Kids These Days (or so, they say)

A few months ago, I listened as a gentleman of a different and older generation say, “I feel sorry for those of you raising kids in today’s world.”  His words, although meant to be sympathetic, sort of frustrated me a bit.  I keep seeing on social media and hearing through conversations that children these days are just “doomed”.  They are spoiled.  They want immediate action.  They are not being raised “right”…whatever that means.

Essentially, there is no hope for the younger generation…or so, they say.

Last week, I was a guest speaker at a local Vacation Bible School.  I spoke to around 200+ children from ages four to thirteen.  My topic was about what they can do to help foster children in their communities.  The four-year-old’s through Kindergarten ages just did not quite understand what I was talking about, so we decided it would be more fun to sing songs.  Besides, that’s way more fun, anyway!  Right?  After we were done, this little sweet-pea of a girl around the age of four came up to me and said, “We can give books to babies who don’t have them.”  Oh, be still, my heart.

The eighth-grade boys…well…yeah.  Let’s just say I’m SO looking forward to my son being in the eighth grade.  NOT.  Major kudos to those of you who teach this age group!  Don’t get me wrong.  They were respectful, but you know…a little “too cool for school”.

The first through seventh graders were listening with intent.  When asked what they could do to help out children in foster care, they offered, “Help find them a home”, “Invite them to church”, “Tell them about Jesus”, “Give them a Bible”, and “Be nice and be their friend.”  Children as young as the first grade were suggesting these things.

Afterward, I thought about the words of the older gentleman and his worries for those of us raising kids in today’s society.  I also thought about the different editorial posts floating around Facebook and other social media forums that suggest that children of today do not have a chance.  Call me an idealist, but I disagree.

Sure, life is vastly different that it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  I was a young girl in the 70’s, in Junior High and High School in the 80’s, and a college student in the early 90’s (which, by the way, was awesome).  Life is different now than it was during these time periods, but you know what is not different?

LOVE.

FRIENDSHIP.

GENEROSITY.

COURAGE.

COMPASSION.

CURIOSITY.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MESS UP.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE IT RIGHT.

EMPATHY.

THE NEED TO CONNECT.

THE DESIRE TO DO GOOD.

Just a few days ago, my daughter told me that for one of her birthdays she wants to ask people to give gifts to homeless children and families, instead of her.  Let that soak in a bit.

If my little sampling of children from Vacation Bible School and my daughter’s expression of what she wants to do are a reflection of “kids these days”, then I dare say, they are going to be just fine.  So, please stop saying that children growing up in today’s society are doomed.

Quit judging us parents.  We are doing the best we can (just like you were when you were raising kids).  I am raising three children in today’s society.  They struggle with various issues, but let me say, THEY ARE GOOD CHILDREN.  They might misbehave from time to time, but they know right from wrong, and they have hearts that desire to seek friendship and to help others.

For the love of children, please stop thinking that all kids are just spoiled or misbehaved or don’t care about their fellow-man.  I mean, come on.  IF they are this way, then really, who should we be blaming?

If you think today’s generation of children is not going to turn out okay, what are you doing to help?  Can I offer you a few suggestions?

  • Help a young family that is struggling.
  • Tutor kids at the local school.
  • Teach a Sunday school class.
  • Volunteer at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
  • Work with at-risk kids.
  • Invite the neighborhood kids and parents over for dinner.
  • Donate gift cards and other items to families in need.
  • Love on that single mama doing the best she can.
  • Encourage that daddy who is working two jobs to make the bills and put food on the table.
  • Become a reading buddy to sick children in the hospital.
  • Pray for families, children, and the world.

I can go on and on, but I suspect that you get the point.  Or, at least I hope you do.

Please, stop saying that kids these days are not measuring up to what you think they should be.  I, for one, refuse to believe this.  If you spend any amount of quality time with a young child, I dare say, you will be amazed.  They are not doomed.  They are just beginning to sprout their wings into this vast world.  They are learning about the world around them. Sure, there are things they face and deal with that we may not have as children, but still, the world has a lot of beauty in it.  Let’s make sure we show this to them.

Our young generation will be the next teachers, parents, doctors, pastors, political leaders, chefs, scientists, explorers, artists, engineers, and caregivers.

For my children and for yours, 

or the teenage boy who helps his disabled mother raise his younger siblings,

or the child who sells lemonade on her street to raise money for others,

or the young person who visits the elderly lady down the street because she is lonely,

or the boy who sticks up to the bully at school….

why would you think they are simply not adding up or are “doomed”?  

After all, children are our future…

Give that a thought.

 

 

 

Home Is Where Your Story Begins (sort of)

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“Home is where your story begins…”

This is the sign that is hanging on a wall covered by the artwork of my children. I’ve had it since our oldest was a baby.  Today, my daughter looked at the wall, and said, “That’s not really true, you know.” I said, “What’s not true?” She said, “Home is where your story begins. That is not true. Your story begins in your birth mom’s belly.”

She moved on and went about playing around the house, but of course, I’ve thought about this conversation all day. I promise you we do not prompt discussions about adoption or biological parents. It may seem like we sit around and hash out our adoption story with the kids on a daily basis, but that is not true. Honestly, we rarely talk about it unless they mention it.

Over the course of the past few weeks, both of our older children have randomly said things about it. What this tells me as a parent is that they are both coming into recognition that adoption is a big deal, that their lives have a different component than their non-adopted friends, and that they are figuring it out as they go along and grow older.

And, you want to know what? I’m both excited, a bit relieved, and a little scared by it. I’m excited that they trust us enough to bring us their questions. I’m thrilled that they seem to understand (as much as their age allows) that they grew in a different mother’s body. I’m relieved that I can start sharing more about their stories as they grow older, and that, so far, I haven’t totally messed it up.

However, I am also a little scared – scared that they will experience a measure of heartbreak (and rightly so) for not being able to grow up in their families of origins. I’m scared that the next question will be one that I will have to answer with truth, even though, some of the truth is ugly.

This is the life of an adoptive family. We chose to tell them as young as possible (like reading stories about adoption when they were barely toddlers) that they were adopted. When they were learning to count, we would say things like, “two mommies”. When they played with baby dolls, my husband would ask, “Did you adopt that baby?” And, so on.

No regrets. Only truth.  

My daughter’s insight caught me off guard today, but it also caused me to be a bit in awe of her.

Yet again, this is another example of a life lived from barren to blessed.

Adoption is Different

My child: “Mom, who was your first mom?”

Me: “Well, Mamoo (name the kids gave my mom) was my first mom?”

My child: “You only have one mom? You didn’t have a first mom?”

Me: “No. Mamoo is the only mom I have.”

Silence…This is a snippet of the conversation I had yesterday with one of my kids. It came completely out of the blue – like most of the conversations we have had about adoption, birth parent(s), etc.

This child has been with us since just a few days old. This child never lived with a biological parent and is extremely bonded to us. Here’s the deal, though. It is wrong to assume that “the child may not question as much if you get him/her as a baby”. It is also wrong to assume that the child will never wonder about biological family, or compare his or her own histories and situations to other people’s situations.

Adoptive parenting is somewhat evolutionary. As the child grows, their concepts, understanding, and desire to learn about their stories evolve. It is our responsibility as parents to be comfortable with this. And, it can be tough.

Once the gavel falls and declares you as the adoptive parent(s), your adoption story is really just beginning. Look at it this way: The paperwork, court processes, placement, and finalization are really just the introduction to the story. The rest…well, that is where the “meat” of the storyline really comes to life.

Adoption is different. I’m not ashamed or offended when that is suggested. It just is. However, in the difference, there is a great opportunity for a richer, more meaningful parenting experience, and for you, as the parent, to be challenged, humbled, and continue to grow in life .

This, my friends, is just one more way that I am learning my life is far from barren.

America, the Beautiful {thoughts from Independence Day}

20160704_215557 (1)America, the Beautiful.  The land of all whose free.  Yet, in this land, we fight and rage over what we think should be.

America, the Wonderful.  The home to which we love.  Yet, in this home, we worry and wonder what the future is made of.

Where have you gone, you mighty beast?  The mountain of the brave.  In our freedom, we spit and blame, leading so many to be enslaved.

Bring back the few, the furious, the ones who believed in truth.  The ones who fought so early on, laying foundations for our youth.

What if they could see us now?  How offended we easily become.  Is this what they battled for?  Isn’t this what they escaped from?

What happened to our invitation for the weary to our shore?  Since we did we become so bitter that we desire to shut the door?

The persecuted masses, the tired few, the ones who seek to breathe free.  What about the longing souls who want to kiss liberty?

America, the Beautiful, I still believe in you.  You raised this daughter to be one who seeks joy in things anew.

I still love you, my blessed home, the terrain of diversity.  Show me, teach me, prove to me that we will turn away from perversity.

We live our lives so liberated, free to do as we please.  Yet, in my mind, I fear and wait for the moment we are brought to our knees.

Our Lady Liberty exclaims these words, “…I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” America, sweet land of mine, these words we should not ignore.

America, the Beautiful.  The home of bravery.  Perhaps, it’s time that we reflect and consider our history.

Author’s note:  As I watched the fireworks last night, I thought about our nation.  With all of the political stuff going on and the “war of opinion”, I’ve been thinking a lot about the valiant ones who fought for our liberation, some losing their lives, for the very things that we take for granted – religious freedom, free will to set our own paths in life, and freedom from tyranny.  I think it is important that we truly remember who we are.  A land of immigrants.  A land of multiple origins.  A people who sought freedom for all.

A people of promise.

Let’s not forget that.

What is Therapeutic Foster Care? {Adoption.com article}

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between traditional foster care and therapeutic foster care?  In my job, I’ve been asked this question a lot.  I recently wrote an article about this very subject.  You can read the article by clicking the link below:

What is Therapeutic Foster Care?

I hope this answers your questions!  There is a great need for therapeutic foster parents, so if it has ever crossed your mind, I greatly encourage you to consider becoming one.

Blessings,

Caroline

This Place of Grace

Wow, friends. This has been a sad week for so many. From personal acquaintances dealing with sudden illness to the news of what all has transpired in Orlando, it seems every day brings about a different reason to mourn. Sometimes, I don’t even want to check my phone alerts or news channels/sites due to so much tragedy going on within our communities, our nation, and the world.  I had this quote from Dennis Garvin on my mind today,  “Temptation is not his (Satan’s) strongest weapon. Despair is.”

Do you want to know what other words rang out in my mind today?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 (NIV)
Even when it seems the world is collapsing around us, the comforting Word always seems to bring me right back to this place of grace; this wonderfully rich place where hope sustains and fulfills.  Friends, let the Word speak to you.  Embrace it.  Carry it throughout these trying days, and rest comfortably in this place of grace.

 

Ten Ways to Prepare to be a New Foster Parent (Adoption.com article)

I recently wrote for Adoption.com regarding ten ways to prepare to be a new foster parent.  There is so much that new foster parents have to learn, and in many cases, they just won’t know what is valuable information until their first foster child moves in.

This list is short, but hopefully, it will help you if you are preparing to be a new foster parent!

Click here to read the article:  Ten Ways to Prepare to be a New Foster Parent

Blessings,

Caroline

Keep on Keeping On {a message for adoptive families}

Today was one of those days when I was reminded that adoption is a human experience that reaches the depths of emotions. I sat through an adoption staffing (interview with families in hopes of being selected for a child in need of adoption). I listened to the families pour their hearts and hopes out to the team members. There were tears, laughter, and a lot of emotions in between. As I finished my day, I watched a touching video of a family who adopted their little one that they have been fostering.

And, I cried.

I thought about our own foster care and adoption journey. I thought about the families who are interviewed time and again, yet never selected. I thought about the ones who are just taking their first steps to becoming adoptive parents, the ones whose hearts are just now being stirred about adoption, and the multitude of others who will soon join the ranks of waiting families.

Adoption is so much harder than it appears to be. I don’t think it is possible for anyone to understand this unless they have been through it. It forces oneself to be strong and courageous, while also being vulnerable. Foster and adoptive families are asked to give all of themselves to children with no guarantee that it will work out.

They have to prove to others that they are worthy of being parents – this is something that people who have had biological children will never understand. They are asked to be authentic and genuine, and by doing so, they are judged on their potential as adoptive parents. Their expectation and labor are not counted by hours or months. Often, they are counted by many years.

Beyond the glorious adoption announcements and videos are years of struggle, hope, angst, heartbreak, and resilience. These things are weaved into the fabric of adoptive families. These things reach into the deepest part of our souls, and remind us that in the end, it is all worth it. The children are always worth it.

Adoption is hard. It takes a ton of patience in the waiting. The ride up the hill is torturous, but my friend, the other side of this mountain is sheer beauty.

To anyone who is awaiting the time when adoption calls your name,

Buckle up,

Put on your boots,

Hold your head high,

and keep on keeping on.

Adoption is worth it

A Gorilla, A Petition, and the Perspective of a Child Welfare Professional

(Writer’s Note:  This opinion is not intended to represent other child welfare professionals’ opinions.  Plus, I’m not an expert on anything Gorilla or zoo related, and I can barely keep my children from escaping my grasp.)

If you are like me, your social media feed has been taken over by the shocking events that happened when a preschooler fell into the Gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo.  I’m guilty of commenting and sharing news about the incident, as well.  When I first saw the video of the child being dragged through the water, I watched with fear over what could have happened.  I thought about my own children, and what I would do if the same thing happened to any of them.  It hit close to home because I have an almost 4-yr-old who is extremely curious, lacks no fear, and is too quick for me to keep up with.  My heart just sank watching the video; saddened by the death of the majestic Harambe, worried about the child, and apprehensive about the reactions of so many.

I want you to know that I have always been an animal lover.  My parents endured my bringing home half-dead pigeons in hopes of healing them.  I have donated money to a tremendous amount of animal organizations and have fed numerous stray animals.  (I fed a stray cat just hours before writing this.)  In between classes in college, instead of driving the fifteen or so minutes to my house, I would drive around, read the “lost pet” signs, and then look for the animals in hopes of reuniting them with their owners.  I have helped to find homes for stray animals and rushed a dog to an emergency vet right after being hit by a car because I could not stand the thought of that poor baby lying there helpless while everyone else just zoomed by.  So, please hear me.  I adore animals.  I have pets and love them dearly.  I teach my children to do the same.

With that being said, when I read that nearly 500,000 people had signed a petition for an investigation and charges of negligence and/or lack of supervision to be brought up against the parents of this young boy, I had a visceral reaction.  My blood boiled a bit.  I am all about social movement, and stand behind change and action being brought on by the people but as a child welfare professional, I was just livid.  It’s not because I do not think the anger is justified, or that the parents’ actions, or lack thereof, should not be taken into consideration.  (Although, I do not know how it happened, and choose to hold no judgment.  As a mother, I know that things happen literally in the blink of an eye. I do wonder how anyone should be able to escape into a supposedly secured animal exhibit, especially a young child.)

My anger with the petition has more to do with the response to this one incident, than anything else.  My husband told me to just let it go, and stop reading/watching the news about it.  Maybe, I should.  Yet, in my heart, I know that the public outcry appears to have little to do with the child and more to do with the death of Harambe.  This is what stirs my feelings.  I’ve worked in child welfare now for fifteen years, and I can assure you that 500,000 people have never rallied around a situation involving negligence or lack of supervision for any child I’ve worked professionally with.

According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children  (www.americanspcc.org), in 2014, an estimated 702,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect.  In that same year, 3.2 million cases of child abuse were investigated, and 526,744 children suffered neglect.  I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I find these statistics to be quite overwhelming.  I walk into my office each week knowing that part of my job security is based on the need for services for abused and neglected of children.

I can probably count on two hands the number of perpetrators who have actually been charged and subsequently convicted of abuse or severe neglect for the cases that I have been involved in.  I say two hands, but that might be exaggerating a bit.  And with this, where is the outrage?  Where is the petition?

Where are the people when a young child is left alone all day long because the single mother is working three jobs in order to make rent and put food on the table?  

Where are the people when a toddler is found alone and wandering down a busy street?  

Where is the outcry for justice when a baby is found in a diaper that has not been changed for days, or when a teenager is kicked out of his or her home by an alcoholic parent?  

Where are the people when a baby is diagnosed with failure to thrive after suffering months of extreme neglect?  

Where are the signatures for punishment when someone, who has caused lifelong damage to a child, is not held responsible for this crime?

Where is the outrage?  Where is the petition?  Where are you?

I am tremendously sad over what occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo.  It is just plain awful. However, I am so incredibly thankful that the little boy survived.  A child’s life is of great value.  We should never forget this.

If you have never worked with children who have suffered abuse and neglect, then you do not understand how much it affects their lives, how vulnerable they are, and just how heartbreaking their stories are.  As one person who has worked in child welfare for a long time, I know firsthand that neglect and lack of supervision happen far too often in this nation we call home.

My anger over this situation has little to do with the death of Harambe; although it bothers me that any of this happened.  It has more to do with the reality that social media persuades us to get passionate and angry over certain circumstances, and yet, in our communities, and maybe in our own homes, we choose to turn a blind eye to what is really happening with children.

Where is the outrage about this?

 

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Vision

Keep Calm

These past few weeks have been somewhat of a blur for me.  I went on a min-vacation with some friends, our school year has ended, and our summer schedule has begun.  In many ways, I’ve felt a little “blah” about most things.

Recognizing these feelings has caused me to do some introspection about my life. I’ve thought about ending this blog, disengaging from social media, and giving up on personal goals.  I’ve wondered where God is, and why in the world do I feel like He has not been listening to me, or perhaps, why I have not been listening to Him.  Oh, my.  We are vulnerable, aren’t we?

At a staff chapel this past week (yes, we have chapel at my job!), the Pastor spoke about having a vision for our lives, and  immediately, this caused my heart to stir.  He reminded us of the importance of hanging on to our visions, praying over them, giving them to God, and realizing that the Enemy wants to destroy our vision.  He also talked about spiritual warfare when it comes to our feelings of giving up what we feel God has laid on our hearts to complete in life.

Every time the Enemy is mentioned, I immediately go back to what I felt growing up knowing I would not have biological children, wondering about motherhood, and tasting the bitterness of confusion and despair.  It seems like a lifetime ago, but in reality, these feelings and thoughts were an ever-present part of most of my life.  I never believed I would ever tell anyone my inner thoughts about life, especially barrenness.  I’m not one to over-spiritualize everything, but man, I’m so glad that I happened to be in the office the day this Pastor came to share and encourage us.  It was one of those moments when you feel like the message was meant just for you.

I needed the reminder that we are engaged in a war.  This war is not a physical one.  It is a spiritual one.  There is an ever-present need for continual prayer for our children, our spouses (if married), our communities, our nations, our neighbors who are considered the outcasts of society,and for ourselves.

Over the past few weeks, I have not felt the need to write, and in some ways, lost the desire.  I’ve wondered if I’m done speaking my history of barrenness to the world, and if it is time to close this chapter of my life.  However, the reality is that in the end it does not matter the size of an audience, nor the popularity, likes, followers, and shares that  we have.  What matters is that we wrap our lives with authenticity, humility, and the tenacity to focus with the full measure of what it is to be a believer.  I’ve also been reminded that my children deserve for me to be faithful and fully present.

The Enemy tried with great effort to make me feel as though the Lord had forgotten about me, and that He was no longer listening to my prayers.  However, my heart continually submerges into the ocean of Grace, and I know that I am not a forsaken or jilted child.

And, neither are you.

Friends, if you have lost sight of your personal dreams, feel as if the Lord has forsaken you, have hit a wall with your creative pursuits, or if you are wallowing in despair, hang on to the Weaver of dreams.

Don’t give up.

Don’t lose heart.

Your story does matter.  Don’t stop telling it.  Don’t believe for one second that your life is not a testimony.  Share your dreams, your wonderful creativity, your eye for fantastic images, and your brilliance with words.  Don’t lose sight of your vision.

What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst.
    I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon.
I’ll wait to see what God says,
    how he’ll answer my complaint.

And then God answered: “Write this.
    Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
    so that it can be read on the run.
This vision-message is a witness
    pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
    And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
    It’s on its way. It will come right on time.”

Habakkuk 2:1-2