As promised, here is the first part of my story.
Like most things in my life that have stuck, this all began with little that I would call “effort” on my part.
My sibs and I were all teenagers (my older sister was in college already, I believe) when my parents decided to become foster parents.
I don’t remember them telling us kids before the process was almost complete (my mom assures me she did, and that we were all in agreement), so there wasn’t much time between becoming aware, and the arrival of our first fosters.
That would be foster*s* plural.
There was a set of three sisters, and my parents agreed to take all three so they wouldn’t be split up. It was a short-term placement (the caseworker promised), and we all agreed that we could do anything for a weekend.
They left not a whole lot longer after they should have, but their caseworker soon called again, asking if we could do a longer (months-long) short-term.
I’ve never asked, but it seems to me that “short-term” means anything with even a theoretical end-date. Ish. If the kid(s) hang around longer than expected and everybody stays cool with that, they become long-term.
So with 2 1/2-days of experience, we became a family of 8.
I was 17.
My parents sold our old Bronco (I never realized till then how attached I was to it) and bought a Suburban. Rooms were rearranged, and I began sharing with a 6-year-old. I also got my advanced degree in child care.
You see, I had got my undergraduate in the previous four years of Calvins and Margrets (who were also *great* kids that I enjoyed, and am thankful I was in their lives), and now I was apprenticed to two experienced professionals.
These kids were good. I’d done dozens of bedtimes, but the older two, especially, knew how to drag it out. I’ll probably never know if the questions were genuine or calculated, but either way I couldn’t resist their clambering for my wisdom.
The questions were largely about spiritual things and clarifying their understanding of Jesus, and that made me especially interested in answering, knowing that our time with them was limited.
After a few months with them we took a break, then had a string of other short-terms, now one at a time and mostly boys. My awareness of injustice and sense of protectiveness grew exponentially as I lived with these children and overheard parts of their stories.
The uninhibited affection and trust from a few of them impressed on me that I was now a role model, and, at least when my parents were gone, playing the adult. I thought I was mature for my age before, but now I learned how much growing I still had to do. This was real-stakes, making-a-lasting-impression stuff.
The nice part of becoming aware, though, was the growing-up that could then happen.
These were children coming from God-alone knows what background and experiences, to a future that, again, only God knew.
Recently I was discussing this concept of sort-term care with a friend, and she declared she’d never be able to take in a child she knew would be short-term. She expected the re-separating to be too hard.
Without contesting this, I suggested the placement be looked at instead as short-term missions: those trips many Christians take to other places to do a specific job and get a new perspective on life and the human condition. Many people come back and testify to the difficulty leaving, and their new love for the people there.
And some are so besotted they continue to return, whether or not to the same individuals, to the same work or place, knowing they are being obedient.
There is a need for that in our own communities.
When I was in college an almost 6-year-old came to our home, and he had been with us for a while, “a bed” opened in a special program, and our family found ourselves at a new level of care, both at the conscientious level of our giving, and the system’s increased support, to more greatly enable us to give.
(To be continued)