I feel like a thief. Last week, our youngest foster child stood on her own for the first time. Yesterday, she learned how to wave, and uses the gesture to say hi at all the right times and everything. Next week, she'll probably be walking. These are beautiful moments—milestone moments—in the life of a child.
But they're not my moments.
Talking to the parents of these little ones reveals something of an epidemic. In one child's case, many of her mother's friends have had children in and out of the system, and she talks about it quite casually. On the other, there's a dad who has had multiple kids in the system, and because of their experiences, they have some fears. It's so mundane, they're almost indifferent.
Not to say that they don't love their kids, and they don't parent well. So far, all the children we've had in our home have been great kids: generally polite, well-behaved, and taught well. There's just some sort of disconnect between providing a positive childhood experience, and providing a safe place for these children to be.
The saddest part of those accounts is not that they have had bad experiences with DHS or foster care in general, the saddest part of those accounts is that it's just so normal to have their kids taken away. It speaks volumes.
It's just a natural part of life. You live, you have kids, the government takes them away. It's as normal and casual as taking a child to the park or the zoo—perhaps even more routine.
What kills me is that I recognize the problem, I just feel helpless to fight against it. I want to grab these people by their shoulders and scream "It doesn't have to be this way! You don't just have to have your children taken! You can be different!"
But they rarely see themselves as the problem. Usually, they blame DHS, or the foster parents, or whoever else they can attack. Many truly believe that DHS or CPS workers actually enjoy taking children away. One case worker we talked to told us of a recent experience where a parent claimed he was only taking their child so he could meet his quota and get a bonus paycheck for it.
What the what?
It truly breaks my heart that Hailee and I get to enjoy all these moments with these children. I hate that we've stolen precious memories from parents. But I also hate that these parents don't see that the enemy is not us, or the system, or anything else.
The enemy is the curse. The enemy is the life these parents willingly subject themselves and their children to, because they think they're stuck. Or they simply don't know better.
Pray for Hailee and I.
It starts with making a difference in the lives of these children, but we know there's so much more we can do. How can we help these parents understand that there is a better way to live? How can we come alongside them and help them show them the love of Jesus, while teaching and mentoring them into becoming the parents God created them to be for these children?
We hope we can find a way to do all of those things, because we want to treat the disease instead of just the symptoms. We don't want to be thieves.