Someone knocks on your front door. You hear a discussion that you don’t understand. Then a stranger walks into your room with a friendly but tense smile. They reassure you that you are safe but that it is time to leave. You quickly grab your favorite stuffed animal while they put a few items of clothing into a bag.
Your world begins to close in and everything that used to be normal, regardless of how messed up it was, now has changed. You are sleeping in a strange home with different rules and expectations. You don’t know if you will ever see your toys, clothes, or even your family again.
A few days later, some more of your clothes and toys do show up—again, in more bags.
You are only eight-years-old. No one would expect you to understand what is happening to your world. And you don’t.
Before you were like any kid, toys and clothes strewn across your room. But now…now you make sure that you keep your things close to you…in their bags. Because who knows when another knock will come at the door. What if you have to leave quickly again? You want to make sure that what you do have goes with you.
In fact, you do end up moving to another family’s home. The original two bags have now turned into 4-5 containing everything that you own.
You do end up living with this family for a few years, yet you never grow comfortable enough to completely “unpack” all of your belongings. You keep your most prized possessions in their bags just in case you move again.
Even though a couple of families show some interest in adopting you (whatever that means), you are now almost 18 years old. Your foster family begins to discuss with you what you will do after you graduate high school and move on.
Move On? What do they mean move on!
You learn that once you turn 18 you are on your own. At least you got a couple of pieces of luggage now, but you still have to put some of your belongings into bags. And yes, you still have that now very worn stuffed animal.
All of one’s possessions found in bags signifies instability
What do you think when you see a person fumbling with bags of stuff? Most think, “He must be homeless.” We don’t realize that hundreds of children live just like that even though they live in a house with a family.
A child in foster care often live years with their most prized possessions in bags as many move from home to home. These children never develop a sense of stability and belonging.
Then if they age out of the system statistics show that it only gets worse.
Have you ever made the connection that many of the homeless you see on the streets once were in the foster care system? Or how about those in prison? Yes, the majority of the prison population also spent at least some time in the foster care system.
How can we reverse this trend?
The simple answer is to provide stability for kids in foster care.
You can provide stability in some different ways:
- Foster – Not all families should foster a child. Fostering requires a huge commitment. The last thing a child needs is to move from family to family.
- Partner closely with a foster family – be an “uncle” or “aunt” to a foster child. Not only does it widen and strengthen the support system for that child, but it also helps the foster family offer a more stable home.
- Advocate – Walk with a foster child advocating for what is best for them. You can do this formally by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate or informally by being the “approved” adult involved in the child’s life.
- Mentor – Most foster families will welcome an offer from someone who will spend time with their foster child helping them with their schoolwork.
- Engage – Learn about the foster care system. Learn about the challenges foster children and foster families face. I promise you that if you do this, ways you can help will surface.
We need to invest in children that come from broken homes while they are still children so that they can heal, know they have value, and learn life skills. Otherwise we will end up investing much more into the homeless epidemic and prison system.
The choice is ours. I know which one I choose.
Here, let me help you with those bags.