Friday, October 17, 2008

I can't be a foster parent, because .... (part 2)

This post picks up where I left off yesterday. Please note that with this series, I am not implying that EVERYONE is called to foster. However, I do believe that everyone is called to fulfill James 1:27, which reads:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I'll discuss this in another part of the series.

"I don't trust the system."

You know, I don't trust the system, either. It's completely irrational to believe that an entity comprised of well-meaning but over-burdened bureaucrats charged with the safety and healthy of upwards of twenty families at a time can make sound choices regarding the welfare of children they see face-to-face for less than an two hours a month. The nuances of a case become clear when you wipe a runny nose, feel a the hot glare from a time-out chair or sing "Old MacDonald" for the fiftieth time. These are things that don't come across on forms. Reading the impersonal file notation "Mother did not show for visitation" doesn't come anywhere close to riding home with a disappointed six year-old who is raging at her foster mother because her "real" mother wasn't able to collect the special drawing she's made just for her.

A system is not a substitute for a loving, thinking, feeling adult. The
system is emotionless. It is also soulless.

But not trusting the system is a poor reason to reject the notion of foster care outright. When driving on a highway, do you trust that the oncoming traffic will not cross into your lane? Call me paranoid, but I don't. I regularly drive one of the nation's most dangerous highways. Knowing that this road is especially prone to head-on collisions has changed the way I drive. It has also factored heavily into my choice of vehicle (Suburban) and the kind of car seats my children ride in. Rather than giving up traveling this road, I have done my best to be prepared in advance for whatever might be coming up ahead.

Jesus admonished his followers to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. I take this to heart when dealing with DSHS. I've taken to calling my method the Two E's: Educate and Endear. On one hand, I do whatever I can to get facts. To gather resources. The make contacts. On the other hand, I make sure that I am every social worker's favorite case. I am not above serving a social worker hot chocolate or sending an e-card to acknowledge a birthday.

You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. In my experience, the system is just a big bear. It
likes honey.

"Our county is considered the worst for ..."

I have had so many people tell me this in one form or another that I am now convinced that we ought to all throw our hands in the air and move to Canada.

Seriously, guys. How many counties can really be the
worst for giving kids back to bad homes? For being uncooperative? For not providing support? For failing to notify foster parents of pre-existing conditions? For lying to foster parents outright? For taking kids into care that never should have been removed?

Puh-leeze. Instead of taking your best friend's neighbor's sister-in-law's cousin's word for it that YOUR area is just not worth working with, check into it yourself. If you find that it really is that bad, then consider yourself charged with the task of bringing attention to a system in need of serious revamping. If you find out that it really isn't the snake's nest you were told it was, find out how you can help.

"I couldn't return children to circumstances that might not be safe."

When every minute of my day revolved around Jo and Jo alone, I used to get this strange, creeping tightness in my chest every time that she wandered a little too far from my side at our local park. It wasn't that the area we lived in was known for an abundance of child predators. No ... it was a line of tall, thick trees that circled the edge of the park that made me nervous. See, the trees were just a few yards beyond the distance I was sure that I could quickly cover if danger came too near to my baby. And the
trees! Well, they were tall enough to create heavy shadows in that corner of the park. The undergrowth was dense and could have easily concealed ... well, anything. Or anyone. I hated that area of the park. I warned Jo about it so often and so thoroughly that, after a few months time, she began repeating my warning to every child she saw wandering towards the trees.

"Stop! Your mommy can't see you there! If she can't see you, she can't keep you safe!"

One day, a mother with four little ones under the age of six or so came to the park. I watched in awe as the mother spread out a blanket, plopped her baby into the center of it, told the older two children to go and play, and then marched her toddler over to the swings. You know right where those older two children went, don't you?

The trees.

They didn't just flit in and out of the shadows. They hiked into the brush and found massive sticks for poking. They darted in and out of places where snakes and cougars and molesters could easily hide. Their mother blissfully kept an eye on it all as she pushed the toddler in the baby swing.

I was horrified.

I ended up seeing the mother again at the same park about a year later. By this time, we'd been blessed with Atticus, and she had added another wee one to her own brood. Over a shared necessity for baby wipes, we ended up talking. She must have been very amused by my frantic visual searches whenever Jo leapt out of view. Finally, I asked her how it came to pass that she was so relaxed when so many dangers lurked in every corner, waiting to devour her beautiful offspring the minute she was caught unawares. How could she knowingly let them wander into places that she was powerless to protect them at their first cry for help?

I will never forget her response.

"Honey, you don't know Jesus, do you?"

What about you? Do you know Jesus? And if so, do you take Him at His word? Do you believe that nothing comes to pass without His approval? Do you believe that He truly holds all the power in the universe? Do you trust Him?

If so, then what are you afraid of?

To be continued ...


Liz said...

another good one- i am eating this up!

Mom Of E's said...

Wow, MG. The last seven lines or so of your post made my heart skip a couple of beats. Why in the world AM I afraid of anything when I know that I am in God's hands? Thanks for the reality check.


Dawn Sodini said...

Thank you for the reminder that God is absolutely in control. As we speak my dh has ridden with a neighbor to Houston to drive a tractor trailer back. We had no time to pray together but I know that we are praying individually and holding on for dear life to exactly what you said. We serve a sovereign God! And I for one am ever grateful. Thanks for the encouragement also to give more than a passing thought and a someday kind of thinking to fostering.

Amblin said...

I cannot tell you in words how much this series on foster care is blessing me! It is serving to inspire me, to reassure me, and to affirm a calling I have been feeling from the Lord. I wish I could convey in words just how thankful I am that you are writing these posts and talking about these issues.

Lydia said...

Wow. Catching my breath here.

Consider me among the convicted.

gracie :) said...

A friend just sent me here to read these two posts, and after reading them, I went on to read all of the posts with the "fostering" label. Thank you for sharing these things, and I will definitely be sending some readers over your way. My hubby and I have been foster parents for a year and a half to a precious little boy, and got a newborn placment two weeks ago. It encourages my heart to find like-minded foster parents sharing their hearts on the difficulties and the joys of foster parenting. I'm adding you to my Google Reader!

Tree Climbing Mom said...

Thank you. Just... thank you.

Luke said...

I must admit: I wish I knew Jesus better. And I wish I had the wisdom to be able to fully understand the relationship between what He allows me to be responsible for and His will.

But, yes, He is in control. Good reminder.


Anonymous said...


AZ Foster Mom

Dearest Jessica said...

What a great post!

jennifer said...

Thank you, MG. You are blessing me with your honesty and sharing.

Mommy2two@home said...

There it goes--my very last bit of resolve against this calling. O.k., God you've got my attention. Go ahead and shape me as you wish through this.