No one said fostering would be easy

No One Said Fostering Would Be Easy

It taught me to be less selfish, more understanding, more charitable and how to love people despite what they have gone through

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When you think of the foster care system, what is your first thought? Is it images you have seen in movies or read in books? Well, I can almost guarantee that whatever you are thinking is wrong. Now, that is not an offense on you, because it isn't your fault. Not really. It is the fault of every Hollywood director who failed to do their research, and it is the fault of everyone who assumed that they can guess what the situation is like without ever experiencing it first-hand. Just like you can't assume to know the struggles of a person of another race, you can not assume to completely understand the lives of children and families of those involved in The Department of Human Services (DHS) to people on the outside.

My family has done foster care for almost as long as I can remember. It has been a constant steady in my life, which is ironic since the whole nature of the service is to be transitional. Before we started doing foster care, we looked like any other typical American family. A dad who went to work every day, a stay at home mom who would always be there when we got off the bus from school, and three kids. One boy and two girls. Looking in we seemed pretty complete. The American dream.

Growing up, we were always religious. We would go to church every Sunday, youth group on Wednesday, the works. I assume that is where my mom and dad picked up the idea. There was probably a presentation from a charity organization about children overseas who needed help, who needed to be sponsored. That presentation planted the seed in my mom's head for adoption. My parents struck forward on that mission and discovered a few things.

Firstly, it was super expensive to adopt from overseas and secondly, there was a huge crisis in our own country of children that needed to be adopted. Currently, in 2019, there are over eight thousand children in foster care in Oregon alone, and two hundred of those are up for adoption. Multiply that by fifty states and you have a big problem. Some of those kids are newborns and some are people that are about to age out of the system. The major problem is there are not enough people to help and the ones that do are underpaid and underappreciated.

I'm now twenty-one years old and have been a foster sister since I was seven years old. To the best of my knowledge, we have had over forty-five kids come through our house. Primarily, they are babies and children younger than 5 years old. Our family specializes in children who are medically fragile, which basically means they are the worst affected. We have had children who were born addicted to meth and others who came to us in a body cast. There is no easy way to deal with seeing a human being that is not even six months old in full body cast; there just isn't.

The idea that someone could look at a child, maybe not even a week old yet, and choose to hurt them is beyond me. It fills me with so much sadness and so much rage if I am being completely honest. In the past when I would be so fed up with seeing the kids like this I would imagine creative punishments for the parents who committed the wrongs. One idea that my ten year old brain came up with was getting pushed out an airplane, preferably over water where sharks will eat them. My 14 year old brain thought that every wrong that they committed to the kids should be done right back to them. Now while I don't believe my fourteen year old self was entirely wrong in that regard, I am a little calmer. the phrase "an eye for eye will make the whole world blind" really resonates with me. Instead of becoming the monsters that the parents were, all I focus on now when I have the chance is to love the kids like they never have before with the time we were given.

Whenever we tell people what we do, there is one of two responses. The first is a look of awkwardness and not knowing what to say/disgust and disapproval. Those don't appear very often, but I promise they are there. The second is less mean but just as equally infuriating. It is the response, "Oh, that's so amazing that y'all do that, but I could never do it. It would suck to bad to have to give the kids back." When I first started hearing that I would get frustrated, like did these people think I enjoyed it? That I didn't mind giving the kids back to parents whose choices will put them right back in the system?

Now, I just smile and say "Yeah, it really does suck and it is really hard, but you know what, it is the right thing to do. To give the kids some semblance of normalcy and love where they have never had it before. It's worth it." Life isn't fair and it will never be, but there are things you have to deal with in order to get through life and to help others flourish. So yeah, having foster siblings really did suck sometimes. Forming bonds with people who you know you might never see again. But you know what, it's worth it and made me a better person than who I probably would have been without it in my life. It taught me to be less selfish, more understanding, more charitable and how to love people despite what they have gone through. One day, I complained to my mom about how those comments made me feel and she didn't respond how I thought she would. She said something along the lines of "Buck up buttercup because the babies crying and we got stuff to do."


If you are interested in becoming involved with the DHS foster system, click here.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.

bethkrat
bethkrat
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I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.

bethkrat
bethkrat

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