I believe I am quite qualified to answer the above question. I was raised within the foster care system of Michigan from birth until I aged out. By the age of eleven I had been placed with eight different foster families, one family I was placed with three different times. Though I have very few memories of most the families, as I was too young, I have enough to know who the vast majority of foster families are.
Let me tell you who they are.
Foster Parents, the overwhelming majority, are NOT the monsters some people think they are. They donít do it for money, or for fame, or for people to look at them or notice them. They donít do it to be popular or to be noticed by other people. Neither do they do it to obtain a privilege or a gift, or just for pity.
Foster Parents are the ones that open the door of their home to what it is at that time just a story told by someone on the other side of the phone; just a faceless child in need.
Thatís all they know, just a story of something that shouldn't happen, but it did happen. A thing that no one wants to hear or think about it, but that they choose to live with because an innocent heart has been broken. A heart whose only ďsinĒ was to ask to be loved by mom and dad, but yet (in many cases) were punished, tormented or crippled by those that were supposed to love and protect them.
Foster Parents are the ones that many would like to see disappear and not disturb their lives and tranquility while they are eating in their favorite restaurant. Their eyes tell them that neither they nor their children are welcome for whatever reason. They donít say it out loud, yet their eyes scream from deep inside their souls. These are the screams that foster parents have learned not to listen to, because where were they when a child cries because its tummy was empty and all one could hear was the sound of an empty stomach.
Foster Parents are the ones that are there when it is the child's first time on many things you will probably think are warranted for every human being. Yet they were not for many of them.
Foster Parents are the ones that raise their voices and beg for help and understanding, for patience and caring, for wisdom and temperance, for gentleness and goodness, for meekness and for mercy.
Foster Parents are the ones that just ask anyone that would listen to have faith in those who has been suffering for (the children) as long as they have been in this world. They wish to only give joy, peace and love to those whose mother sometimes just look them straight into their eyes when they were just born and told the nurse take it away, I donít want it because I donít love it.
Some are thrown in the trash can, some are tied like animals, some are hit with just about anything, their bodies forever will bare the marks of the bonding and torture, some are mentally abused in ways that they would prefer to just die than rather live, some are sexually abused, some are doped, while others...you get the idea!
They are not their foster children, cause for as long as they have the blessing of having them in their home, they are their sons and daughters. Their children and they treat them like their own even though they were not born in the family; they bless foster parents lives with their smile. That is a reward that will be with them, in their heart, for as long as they live. For them they are angels for they are not forgetful to entertain strangers because without being aware of it, they have entertained Godís angels.
So the next time you are going on about your business and you see this couple with a Latino child, with an African-American child, with an Anglo child, an Oriental child, along with a baby from any corner of this Earth, donít stare at them like they come from another planet. Donít think it was a wild night for one of the two; donít go over your racial issues, or just hope they go away because they are too noisy.
Trust me they donít need any of that nor are they going to go away. You will do yourself a favor as well as a favor to them if you just look at them straight into they eyes and thank them for what they are doing.
Trust me, it will mean a lot!
They are Foster Parents for whom we should all be grateful they choose to do what many would not...love, care for and raise a child or children not of their blood.
They, the foster parents, are the backbone and heroes of a system in dire need of reform. If it were not for the foster parents even more children would be lost today than are already lost. Yes, as with all segments of our society, there are bad apples in the field. However, they are in the very small minority.
I thank God for families so openly and willingly opening their home to us...the throw away kids of our society.
We can also get involved on an individual basis one child at a time by becoming a mentor or tutor, giving foster youth reliable support from someone who holds high expectations for them and encourages them to see a better life for themselves. To mentor or tutor a foster youth not only benefits the recipient, but also it is one of the most rewarding endeavors in life, showing a young person that you care and can be relied upon, even through challenging times. Cost of mentoring youth: An hour or two of your time each week.
Employers have the ability to offer foster youth a life-changing opportunity as well. By hiring young people living in foster care and training them for successful careers, employers provide foster youth with a critical start towards a lifetime of self-sufficiency. Cost of offering and promoting jobs and internships for youth in foster care: Insignificant compared to the cost of their failing to succeed.
Sometimes tangible items can have tremendous impact on a young life. Foster youth often lack the funds to pay for an after school computer class, musical instruments or art supplies. Also they many times lack items most of us would consider basics, such as school backpacks or school supplies. Cost of donating to a nonprofit benefiting foster youth; A tax deductible contribution to fit your budget.
Most important of all, for those youth who may be unable to remain with or return safely to their birth families, thousands are needed to open their homes and hearts and become full-time foster or adoptive parents. The lasting commitment that results from creating a new home is one that can be pursued by couple (married or unmarried) or single people. Cost of creating a new, loving family by parenting abused and neglected youth: Priceless!
Lawrence P. Adams is a former Michigan foster child and the author of the books, "Lost Son? A Bastard Child's Journey of Hope, Search, Discovery and Healing." He serves as an Advocacy Ambassador for International Advocates for Children. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his web site at http://www.larrya.us He lives in Midland.