May is national foster care awareness month. Foster care is an issue that is close to my heart. Maybe it’s because I get the opportunity to meet so many amazing kids that come from all different backgrounds and grow up in an array of cultures, and the one thing that always remains that same is that each kid, no matter the background, is trying to navigate and understand life. Each kid wakes up in the morning and does his or her best to deal with the life they have but did not choose.
One class of kids that always stands out to me are the kids that are in the foster care system. I think it’s because they inspire me. Each child that I have had in class that is in the foster care system is so resilient. It’s hard to describe the power they exhibit, but it’s moving.
I don’t feel at all qualified to write about this topic. I only know bits and pieces about the system, but I have met lives that are affected by situations outside of their control. Kids that love their families and their friends–just like every other kid in the world. Kids that don’t need pity but empowerment because they are incredible human beings.
According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and the Children’s Bureau, there are over 250,000 kids per year that are in the foster care system. The need is significant. I met a compassionate, loving mother, Meagan Pearson, a few months ago who understands this need. I asked for her perspective on this need. “The county I live in currently has 136 children in foster care and only 34 open foster homes. That is absolutely baffling to me; I never realized the ratios were that imbalanced until we sought information on becoming foster parents in 2014.”
Currently, I am not a foster parent. I have so much to say about students that have had significant impacts on me that have lived in foster care situations, but I can’t speak from direct experience. I constantly try to unpack the reasonings behind why children have to go through this and why there aren’t enough available places for children to go.
Meagan shared with me that she believes “there is going to be a horror story or negative comment regarding just about anything we do in life. There are times when I have to ignore it and other times when I actually need to reply back. I think a lot of people are deterred by fear, but some are deterred by this expectation of perfection. To think they need to be a perfect parent in order to foster is far from true. Foster parents are not saints; we’re humans. We make mistakes; we get irritated, angry, and feel burnt out at times. We are a very self-centered society, a lot of times we feel more comfortable giving money towards a cause so that someone else can get their hands dirty.”
The need for foster parents is the result of a broken world. People struggle. People do the best they can; but at times, it isn’t enough. If God’s people could spend more time acting out Jesus’ example like Meagan, this world wouldn’t have to miss out on so many kids that age out of the system and have nowhere to go. I love that Meagan cares about the lives that deserve the best more than debating the the issues.
She is the essence of what children need. She sees that fostering is as beneficial to the parents as the child because these are people we are talking about. We can’t change the world. We can simply live and live out God’s love everyday because every person deserves it. “Both information and exposure are vital to breaking through the stigmas we have about these children, their parents, and this system. It’s true that we need to share the statistics; presenting the numbers and stories to people is important, but the most influential and eye-opening thing that’s going to change our society’s view is exposure to these children. Seeing them as real people and not numbers, meeting them and interacting with them will help others to realize how unique and incredible these kids truly are.”
Finally, I couldn’t help but asked Meagan about the system? Is it broken? “I do believe the system is broken, but we live in a fallen world. Dealing with a state-regulated system and all of its annoyances is merely temporary; and for our family right now, necessary. Me having to deal with the short-term inconvenience of this system has the potential to make an eternal impact on a child. When all’s said and done, I believe giving my home and heart to a child is worth enduring a complicated process that may come along.
Deep down, these children don’t care about the system; they don’t want to hear how stressed out we currently are, how we hate the system and if it were better then we might be involved, or how we need to clear our plates before adding something else…they simply want a family. No excuse we have is going to make sense to these kids; all they will hear is simply ‘no.’ The life of a child is always worth the process and far more valuable than the costs.”
In this broken messed up world, all we can do is love, and there is power in love. Never forget the power that lies in the one. You could make all the difference in the life of a child.