Two Beds and 669 Kids

“Just do the next right thing.”

Sign up for the resource (foster) family orientation class. Line up babysitting to attend 10 classes together on parenting. Fingerprints. Submit state paperwork. Submit county paperwork. Follow-upx100. Home inspections. Interviews. More home inspections. Post approval letter. Get a call. Pick up child.

The next right thing in our journey with foster care and adoption has been complicated. We made it through the first paragraph eventually and loved a little one with our heart, soul and strength. After 9 months of cuddling and changing clothing sizes and immunizations and sleep training and introducing foods, we lost her without warning to a retired police officer’s mental dysfunction, a couple large departments’ fear and a woman’s incompetency. We may have eventually lost her to a story of reunification, which is what we signed up for and aimed to do well. But the depravity of humankind broke in and continued to injure sweet girl, as well as our hopes of involvement in child welfare and adoption.

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For the past four years we have done the next right thing after the first paragraph and first placement. And we have nothing and no one to show for it. As of December 2016, there were two beds approved in our zip code for a foster child; there were 669 investigations of abuse. In a climate where foster families are falling off the bandwagon at alarming rates, children are joining the system at an even worse curve and hundreds of new salaries and staff have begun, our file is presently in a volleyball match that seemingly will not end. Small corrections and lost paragraphs and vacation interruptions keep us in the air longer than is conceivable, even after our expectations have been stripped of naivety since we first started 5 1/2years ago. Most recently, I was told there were typos like “there” should be “their” in a paragraph, so signing would have to wait. So next week I will make the regular calls and emails to a social worker and her supervisor. All this after the war to even stay eligible after a disproven and nullified accusation. All this as though there were no children hanging in the balance.

This gestation affords us 0% visibility. I’ve watched families sign up and adopt in the time we have spent on one piece of paperwork. We are administrative people with access to internet, printers, fax machines, diplomas, cars, bank statements, and even, for one especially precarious period, a lawyer. But continuously we are taught and shown that these privileges, even when we are volunteering what is needed, do nothing against forces of corruption and brokenness. We are in the mess of a cyclone of resources and systems meant to support the image of God in children but, as in the eye of a tornado, can completely lose touch with the center.

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I’m writing from this middle, which we’ve been in in one way or another for so long:

sign up anyway.

When the false allegation first came in and things began to unravel terribly I feared not only for her, our family, and our future. I feared that people would not get involved because of our case. Because of the complete undoing of truth. I continue to wonder if this has been true as this strange pregnancy never ends and we keep empty beds and baby gates around for seemingly no reason.

But all I know is that there are still thousands of children in my town alone who need a family to attach to, if only for a time. All I know is that the shithole of a system sometimes works and that maybe if we keep doing the next right thing it will still work for us. Tenacity isn’t born from things making sense; serendipity when it comes to caring for children isn’t the go sign. Light somehow breaks around a corner. Adoption pictures keep showing up on my feed. I know it happens. I know that before I knew if I wanted to marry one day, I was set on adopting. I know that after being in deep despair and losing much confidence in an order to the world, my husband was given a vision to continue to set our sights on this addition. I know that good people are needed. That nothing, NOTHING can get better without the Helpers. People who have open hearts to love and hurt, and hands linked with supportive relationships to be there for them in the scariest nights and most unconventional circumstances. We are so grateful to be in this crowd.

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Tomorrow these children will be having children. They may be tenacious themselves and coordinate services and leverage mentors just right to completely 180 the narrative. They may also become your corner’s sex worker, lured by some money and attention, recruited in their group home. They may become the formerly incarcerated person your company can’t hire. They are your children’s classmates. Foster kids who sleep in offices and have no attachments by age 7 don’t do very well in school. They may have screen addictions and drug addictions and know words your kids don’t know. There is not a blood screening test for this new arrival; your heart’s on call and that’s it.

But fostering kids can open our eyes to what love we are capable of and a radical and right spirit of shared responsibility. There is a love that has been given us which we can only explore and enjoy by giving. This is the greatest wealth. Kids in the system and their biological family gift us proximity to struggle and public need that puts cracks in our assumptions and biases. And our own masquerades and blind spots of those who may or may not stay our friends. Humbling ourselves to being inspected, to being judged, is a small price to pay for contributing to a child’s future ability to attach–to make a friend, to set a boundary, to marry, to parent. Speaking with a parent who never learned anything from their parent and walking away from them with their child is an honor–an opportunity to learn from someone who is not hiding their needs and not fooling anyone about how together they are. Writing notes on a child’s development who does not carry your genes introduces you to a well of emotional care for all children that may just keep us human. And feeling the weight of defending their personhood and importance to every adult with power over their life is a chance to exercise our very calling in this world. It is a seed and an extension of everything God says to do by placing Their image on each human being.

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Sign up anyway because our participation in helping others was never meant to be based on convenience, clarity, or comfort. And these things seem like freedom when they are actually traps. This urgent need facing each city, especially mine, is a blatant invitation and profound grace to announce justice, share resources, and live love how we were intended. To move the needle on classism, racism, and materialism. It’s an invitation to escape idols and outcomes prescribed to us not by the Good News or Jesus but basically just fear and evil. Sign up to be an emergency placement home, a respite care worker, a tutor at a non-profit, a volunteer at children’s court. Sign up for counseling and a support group to address the healing you will need in your self as you open up for giving. Sign up to see the misbehaving child or delinquent young adult’s whole story. Just do the next right thing. It won’t happen too fast.

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