Happy New Year, congrats on making it through the first week! I feel like the New Year comes in a wave: Thanksgiving, Christmas, now we’re starting all over. Lol, I love this time of the year though, because of the back to back holidays, time off of school/ work, and most importantly, family!
As a child, I would especially enjoy this time because of the gifts! I can admit that I was guilty of falling into some “propaganda” of viewing these holidays wrongly! However, the older I have gotten, the more I’ve realized that it’s less about receiving and more about spending time with family.
A few months ago, Bethany Christian Services of Minnesota hosted a fundraising dinner to bring awareness to children who live in the Foster Care System. I thought I knew a little something about the system, but the information given provided a different perspective that forced me to take a couple of steps back.
I learned that not everyone has an “ideal” family, and it almost presents the question of, who do you consider family?
What is a family?
“Blood is thicker than water,” usually referring to family. Some of us may live by that statement, but don’t have a clear understanding of what it means; so what is a family?
I like to believe that I know what a family is; growing up I would usually only associate family with my blood relatives.
Dictionary.com defines family as a “basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.”
Ideally, there should be two parents caring for their child, or children, to provide basic needs. Or maybe there aren’t any parents, and it’s just the child caring for themselves. However, subsequently one of the children ends up acting as the parent.
The use of the phrase, social unit, brings me back to sociology: when we are born, families are meant to be that first social structure where we can learn the most basic things. Such as, how to: interact with others, communicate and anything else that contributes to the development of a child.
Some children in the foster system may not have a consistent family. The whole objective is to place these children in a home where they can develop the most basic skills.
What a child encounters, or experiences at home, will be with them for the rest of their life, especially in the transition to adulthood.
Before you go any further, I want to make it clear that this post is opinion based. Just some of my thoughts! Nonetheless, if you do have a different experience or information, please share in the comment section!
Back to the post!
I want to take the time to create a visual, or better yet, how about a feeling.
A life without stability. Children are born, then placed in a system where the goal is to find them a family. They’re young, so they don’t quite understand what’s going on: not sure what a “family” is, but they live in a home where there is constant change. Those in charge of the house, the parents, take care of children but tell them not to call them mom or dad, to avoid confusion if an adoption does take place.
The child feels like something is missing, but they are unsure. They want to feel “something,” but how would they know if they haven’t experienced it before?
There is no opportunity to settle in, and they come to terms that they may never have a place to call home.
I can only imagine how a foster child, who has never experienced what a family can provide, feels.
Where this issue lies is where Bethany Christian Services of Minnesota comes in: some understand the foster system as a business, and as a child, you can’t find “comfort” in that. Bethany Christian Services wants to be that organization that helps dispel that negative stigma associated with the foster care system.
It’s sad to know that some children would instead run away and be homeless, rather than enter into a system that has the possibility of helping them find a family.
Back to the dinner
During the dinner, foster parents, let’s call them Jack and Jill, discussed a time they cared for the “William” brothers. The “William” brothers were initially taken from their family, due to the parent’s instability. However, they were also in the process of being reunited with them.
Jack and Jill provided them with a home, clothes, food, and all the support the brothers needed. As I mentioned earlier, some Foster parents prefer for the children not to call them mom or dad. And in this situation, the “William” brothers were able to go back to their family. However, their reunion with them wasn’t ideal: the parents were living in a shelter.
We think we know what’s best for children, however giving them the tools that they need to survive isn’t going to guarantee survival. Children should not only be provided with their physical needs because it goes beyond that.
A notable quote, made by Lilo, in “Lilo & Stitch,” states,
“Ohana means family. Family means nobody left behind or forgotten.”
If you don’t remember anything from that movie, remember that quote! But this quote is significant because before Stitch met Lilo, he didn’t have anyone who has shown him, love. Lilo took Stitch in, without judgment, treated him well and once he experienced love, he changed.
“We don’t build homes out of places; we build homes out of people.”
Digging a little Deeper:
The “William” brothers didn’t care about the living situation. They cared about was the reunion with their parents that love them. They experienced love from their parents, and the reunion fulfilled that “craving.”
Not every child in the foster care system will have the same story as the “William” brothers. Some children are either born into the system, separated from their sibling’s or never reunited with their family. About 30% of children ages 12-18 will never be adopted. The “not knowing” can leave some children broken.
Bethany Christian Services understands the “brokenness” that children may feel. Through all that the children have endured, they may feel insecure or a lack of trust towards authoritative figures; possibly because it’s hard for them to accept the idea of even being a valued family member!
It’s easy to hear about stories about these children, but it’s better when you can listen to the story directly from the child.
is an organization, based in Minnesota, that acts as the middleman for families looking to adopt.
- They create a 2-minute “reel” of children who are in foster care, awaiting a family.
- The “reels” are then brought to gatherings and faith communities, to introduce people to the real children.
- For every 1 family that adopts, 5 families are encouraged to come around them as a “Village” to help raise the child.
This organization offers a lot of resources for families interested in adopting a child. They want to provide what the child missed in the time while in the care of the system. I advise you to go to their website and check out some of the “reels” they’ve created.
What happens next?
Now it is up to you to do research. I provided a brief overview of organizations, such as Bethany Christian Services and The Reel Hope Project, but I am sure that there are much more out there for these children.
As I mentioned earlier, this post was a collection of some of my thoughts. The dinner was great, and I even had the opportunity to hear from someone who was a foster child themselves; very inspiring story.
The meaning of family goes beyond explanation. Remember, who you consider family has contributed to who you are today.
I can say that I am grateful for the family I have.
Happy New Year,