It had been a long day for my husband after waking up at the crack of dawn and driving several hours to see a child on his caseload who is in a residential type of setting. My husband came into the kitchen after getting home and I could tell by his expression that something was amiss. He was sad and the look on his face told me that his heart was heavy.
“I went to see “Billy” (not the actual name of child) today. I took him a bag of clothing. You should have seen the look on his face. It was just a bag of clothes and they really weren’t that great. He was so happy to get it.” My husband was trying to cover his emotion while telling me this story. I told my husband that it sounded like he was happy to get them and it was a good thing to do. My husband then went on to say, “I know, but “Billy” doesn’t have a family. He doesn’t have a home to live in. He doesn’t have anyone, but he was thrilled to get a bag of clothing. He has nobody.”
Sadly, this story is true. My husband is a case manager working with abused and neglected children that have been brought into the foster care system. “Billy” is one of those kids who disrupted out of his potential adoptive home due to behavioral issues and is now living in a residential setting. This child has lost his birth family due to abuse and his sibling is getting adopted by his foster family soon. “Billy” truly does not have anyone except for my husband. Despite continuing efforts to help him control his behaviors and to find a permanent home for him, it is quite possible that he will grow up in the foster care system.
My husband hit a wall that day after work. I have seen it time and time again with case managers. I too have hit that wall. The wall I am referring to is the moment when the harsh reality of the work at hand slaps one in the face. It is easy for all of us working in the field of child welfare to get caught up in the paperwork (trust me there is a TON of it) and the tasks at hand. It is challenging when one feels torn between what the federal and state laws require and the gut feeling about what truly may be best for a child. The job requires one to work with people who are broken or, at least, have broken hearts. I do not know of a single person involved in child welfare who has not been changed by his or her experience.
The stories of kids like “Billy” are ones that often go unheard or unknown except for those working closely with them. In my experience, these children are usually quite grateful for clothing and other basic necessities. I have seen Christmas wish lists from foster children that have a few toys, but mostly have items such as jeans, socks, coats, and hygiene products. They actually have to be encouraged to ask for things other than the basic needs.
For my husband that day, the act of taking a bag of clothing to a foster child as part of his duty became so much more. It served as a reminder that there is much work to do in serving children. It served as a reminder that there are too many children like “Billy” living in our country who literally have no one to call mom and dad.
It also served as a reminder that many of us have been blessed with the gift of stability, protection, love, and a family. My hope is that this post stirs something in your heart. My hope is that you will look up organizations in your community that work with foster children and explore how you can get involved. You never know how the simple of act of taking a bag of clothes to a child in the system could make an impression on that child’s heart.