Sunday, May 22, 2005

Foster Parents Dedicate Lives to Helping Children
by: Lawrence P. Adams

I have written a number of articles where I have been extremely critical of the foster care system. I feel it is badly broken and in need of drastic reform. There is one area, however, that I have not been critical of...the foster parents.

It seems, from my point of view, that the only time the general public think of foster parents/children is when a horrendous story reaches the headlines. Even then we may only talk about the story for a few days, when it leaves the headlines...they leave our thoughts.

Yes, there are a few bad apples in foster parenting, just as there are biological or adoptive parents. This however, does not portray the vast majority of foster parents. As one who lived within the Michigan foster care system for eighteen years, I believe I can speak with a degree of authority on the subject.

Maybe it is time for the media to tell the story of those who dedicate their lives to make a child's life better rather than the few who destroy them!

Foster parents, to me, are very special people in our society. They provide a temporary refuge for those of us considered society's "throw away kids."

I do know that being a foster parent takes a very special type of individual. It takes someone who knows both sides of life. One who knows what it is like to be loved and also knows what it is like to be abused. I am not talking about "guessing" what abuse is like. You have to know the feelings of deep, dark despair that a child feels when he, or she, has been abused and has never been loved.

You see, foster parents in many situations, do not receive the perfect little boy, or the perfect little girl, when they take in a child. There is no perfect little child by the time they reach foster care. The damage has already been done and it can be very severe. Children have already been physically or sexually abused, neglected, moved numerous times on the foster care system merry-go-round or just plain abandoned.

Yet, foster parents take us kids into their homes for short or extended periods of time. They attempt to provide the nurturing, care and love that has been deprived us.

Many times they do this at great emotional and financial expense to themselves. Most are not fostering for the money, but for the love of the child. They often feel as abandoned by the system as do many of the kids. They should not also go bankrupt in the process.

Often, though the system says they are part of a team, foster parents are left swinging in the wind...left to the whim of the current social worker assigned to the child. Their opinions about the child, their progress or problems are left unheard. The "so called" experts feel they know best! However, who knows better what is going on in a child's life than those caring for him/her twenty-four hours a day. Rather than be considered a "servant" of the system...they should be considered their most valuable resource and the "true" experts.

It is things such as this that foster parents must deal with, and they do. Why?...for the love of children!

I for one believe foster parents are the spine and backbone of the foster care system. It is time they are not only heard but actually listened to by those in charge. Many counties and states are pleading for people to become or stay foster parents, maybe if they were allowed to really be part of the team, listened to and cared about...more would.

To foster parents everywhere I say a very humble yet sincere THANK YOU for all that you do! You may not know the impact you have on a child's life while they are with you, but you will have one! I for one do not know where I would be today if it were not for people such as you willing to open your home to me as a child. I will be forever grateful.

Please continue to be a great strength and courage for children. Sometimes the fruits of your labor may take years to harvest. You must always keep in mind, when taking in a foster child, that you are working toward, not just saving a child, but saving an adult later on down the road.

I have made something of my life, not because of the system and what it put me through as a child, but in spite of it. I wish I could take full credit. But the credit is not mine to take. The credit belongs to those who took, however briefly, the time to make a difference in my life. YOU ARE MY HEROES! You may never get a medal or an award. You, however, will be able to know that many of your kids of today or us kids of yesteryear became something...just because of YOU!

I was fortunate to be able to maintain a close relationship with one of my foster families for years after I was removed from their home for the third and final time. I loved them deeply and they will always remain Mom and Dad to me. They knew what they meant to me and the impact they had on my life. They are now long passed on but their impact will continue throughout my life.

They and you are changing a lifetime one or two lives at a time.

If those reading this wish to be a child's hero and change a life, please consider becoming foster parents. Contact your local government or private agency responsible for child welfare today.

You may never know the true impact you have had on a child who has been in your home, however, rest assured there are thousands of us across the country who say a quiet thank you and a prayer for you each and every night.

In 2003, Lawrence P. Adams, a former Michigan foster child, wrote the poignant book of life through the eyes of a throw away child entitled: "Lost Son? A Bastard Child's Journey of Hope, Search, Discovery and Healing." It was released in 2004. Mr. Adams has also had numerous articles published of the need for child welfare reform and is an Advocacy Ambassador for International Advocates for Children. He may be reached at larry@larrya.us or by visiting his web site http://www.larrya.us