Monday, April 6, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

It probably started with Punky Brewster. Adorable little girl, spunky personality, abandoned by her mother. Who would do such a thing? I was just a child myself at the time, but even then the wheels started turning. Then there was the episode where Henry was in the hospital and Punky was staying at the Johnsons, and was removed by the system because she and her friend weren't allowed to share a room or some such ridiculous thing. I still remember nodding my head vigorously in agreement with Mrs. Johnson when she said to the social worker, "You're telling me that she can't share a room with her best friend, so you're going to take her and put her in an orphanage where she's sharing a room with 7 strangers?"

It just doesn't make sense, does it?

Then there were all the Little House orphans... (on tv, not the books!) and then there was Anne of Green Gables. I guess books and tv combined really pushed the needs of orphaned and abandoned children high in my mind even from an early age. But it was books and tv. It wasn't real life.

And then I met Hope. I always called her Hope-who-has-no-hope. I was teaching at an elementary school about ten years ago or so, and this little girl was brought in for a preschool evaluation. She was the lowest-functioning child I'd ever seen at that time. I used to bring her in for therapy with a small group of her classmates. The other children sat at the table and we played simple games or worked on art projects or listened to stories while targeting their goals. Not Hope. We had to move therapy to the floor because if I didn't hold her on my lap, nobody was getting anything done. It was like having an infant in a child-sized body. She literally had no skills.

I felt so sorry for little Hope. It wasn't her fault she had no skills. She, along with her two baby sisters, had been abandoned in a trailer, found by the landlord who heard them crying incessantly and investigated. They were filthy, laying in piles of their own feces, with rats scampering all over them. Now they were in foster care with a relative whose home truly wasn't much better.

I can't even express how angry I was with the system when the social worker attended a meeting for little Hope at school, just before the adoption was finalized with this relative, and said after the meeting, "Could I go back to the classroom and see Hope? I'd love to meet her."

MEET her? She is the social worker assigned to her case, she's been in foster care for almost a year at this point, and the adoption is almost final, and she's never even met the child??? There is something very wrong with this picture.

Poor little Hope never got much better. I wanted to take her home with me. Clean her up, feed her right so she'd be healthy, work with her, teach her to talk and play. But I couldn't.

The last I saw of Hope, she was in the first grade and still couldn't do much of anything. It was the saddest thing I've ever seen. But little Hope instilled in me those first desires to take in a needy child and love it as my own. To give some other little one the hope that Hope never had.

The years went by and there have been other children in need of a good home that I've met along the way. Each time, I longed to take the children and give them what they needed, but I just never felt that I was in a position to do that. After all, I wasn't yet married; I had to work full-time; I didn't make enough money to support kids on my own. It just never seemed the right time.

Now it's the right time.

On February 7, I went and signed up to become a foster parent. It was the most special way I could think of to celebrate the birthday of my beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. :) Since then, I've been jumping through the hoops to become certified. I'm going through the extensive training now, and when that's done, all that will be left is to pass the home study, which shouldn't be an issue at all.

But you see, my plan was pretty settled in my mind. I would only take infants or toddlers, preferably girls. And I would only take children who were on track to have parental rights terminated, not children for whom the plan was to reunify with their families. Because I didn't want to take in foster kids for a few weeks or a few months and then send them back! No, I wanted a child or children to keep, to adopt as my very own. I had wonderful ideas about how this was going to work. They would be so young that any learning and emotional problems they might have from their experiences could be worked out in time. I would turn them into happy, healthy, well-adjusted children with minimal problems.

That was my lovely plan.

But now I'm beginning to wonder if that was God's lovely plan. Because I'm beginning to feel like maybe He has other plans. He's equipped me with a love for children, a compassionate heart, experience with overcoming learning problems, and experience with overcoming emotional hurts. Maybe He equipped me with all of that for a reason, and maybe it wasn't to take babies that have few or no problems at all and raise them to be perfect little children. Maybe His plan is to give me hurting and needy children. Children I may not be able to keep. Children He may be sending to me for a season to help prepare them for the remainder of their life without me.

I don't really like the idea, I'll be honest. I don't like the idea of taking in a child and having to let them go again. Especially if they're returning to a place that I don't really feel is safe for them -- and I have enough experience with the system to know that that happens all the time. I don't like the idea of taking in older children who have significant behavioral issues. I don't like the idea of missing out on their formative years in the first place, and then to know their formative years were filled with abuse and neglect and have brought them to a point where now all of the bad things they learned have to be untrained out of them? That's a huge job, and I don't think I'm capable of it.

But He is. If it's what He wants me to do, He'll give me everything I need to do it. And I know that. But I'm still resisting. Like I said, this wasn't my plan.

But it's not about me. It's about Him, and it's about them. And if opening my home to foster children who may be older, who may be very needy, who may have significant issues to deal with, and who I may have to give up after a time is His plan, I know that I have to say yes to that.

So that's where I am right now. Trying to figure that out. Trying to decide what His plan really is, and trying to make myself obey it whether I really want to or not.


Christine said...

What a wonderful development! This whole thing brought tears to my eyes! You will be a great mother, to whomever comes your way and whatever the situation is. Your talents and experience has equipped you for whatever comes your way. God Bless.

Friends of mine decided to be foster parents after learning they could no longer have children (they had one already) they thought that 1 additional child would be good. The social worked called and said there were 2, one was a 6 week old baby. They took them and started down the road to adopt. About a year later the mom had another baby and they social worked called to see if they would want that little baby too! It was a long long road but in the end, they adopted all 3! It was amazing to see that little family become a large loving family and no one ever expected it would work out the way it did. God gives you what you need!

Rachel said...

You are amazing. I don't know if I can say more than that right now.

I mean, I took in a 15 year old with issues, but she wasn't a stranger and she wasn't really all that bad. Working through them is more annoying and what every parent of teens go through, with only small extra hurdles.

I know a little of what you might have to deal with, and I just think you are amazing.

We'll be praying for you.