster parent is a tremendous gift. I do know though that it is a complicated decision that cannot be taken lightly.

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