At our first week’s session, our instructors said that some of our classes may hit close to home and leave us feeling emotionally drained, or even bring up past emotions. I thought “Yeah, sure, for the others maybe”. But it’s taken me several days to formulate the recap for our eighth session for that very reason: this one hit VERY close to home.
My life is incredibly blessed. I had two parents who loved each other and us kids. I didn’t suffer any kind of abuse at the hands of anyone, our extended family was close and very supportive (and still is), and physical and emotional needs were always met. So much so that I take those things for granted 99.95% of the time. And sometimes I need a kick to remember that not everyone has it so easy.
During this session we talked a great deal about the experiences of kids who age out of foster care without ever being adopted. We talked about the basic life experiences that everyone goes through, but how it is so much different for kids who age out. Where do they go for Christmas and Thanksgiving? Who helps them find their classes on the first day of college? Who explains how to rent an apartment? Who celebrates their birthday? Who do they turn to when they’ve spent their last $5 and still need to pay for heat? Who do they tell when they have a new baby? Who do they turn to when the pregnancy ends too soon? Who walks them down the aisle at their wedding? Who attends their graduation ceremony?
A kid who has aged out of foster care has probably learned to hide their feelings about these things long ago. They’re accustomed to being alone, and with no one legally or emotionally committed for the long term. Sure, there are amazing foster parents that do stay committed for the rest of their foster children’s lives, but there are lots who don’t or can’t. But these kids probably hide that really well. And that’s why this session hit me so hard.
I’m usually wrapped up in my own little world, even when I’m supposed to be serving others. Several years ago, over the course of a few years, my husband and I were in a position in our church that involved working with all kinds of kids, and they all seemed to have pretty good lives. They were all well-dressed, healthy, and “happy”, from what we could tell. Over those few years, a couple of things happened in the lives of a few of those kids. One in particular caused a huge amount of publicity. Another situation caused major life changes, and two others had results that we’re not fully aware of yet, but that continue to be brought to our attention. During our session, I couldn’t help but think that I should have done something or said something when veiled comments were dropped in casual conversation. I should have known that there was more going on, and I should have dug a little deeper. But I didn’t, and I moved on to the next kid, or the next activity, or next big thing. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to do nothing. And that’s what I usually did.
This session really opened my eyes to the countless lives that are affected by the action or inaction of the adults around them. It renewed my resolve to do everything in our power to provide a home for at least one of those lives. We can’t help everyone, but we can help someone.
We can be a family that will there to celebrate with, mourn with, work with, play with, serve with, and love with, for one little person that may not have that chance otherwise. And we’ll be there to walk her from class to class before the first day of college, and to help her set up her first apartment, and to call her at 6 am on her birthday, and to lend her $50 to cover a bounced check, and to help her do her taxes, and to be the bouncers for would-be suitors, and to walk her down the aisle, and to pace nervously when she’s in labour, and to babysit when she needs a break — and to be there as long as we’re alive, because that’s what a family does.
For more information about what happens when a child ages out of foster care, google “Extreme Adoption” or take a look at this video.