I hate moving. When I was a kid, my family moved every year or two, and it always made me sick. Hugging the toilet sick. The whole time the U-Haul was being loaded.
I didn’t really get any pleasure out of seeing my new bedroom or exploring a new neighborhood. Mostly I spent the first few days worrying. Wondering if anyone knew where I was. Would I be able to get on the right bus at school? And off at the right stop? I didn’t even know my address – how would the bus driver? Would my grandparents be able to find us for my birthday party? And how would Santa know where we were?
Those nerves could be largely settled by one simple thing – getting mail. Not mail for my parents, mail for ME. Mail meant that someone knew where I was. Mail meant I wasn’t lost. Mail meant I was thought of. And, if I was lucky and the mail was from my grandparents, it usually included stuff – stickers, toys, activity books, crayons – you get the picture.
Foster kids move a lot too – an average of 4 times in 20 months, and of kids who age out of foster care, 1/3 of them moved more than 8 times while they were in custody. Each move means a new house, new neighborhood, new school. Each move means you lose stuff that matters to you – stuff like pictures and drawings and stories you have written and favorite CD’s. Each move means new rules – new bedtimes, new chores, new ways to fold towels and make your bed.
And, they wonder if anyone knows where they are.
I wonder how much difference a piece of mail would make to a foster kid. A birthday card, a random note, a care package. How much does it matter to you to not feel “lost”, but rather “found”?
Beginning next week, my office will be sending birthday cards to the foster kids who see me for health care. What can you do? Look for opportunity. Teachers, coaches, kids pastors/church workers – take special notice of the foster kids who cross your path and send them a word of encouragement for no particular reason. Foster parents – teach foster kids your address and phone number.