I thumbed through the chart quickly and then stepped into the exam room, expecting like usual to enjoy meeting another foster kid and figuring out their story. Within seconds my expectation turned to dread. The air in the room was heavy, layered with anger, tension, and hostility. The toddler didn’t seem to notice. He ran back and forth between the toy hanging on the wall and the multiple adults in the room, ensuring best he could that he remained the center of everyone’s attention. A short conversation revealed the issue – there were differences in opinions about what should happen in the case. Not just differences of opinion – hostility.
About whether the foster parents were “too attached” to the child.
About whether the case worker was competent.
About whether the therapist was taking sides.
About whether the lawyers were playing fair.
There is a difference between hostility and advocacy. We should hope for a mom to be able to make it. We should want foster parents to become attached to the children in their home, and we shouldn’t allow people to be foster parents unless they are willing to. We should be respectful of the professionals involved in the case, being humble – encouraging, and educating each other rather than allowing ego, pride, and the adrenaline of “winning” be our motivation. We have to remember that we are not fighting against people but against circumstances and behaviors, against powers and principalities and darkness. None of us are so holy and wise that we have the right to judge the heart and motives of others, and none of us have a crystal ball that tells us whether the decisions we made today result in good or harm for the children and families we so desperately try to help.
Within a few minutes the visit was over. The room was a disaster, with goldfish cracker crumbs all over the floor and shredded paper from the exam table lying around like confetti, evidence that a toddler had come and gone. I can clean the room. But cleaning up the relational damage between the adults involved is a whole different kind of disaster – one that we must avoid at all costs if we are ever to win the war against child abuse.
“Where do you think these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves…It’s common knowledge that ‘God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.’ So let God work his will in you.” James 4 (MSG)