Can you imagine the hopelessness a child feels to paint a picture like this?
You are a mother. Or a father. A sister, a brother, an uncle, an aunt. You have people you love. Imagine those people being stripped from you and placed in another family that none of you know.
Imagine being the child who is plucked from home: the bed (his covers, his sheets, his pillow), the refrigerator, the yard where he plays. She is placed in a new home where it looks and smells different. He doesn’t have his pet dog to hug. She’s not allowed to bring her kitten. He’s going to miss Outdoor School. She doesn’t even have any of her own clothes. Tomorrow, she’s going to go to a new school, meet new peers, wearing somebody else’s underwear and socks. A borrowed backpack.
You don’t need to be an expert to understand that foster children grieve. Their parents are hurting. These families need more than a bureaucracy has to offer and more than a court can order. They need someone to hear their story, help them imagine a new way of being, someone who can encourage the parents while advocating for the child. The child comes first but that doesn’t mean the parents don’t matter.
Imagine your spouse removed from your home and placed where he’d get more attention. More opportunities. Could your marriage sustain the separation of your husband or wife living with another partner while you learned to better meet their needs?
Can you feel your heart break?
We do this to children all the time. It’s called foster care.
Children need to be safe. No question about that. But children also need deeply rooted attachment to adults they love. They need stability of heart as much or more than they need stability of place.
Who needs your help?
- The child with chronic medical issues whose mother has no health insurance and no transportation to get him to so many appointments.
- The children whose mother is incarcerated.
- The child whose parent has died and the other parent has never worked outside the home.
- The children whose father who doesn’t qualify for public assistance because the money he earns picking up cans by the roadside is counted against him.
- The child with a single parent who cannot walk away when they are angry because there is nobody else to watch the child. No other parent to step in when the temper is about to flare to dangerous levels.
- The child who needs medical treatment the parents don’t believe in or understand.
- The child whose relative has a medical marijuana grow operation and is the only adult the child has ever lived with.
- The child who has mental illness that the parent cannot manage their behavior.
- The child born without organs whose parents cannot afford to care for him.
- The child whose parent is suicidal.
- The children who are living in a campground because they lost their home.
- The child with learning disabilities for whom the school district refuses to provide services.
- The child of an alcoholic.
- The child of an impoverished mother.
- The child we might, any one of us, have been.
Imagine that you are the mother or father who is failing to measure up. You would fix it, right? You would solve the problem to keep your child.
- Imagine you have no money.
- Imagine you are unemployable because of low cognitive abilities, lack of training, mental illness, criminal record.
- Imagine you are struggling with addiction. (Some of you are, we already know, because at least 10% of the adult population does.) Imagine you are not one of the lucky ones whose spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, helps babysit, caretake, or pick up the pieces when you fall apart.
- Imagine that you are one of the lucky ones with adequate resources and skills to parent well. Imagine helping someone who is not so lucky.
- Imagine that I asked you to help me out for a while because I was in a difficult patch. A dozen of you would reach out within minutes to do anything I asked, anything at all, because you know me.
Imagine helping someone you don’t know. Imagine me asking you for that. One child.
You can do it. Pick up the phone and call your local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program. Volunteer at your local faith-based organization to help families in need. Mentor a parent who struggles. Yes, you.
It will change your life. More importantly, it will change the life of a child.
Two years later, maybe the same child will paint this picture. One less child in despair. One less shooting in the evening news.
Go to MY LOCAL CASA PROGRAMto find the CASA program closest to you.