compelled by love

Friday, October 9, 2015

There is so much indignity involved in a child being brought into foster care. There are caseworkers and law enforcement sometimes and intake exams and being stripped naked outside of homes to avoid pest infestations. There are showers with strangers and hours of hair combing culminating in strange pajamas and a strange bed and a strange mama to try to put you to sleep. These are just the mild cases. Some of the worse ones involve x-rays and pelvic exams and measurements and a gazillion documenting photographs of injuries.

The worst part is that the person a foster parent needs to talk to the most is unavailable to them. There's no mama or daddy interaction to ask about schedules and preferences and even what nickname you might use. You don't know if they drink from a sippy cup or a bottle or just disposable juice boxes. You don't know if they only eat twinkies or whether they like a myriad of vegetables too. You don't know this child because they are not your child. And yet they are. You're not a babysitter, you're the everyday parents for this kid now.

When we asked our eldest on Wednesday how he felt about another placement, he said, "yep." No questions. No hesitation. Just an immediate affirmation. This is what we do.

When we told our other kids, our oldest daughter, as typical in our family, replied with all the drama she could muster, "YES!! I LOVE what we do!!!"

But then later, she tells me that she really does love it, but it's just kind of 50/50 because when we get new kids in our family, it's because their families couldn't take care of them. And they're sad and they miss their moms. So it's not just all fun. 

We've always done foster care as a family. We've always approached it holistically and while we aren't really running a democracy, our children have voice in this. Not only do they have voice, but they have a huge role. We can't be successful in integrating a new child into our family without our children's participation. In fact, I would argue that their role is maybe even more vital at first than our own. Children look to one another for cues, to judge safety, to experience fun. Our kids are rock stars at foster care.

Our newest Little Man is cautious. He has a grown man's worth of suspicion packed into a tiny toddler body. He's spent far more time scowling than smiling, and the only thing that seems to have truly brought him joy is playing ball. Oh, and meat. Little Man loves meat. I don't think I've seen anyone enjoy meatballs as much he did this evening.

His story will unfold slowly, I'm sure, as all of our cases do. When we told our families, almost everyone asked 'how long'. When we first started foster care, that was a question we asked at the beginning often. I wasn't even tempted to ask this time. Whatever they tell us is going to be wrong. Things never turn out how they're expected. So we treat this little guy as we do all the others we've loved in the past. We love him with all we have for all the time he's with us. Beyond that, it's not up to us.

As with every new placement, the past couple days have been excitement and chaos and so much sadness. Babies without their mamas. Mamas without their babies. This world is broken, and sometimes I get cynical and overwhelmed. But in the end, we do what's put in front of us. We help the ones we can help, and we step up where we can step up. We give family to the lonely, and we do it all in the name of Love.

"For Christ's love compels us..."2 Corinthians 5:14

photo credit: JOHN WATERHOUSE, NOV 4, 1930-MARCH 25, 1992 via photopin (license)
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