While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are now past us, this guest column reminds us about how we should celebrate—and wisely use—our time with (and as) both parents and children.
It’s as if a mirror is being held up.
That’s how I often describe the early days of having our foster daughter. Similar to when you invite a guest to, well, anything—you become hyper-aware of how things look through their eyes (if you’re of the pious persuasion, try taking a friend to church—you’ll see what I mean).
Earlier this month, 60 young adults ages 18 to 24 traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2015 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience. It was a wonderful event that brought together young people with personal experience in the foster care system with their congressional representative for a chance to learn from one another.
For two days, they studied issues trending in the foster care world before meeting with their congressman and getting to work. It was an empowering experience for these young adults, and one I was thrilled in which to participate.
Having been in foster care myself for six years, I was there to share my experience with these younger “brothers and sisters” and let them know there are many organizations and foster care alumni ready to lend a hand.
The plan. We all have one. This idea in our head about how our life is going to be. My plan was wonderful. I was going to marry the man of my dreams. We were going to get pregnant soon after with our first child and then every two years or so after that we would add another little person to our family until we felt complete. Perfection right? But, you see, that was Monica’s plan, not God’s plan.
It took me until about our fourth miscarriage to realize my “plan” wasn’t going to happen. So what do we do now? We want to be parents. The fertility specialist can’t figure my strange body out! Now what? Adopt? At this moment I just needed someone to call me Mommy. And adoption felt so natural to me because it was something I always dreamed of doing later in life.
When you prepare a child for permanency, you come into contact with a lot of people—birth parents, foster parents, caseworkers, mental health providers, educational staff, and so on. It is a lot for a child to have so many people involved in this process. Certainly it can be hard to keep up with all of it and still manage to be a kid. There is no normalcy about the children’s or youths’ lives at this point.
Let me tell you about just one example, condensing the details considerably.
While the holidays are merry for many, children within the child welfare system may not feel quite the same way. In fact, some may feel acute grief and loss.
Many of the images we see during the holiday season are of family, friends and being home. Imagine not being able to get home to your family and friends? Children within the child welfare system typically face circumstances outside their control, circumstances that separate them from family, friends and home.
It was a dark and stormy night…
While this may be one of the most clichéd first lines in literature, it appropriately describes the start of the 22nd annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference.
The hot July night before the conference began, a quick but powerful storm ripped through Lancaster County, leaving must of the region without power including the Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center, home to the conference. In addition to power, water usage and air conditioning were lost. It was a very long night.
A less-hardy group may have packed it in, but certainly not all of the individuals at the conference—who are dedicated to bringing together waiting children with loving adoptive and foster families. Understanding that coming together was more important than everyday amenities, conference attendees, staff and hotel employees never lost faith.
People remained in good spirits and weathered the conditions. Eventually, when electricity was restored, people were able to shower, and the conference center cooled down, the event got fully under way with the apt theme of “Finding Futures.”