Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is There Sacrifice?

Did I Sacrifice My Family?
Being a foster parent is extremely satisfying and can be a lot of fun, especially when you see how you've helped a child.  But it can come with a cost.  Looking back on our 13 years of fostering, sometimes I feel as if I took too much from my family to satisfy my need to help others.

Sometimes I wish we could have been a normal family.  Sometimes I feel like we deprived our children of special times in their childhood.  Sometimes I feel guilty.  Sometimes.

We couldn't afford to do the things their friends were doing.  Going out to eat, going to the movies or to an amusement park, or just buying new clothes were things we couldn't do.  We had too many children.  But you have to remember, if you've read my past posts on fostering, we had 4 boys that were long-term and usually an extra 1 or 2 brought in for a our own 4.  Our county had a great need, we had a big house and lots of love, and foster homes were at a minimum. 

But Lisa had to give up her privacy, Michelle had to give up some alone time with Mom, and Steve had to share his room with 3 other boys.  Amy was too young to realize that this wasn't the way most people lived...with kids coming and going for most of her childhood.  When she started kindergarten and the teacher asked her how many sisters and brothers she had, she answered sincerely and innocently "2 sisters and 4 brothers".

So yes, there were sacrifices that my children had to make.  But we also made many, many good memories.  Memories of so many presents under the Christmas tree, and laughter that never seemed to stop.  Basketball in the backyard, and camping with 8-10 kids.  Memories of hugs, so many hugs, and long talks with children that never had anyone listen to them before.  And neighborhood kids wanted to hang out there because we were the fun family.  But they could go home when it became too much.  My kids couldn't.

I have a short story to tell you about one special little 6 year old. He had just come into our home and I had to take him to the emergency room to have his bruises checked and photographed for a possible court hearing. He'd been beaten by his mother's boyfriend. He was afraid and a little tearful when he asked me, "Why did I have to leave? I didn't do anything wrong. He hit me." I did the best I could by telling him that he had to leave so he could be protected and not be hit anymore until the police could take care of the man that hit him.

Because of  seeing what parents can do to their children, and the depths of pain children can feel, my own children have grown into extremely kind, compassionate, and tolerant adults.  They have no prejudice to race, disability or sexual orientation.  Everyone has families and busy lives now, so we can't get together as much as we'd like, but when we can all get together, it's like we're back in that big house and they're all teenagers again...laughing at each other...and me.

So if you've ever entertained the idea of taking in children that need a temporary home, you don't have to do it like we did, as a group home and so many kids at a time.  You can just help one, just one child at a time, and make such a difference in that one child's life.  There are over 500,000 children in foster homes in the U.S. alone.  That's a lot of kids that need a hug and a kind word, as well as a bed and food on the table. There may be a child out there that needs you.

Have you ever seen a child abused or neglected?  Or seen a child eat out of the trash bins behind Pizza Hut? (I've heard they have the best throw-away food.)  Have you ever wanted to step in and just pull that child to you?   Have you ever thought about being a foster parent?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Quotes of the Day:
Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. ~ Judith Lewis Herman

Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime. ~ Herbert Ward

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