We have adjusted to life with kids. There is some experience under our belts. Our home has had a turnover of kids a few times now. So, we feel like we’re getting the hang of how things are supposed to work. We’ve learned to welcome children, and to say goodbye, even if only a few times. We know what more to expect of each new child. We know warning signs for specific behavior. We have a routine and a system. Reality has found us, and we have squelched any idealistic notions about this job. But parenting isn’t something you can really be too comfortable in. Each child has a unique personality, temperment, preference, and opinion. If there’s one lesson we have learned consistently, it’s that you can’t ‘make’ a child do anything.As much as we are feeling more confident in our parenting skills and as practitioners of the Teaching Family Model, there is always an unknown element to our home. There is a constant potential for change.
We’ve seen around 20 kids enter our home, and we see the value of the assessment home, allowing kids to stay for a short period of time. But our current group of kids presents a problem for me. They are not ready to leave my care. Yes, this is a bold statement to make, and it is not entirely true. But, it is my current reality so let me explain:
Just like a biological parent, I know how to handle my kids. These specific kids have some high needs because of trauma. They are all young, none of them older than the third grade. It takes a lot for them to understand what is happening. But I know what works. I see myself as their mom, so as their mother I have figured out what helps their anxieties and what hurts it. I know what voice tone is best to deliver information. I know how they like to be tucked in and sang to. But their time with me is almost up. I don’t actually know that, but I know that it only takes a few months. I know that soon we will make a decision about the best place for them. Or, for some, they will return to the home they came from. This causes pressure for me, albeit self induced. I have seen sadness, confusion, and hopelessness in our current crew, and I know how to make it better. I know that there aren’t many people in my kids’ lives before foster care that will take the time, give the grace, and show the love that is needed to help them succeed. This hurts my heart. This makes me more resistant than I’ve ever been to releasing these kiddos. It makes me want to bring them all into my home for good. It makes me doubt the judicial system that wants to send them back. It makes me cry. I know how to attend to their needs and get them help. I hug them, tease them, cook their food, and pray with them. I cannot be assured that this will happen outside of Thornwell, and that scares me.
On Sunday, we sang the song “One Thing Remains”. Most of the time our boys aren’t into singing during worship. Some of them can’t even read, but for this song only they all sang. I looked around as I heard their soft voices and their lips move to the words of the song. They were singing “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me”. (Insert tears here) The time frame I have with them, the lessons I teach, the love that we show. . .I wonder if what we do for a month or two will really stick with them for the rest of their lives. I think about what will happen to them, who they will interact with, who else God will put in their lives to care for them. And as I watched them sing those words, I prayed so very hard that those words would never leave them. I am confident that God has a plan for them. I fully believe that He will provide what they need. That is the hope I have as we care for them and send them on. But my fear is that they wouldn’t know that. That their circumstances would overwhelm them. That their live would continue on the rough road it’s began with. And that they wouldn’t feel loved through that. I know a God who carries my pain, hears my thoughts, calms my anxieties, but do they? In the South, everybody knows Jesus. A lot of our kids have knowledge of God and the cross, but it’s not common for them to see the relationship with Jesus that brings peace. But I want these kids, my kids, to know without a doubt that God’s love never fails – never ever, that He never gives up on them – whether they make bad choices or good ones, and that God will never, never, ever run out and leave them.
We teach and preach that in our home. We pray with them, and we try our best to live that out. But in the middle of their storms, in the loneliness, in the dirty home, and in the unsafe places, will they remember that? I can only pray they do. This unconventional life we’re living shows me how much more I need to trust in an all-wise King.