Before I knew…

Maybe you’re considering foster care. Maybe you are trying to learn more about it. Perhaps, I’ve been filling your feed with stories and you finally clicked on a link. The biggest first step in the process to understanding foster care is confronting stereotypes that exist in your own mind. Trust me, they are there.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Consider my experiences:

Before I knew my niece was in foster care, I thought it was for “others.” Then, I got the call and understood that it could affect any family.

Before I met a foster parent, I thought they were money-grubbing mean people who took kids in for checks. Then, I met my niece’s foster family and realized they were just like me. Better, even.

Before I met a child experiencing foster care, I thought they were only brats and hoodlums. Then, I met my niece and realized that she was a victim of her parents’ poor choices.

Before I met a social worker, I thought they would be mean and harried and uncaring. Then, we walked into our first class and they were indeed harried, but very thoughtful and exceedingly caring.

Before I had a conversation with a biological parent, I thought they were the enemy. Then, I met my child’s mother and my other child’s father and realized it was I who had a heart issue.

Before I knew what trauma was, I thought it was an overly politicized word. Then, I comforted a child inflicted by it and realized that it was like a cruel disease.

Before I knew a person with mental health issues, I was afraid, for they must be dangerous like the thriller movies I once enjoyed. Then, my son was diagnosed.

Before I saw withdrawal with my own eyes, it was just a statistic on the evening news. Then I tried vainly rocking it to sleep in the 3 a.m hour as my eyes filled with tears.

Before I knew community, I thought support meant failure and an acknowledgement of weakness. Then, I walked into a church family that allowed me to breathe rest into my lungs and my soul.

One of our pastors said this weekend, in speaking about today’s racial crisis, that familiarity brings understanding. This is true in foster care as well. When you take time to get to know someone that isn’t like you, inevitably you will develop knowledge. Then, understanding. Then, compassion. When all of these are in place, it will lead to change.

There are many ways to get involved with foster care in our community. As this pandemic subsides and more eyes are on children, child welfare professionals say the need will increase exponentially. If you’re curious about what you can do, let me know.

Trust me, the children need us. And, we need them more than we know.

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