When You Know Their Names

My supervisor walked over with a large file stuffed full of documents, set it down on my desk and said, “Here’s your first case. Make sure to read it and let me know if you have any questions.” I looked at it with apprehension; fearful of what I would see. Slowly, opening the binder, I saw her name. It’s odd how personal and raw it becomes when you know their names.

Like the beginning of a new book, I didn’t know quite what to expect but was eager to read it. Graphic details chronicling the abuse that occurred caused my heart to speed up a bit. I pushed the file away, sat back in my chair and took a deep breath; fighting tears.

Reading an account of a child’s life; one that included sexual abuse and neglect, gutted me. Word by word. Sentence by sentence – the unraveling of what should’ve been a happy and safe childhood. Placement disruption and behavioral issues – all of which added to the texture of trauma in this child’s life. Her life carries the weight of those first few years, even after adoption.

Coming from a safe and stable childhood free of maltreatment, I was unaware of the depth of abuse that occurs in our neighborhoods. As a caseworker, I delved into darkness to which has never really left me. Because of it, I’ve changed. Perhaps, for the better.

When you know their names, everything changes.

May is National Foster Care Month in the U.S. The goal is to bring awareness to the needs of children and the system. It’s easy to look at child abuse statistics and think, “What a shame.” It’s much harder to look away when you know the child’s name.

As we close out this month, my hope is that awareness will stir the hearts of people to dig deep and reach out to at-risk families, children and others involved in the system. It isn’t pretty. It won’t feel good (not very often, at least), but I’d like to think every footstep made toward hurting children and families will cause walls to fall. (Think Jericho and the walls tumbling down.)

And from the crumbled up remains of broken down walls, a movement of hope and resilience will grow causing a better future for all of us. It’s more than a “like to think” thing. Actually, I cling on to that hope.

Idealistic? Maybe. Unrealistic? Perhaps.

But as I said earlier, when you know their names, everything changes.

The Cause of Foster Children

I worked a booth for recruiting foster families at a local convention this weekend.  While the time I was there, I can count on one hand the number of folks who actually engaged me in conversation about foster parenting. There was little to no interest in getting behind the cause of foster children and their needs in our little part of the world.

I get it.  Foster parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart. I found myself considering why it is important for Christians to step into the world of abuse and neglect.  “If Christians do not take up the cause of foster children and pray for them, then who will?” coursed through my mind. 

God does not give us a mere suggestion to look after orphans, widows, and the least of these in their times of distress.  He gives us a directive, and does so throughout Scripture.  I do believe that caring for children and families in crisis situations is a way of responding  to this.

I wish I could say that things have gotten better in the arena of child welfare, but that is not the case.  Children continue to be the victims of abuse and neglect around our nation (United States).  There are still far too many children and youth in the system that need adoption. 

Birth parents, who have lost their children due to abuse and neglect, are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges of achieving sobriety. They lack employment, healthy support systems, and their own stability.  They are very much in need of a tremendous amount of support.  Reunification should always be the goal if it is safe for a child to return home. Everyone involved needs to make great effort in this.

Of course, it is not just children who end up in the system that are at risk.  In our communities, families are struggling. Domestic violence continues, and too many children are growing up without the stability they need.  

And, friend, I do not think things will get better.  Still yet, I return the thought, “If Christians do not take up the cause of foster children, and pray for them, then who will?”

For some people, their day-to-day lives never involve one single thought about foster children.  Perhaps, the only time they think about child abuse and neglect is when a situation is plastered across media outlets. 

My hope is that more Christians will be the Church. They will set their hands, feet, hearts, and prayers to following through on the directive of truly caring for children, and families in need.

After all, if Christians do not take up the cause of foster children, and pray for them, then who will?