Mar 302012

THE MEETING HAS BEEN MOVED TO THE SECOND FLOOR.  The handwritten sign was taped to the wall.

Voices echoed from the conference room, then laughter and crying.  Curious, I peered through the glass door, wondering what occasion had displaced my schedule.  The big conference table that normally occupied the center of the room had been scooted over against the wall.  A few kids were sitting by it, coloring.  Others were running around the room, kicking a ball.  A couple were sitting on the floor, crying giant crocodile tears.  I stepped closer.  Air mattresses and cots lined the wall.  What in the world was going on?  This looked more like a slumber party than a board room.  Or perhaps a shelter, like the kind you see on TV when there has been a hurricane.

A shelter.  For kids who have no where else to stay.  For kids in foster care.  “There are no open foster homes, and all the actual shelter buildings are full.  This is the shelter overflow,” I was told.  My mind jumped to another story of a child with nowhere to stay.

“She gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”  Luke 2:7 (NLT)

At least in that story there was a mom and a dad.  In this one, there were only children, supervised in a conference room turned bedroom by a few case workers turned caregivers.  I wondered who these kids had the potential to be.  Teachers?  Athletes?  Doctors?  Maybe, but the reality is that they have no resources.  No source of comfort or encouragement.  A better chance of being a prostitute or a prisoner than anything else.  At least prostitutes and prisoners have a bed.

I wonder why, in a country of thousands of churches, of millions of homes with a spare bedroom and an extra car seat, why foster kids sleep on an air mattress in a county office.  Why people who label themselves as Christians don’t see the face of Christ himself  in the laughter and the tears of these children.  Who will YOU see?  And what will YOU do about it?

“For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”  Matthew 25:35 (NLT)





Aug 182010

“There are no concerns.”

I stared at the paper, but the words didn’t change.  “There are no concerns.”  There it was, my handwriting in black ink on the medical chart.  In medical language, it means that the patient isn’t sick.  They don’t feel bad.  There is nothing wrong.  Normally that is a good thing.  But this time, as I sat filling out yet another medical form for yet another child entering the emergency foster shelter, I found myself overtaken with emotion.

                                               Anger.  Disgust.  Frustration.  Sadness.  Worry. 

I wrote that there were no concerns.  But that isn’t true.  I have concerns.  I have lots of concerns.  Concerns about these children.  About what they will think about and what they will feel when the lights go out at night and the shelter is quiet.  About where they will live next, and whether the family who takes them in will treat them as their own or merely as transients.  About whether their social worker will get to know them as human beings or just by a case number.  About when they will see their family again, and whether that reunion will be filled with joy or anger or fear. 

We should be concerned.  And may that concern fuel our actions.  May it compel us to get out of our comfortable lives where most of our concern is for ourselves, and to be concerned for someone else for a change.

May 102010

Some days this job sucks.  Some days I can’t tell that there is any progress. 

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist…”  1 Corinthians 13:12 (MSG)

Four years is a long time in kid life.  I remember meeting the sibling quartet four years ago.  They were strung out across three foster homes, and it took me a couple of clinic visits to figure out they were one family.  The boys were all a little unruly, but their freckled faces, dimpled cheeks, and quick smiles got them out of a lot of trouble.  The girl was harder to connect with – she was older, and less trusting.  But over time, the relationship grew. 

Time went by, and somewhere along the way I met their parents.  Fell in love with them.  Poured into them.  Opened my heart, my mind, and occasionally even my checkbook.  They got their kids back. 

I thought I saw progress, or did I just imagine that?

Then the kids showed up with foster parents again.  And I was devastated.  And angry.  A little at the parents.  But mostly at God.  “Why don’t you do anything?”  I complained.  “When are you going to show up?  I am tired of this, tired of being disappointed.  Tired of watching foster kids come and go.  Tired of hoping that their lives will improve, only to realize later that nothing is better.  When are you going to do something about this?” 

His answer?  I did.  I sent you.

I don’t like that answer.  Because I can’t see very well.  I don’t know if what I am spending my life doing makes any difference.  I don’t know what happens to that group of three brothers and a sister whose parents can’t get their act together.  I don’t know if they get to stay with each other or get separated.  I don’t know at what point hope is lost in them.  At what point they give up.  I just don’t know…

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity…Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”  1 Cor. 13:12 (NLT)

Apr 132010

pro-tec-tor – (noun)  a person that protects; a guardian or defender*

The October sky was blue but there was certainly a chill in the air.  His small frame covered with a thin long-sleeve shirt didn’t offer much of a barrier against the breeze.  He sat on the steps of his home, trying to figure out what to do.  At 6 he was the caretaker of his 3 and 2 year old siblings.  He got them up in the mornings and fixed them breakfast – had an old burn stripe on his finger from touching the hot coils of the toaster.  He knew how to make macaroni and cheese, and to microwave soup and fix sandwiches.  He made sure their noses were wiped, and changed his little sister’s diapers the best he could.  And he tucked them into bed at night.  All the while his mom spent most of the day either passed out on the couch or away from the house, looking for her next fix. 

Most of the time he didn’t mind helping – he knew his mom had a lot she was struggling with, and he wanted to make it as easy on her as he could.  He loved her very much, and as he shivered against the wind, his mind wandered back to days when she read him stories and gave him big hugs.  When it seemed like she loved him.  He hadn’t gotten that kind of attention for at least a couple of years.  And his siblings never had, except from him.  That thought snapped him back to the reality of the porch.  He tried the door again, but it was still locked.  His mom had woken up in a bad mood and was screaming and throwing things at his little brother.  When he intervened, his mom had dragged him out on the porch and locked the door. 

He began to walk down the street, slowly at first, but then with increasing confidence, toward the fire station a block away.  “Can you help me  sir?  My sister and brother are in danger, and it’s my job to protect them – can you help me?  We need a better life than this.  There has to be something better than this.”

Courage is found in many different places.  Sometimes it is even packaged in the small body of a 6 year old.  What about you?  Will you be courageous?

Apr 022010

Numbers are an important part of our everyday lives.  We use them to help us connect to others on our cell phones, to tell us which seat to sit in on a plane, and to help us find the correct highway.  In the world of foster kids, one important number is the number of kids in custody.  Thankfully, that number has been declining, from 12,000 a couple of years ago to just over 8,400 today.  There are lots of ideas about why the number is declining, and certainly lots of excitement.  And there should be.

That said, do not think for one moment that the work with these kids and their families is done, that DHS no longer needs the community to step up.  I would argue the exact opposite.

There aren’t any fewer families who struggle

Life is difficult.  Parenting is hard if there are two of you and you aren’t worried about putting gas in the car or your next meal on the table.  What if you are a single parent?  What if it costs you more for a week of daycare than you earn in a week of work?  What if a good day is one where the electricity and the water are both on at your house? 

Look around you.  On your block.  At your kids’ school.  Or the grocery store, or at church.  There are hurting people everywhere.  People who need to eat, need a ride, need a babysitter. 

Or perhaps they need the most important thing of all – a friend.

Want to end child abuse?  That’s how.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist.  Just a servant.

Mar 292010

He was at work when he got the call.  The job site was a difficult place to talk on the phone.  A biting north wind was blowing against his cheek, interfering with the reception.  And the noise of construction rattling along behind him was both loud and distracting.  But after a couple of attempts, he heard the message.

“Your ex is in some trouble, can you take the kids?”

His mind raced.  It had been 5 years since he had even talked to his ex.  He remembered when the first one was born – had been at the hospital for that.  She was a sweet little baby girl with red hair and blue eyes.  Within 18 months she was pregnant again, but their relationship had been deteriorating for a long time, and not long after she told him, she had kicked him out of the house.  He had gone willingly at first, not in the mood for all the responsibility.  Two kids and a wife was not the dream everyone makes it out to be.  But certainly there had been lots of nights when loneliness crept in.  And he had wondered about that little girl.  And whether she had a sister or brother.

The wind hit him again, as did the high-pitched voice on the other end of the phone.  “Sir, are you interested in taking the kids?  You would have to have a home study and a background check, but if that went OK, you could have them with you in a few days.”  As he snapped back to the present, he felt the weight of responsibility settle on his shoulders.  But this time it was different.  This time, for whatever reason, he wanted to step up.  Wanted to embrace that.  Wanted to be a dad and a provider.  Wanted a new family. 

And that is exactly what he got.  At Christmas.  Complete with hopes for baby dolls and teddy bears and soccer balls.  From his now not so little baby girl, and her little brother.  It was the best Christmas ever.

Mar 252010

He was a cute, freckle-faced little kid, not yet 4 feet tall. The foosball champ of the foster shelter, or so he told me. Hmm, we’ll see about that, or so I told him. He gave up video game time for a chance to play against me – even recruited a friend for his team. I scored first, but then they caught up. Back and forth, neck and neck. Until the final goal rolled in. Then a shout of joy!!

By two freckle-faced little kids. Who beat me 4-3.

Time matters – spend yours well today.

Mar 092010

From kids in foster care…

No one could really understand what my life is like.  No one pays attention to what I do, or cares about how I feel.  No one looks me in the eye and say “I love you and care about you,” and even if they did, I wouldn’t believe them.  No one that I love has stayed around for very long.  I don’t feel safe because there are too many dangerous things in the world.  I hurt in ways that no one else understands.  When I needed you most, you left me and now I am broken in a million pieces.  Please help me put the pieces together, because I don’t know what to do.

Enough said.  What will you do to help?

“Pure, unstained religion…is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer…”          James 1:27 (GWT)

Feb 102010

(the following story is from a recent conversation with a foster mom) 

Recently my (foster) kids and I were having breakfast.  One of the boys was messing around, as he normally does, and bumped his hand on the table.  He began to cry, and when I asked where it hurt, he lifted his hand.  I kissed his fingers and he said “no, right here.”  I had only missed his hurt spot by a tiny bit, but he knew it and wanted me to kiss his hurt again.  He has been with me a long time, and I wonder when he goes back home if his mom will understand what it means when he says “no, right here.”  Will she know that he has a favorite bedtime story?  And that he wants two hugs, not just one before he will fall asleep.  Will she know that he likes goldfish crackers for his afternoon snack?

I am beginning to realize just how much there is about him that I should try to share with his biologic parents.  All the ways that I help him get through the day.  My biggest fear is this – will I forget something as small as the little kisses that heal his hurts?


If you are a foster parent, what can you do? Take pics, scrapbook, fill out a Life Book with your foster child’s likes and daily habits, talk to the biologic family at visits – be willing to learn a little about their traditions/habits and incorporate some of them, as well as share yours.


Nov 192009

I always wanted to be an ER doctor. It seemed so exciting – all the fast pace, the noise, and the bleeding. Seemed right up my alley – that is, until I met Charles. He was two months old and was in the hospital because someone who was supposed to take care of him shook him violently until his brain was injured. I had never seen anything like that. Didn’t know it happened. But really thought SOMEONE should do something about it.  I just never really thought it might be me…