I have been involved in the care of dependent, neglected and abused children by placing them in foster families (temporary places) and adoptive families (permanent places) for over 28 years now. I don’t often know how things turn out after the children leave our program.
Every once in a while I run across a foster or adoptive parent who is no longer with the agency. They are a little older…a little grayer…a bit more ‘careworn.’ It’s hard work being a parent, whether you are loving on and raising abused/neglected children or even your own children. Life these days seems more stressful than ever. I think about this often; daily as a matter of fact.
There are more regulations nowadays in the child welfare field. There are more children and teens with problematic behavior arising out of their parents’ continued use of drugs; mental health issues; and cycles of generational poverty that are increasing because of our city’s economy. All these factors combine to wear a professional down. The stress doesn’t seem to end and the problems continue to pound away at us. It’s easy to lose hope and sight of why you are led to do this type of work.
Then I take a look around my office and see pictures of children who have been adopted by our families, who initially simply fostered them. These children’s circumstances developed into a dire need for a permanent family for these selected few. People that found OFY and wanted to help children stepped up to the plate to provide a place for children; whether it was temporary or permanent.
I walk around my church and I see children who were adopted by members of our congregation. I see smiling, happy faces from them (usually from the teens also!).
Then I look at my office door. I have a picture posted there of an African-American young man who recently graduated from high school. Over 17 years ago I took him to one of our foster homes; he was just a little boy then. He was adopted by his OFY foster mom.
Makes you feel old…but also makes you feel good…very good. It makes you think about all the children/teens that have passed through the agency. Of course they’re not all success stories, but so many of them are. It fills me again with hope and keeps me moving forward.