Adopted at 20: Podcast Episode 6 (ICYMI)

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that, while I have a lot to learn from other, more experienced foster parents, mental health professionals, books, etc., the people who have taught me more than anything about how to be a good foster parent or foster caregiver if you prefer is children who are or were in foster care. The kids who have come and gone from our home as well as adults who are former foster youth have taught me more than anyone about what it’s like for kids in foster care and what they need most from those of us who step in to care for them when they are in trauma or transition. One of the things I love about this podcast is that it’s giving me a chance to connect with people like today’s guest—former foster youth who are willing to share from their experiences in order to help foster parents like me do a better job caring for our kids.

Brittney entered foster care when she was 16, but her journey with the department of child services and CPS started way before that—years earlier. Brittney spent most of her childhood bouncing around between friends and family members, going from school to school (or sometimes not going to school at all), experiencing many forms of trauma and violence, before finally entering foster care as a teen. When she did, she landed in a home where her life changed dramatically for the better. As I listened to Brittney, I noticed a theme that comes up over and over when I hear from former foster youth, and that theme is presence. What foster youth need more than anything else when their own parents are unable or unwilling to care for them is a caring adult who is consistently present—someone who is there for them through thick and thin and able to give unconditional love and patient guidance. 

It’s so important for us foster parents to hear from those who have lived through the system. So with that, here’s my conversation with Brittney.

If you’re interested in supporting my work at A Fostered Life, please go my Patreon page, where you can become a patron. Just one dollar a month helps offset the cost of producing these resources and enables me to offer them freely to new and prospective foster parents, and I’m grateful for the support of my patrons.

Thanks for listening and thanks for caring about foster care.

“Nobody Need Wait a Single Moment Before Starting to Improve the World.”

anne

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” (Anne Frank)

 
When I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, I visited the Anne Frank House and walked through the Secret Annex.
I can’t begin to put into words what that experience was like. I have continued to process it, even as I have been neck-deep in what my friend Diana calls the “beautiful mundane” tasks that make up my life: laundry and Legos, tea parties and bike riding, meal planning and meal scrambling, vacuuming and PTA and swimming lessons, dance lessons, gymnastics lessons, speech therapy, and more. Flashes of the things I saw in the Secret Annex, the pictures taped to the wall next to Anne’s bed, small gestures her parents made to preserve her innocence and give her a childhood during those two years in hiding, before the brutal final trip she made to the concentration camp where she died. I was just telling my friend about how her story has taken on a whole new significance for me now that I’m a mom. Seeing it through the lens of a parent, knowing that her father was the only survivor of the eight who were in hiding together there, imagining what it was like to be trying to protect your children, yet knowing their chances of survival were slim.
 
Pure devastation.
 
My mama-heart was pierced. I sent my husband a postcard featuring a photo of Otto Frank, Anne’s dad, when he went back to the Secret Annex after… well, after everything was done. We stood in the kitchen the day that postcard arrived, trying to wrap our minds around what it is like to know that your children’s lives are in danger and knowing that you are pretty much powerless to protect them, yet you try with everything in you to do it nevertheless.
 
This quote from Anne Frank is on a poster in the office where two of my sons receive mental health services, so I see it regularly. I have also taped a photo of her up in my kitchen. I want her example to be before me. I want to raise children who have the strength of character that would enable them to go into hiding for two years and maintain their sense of hope. I don’t want to forget her spirit or her example of courage. And I know there are many others like her—children who are improving their world through their courage and depth of character in the face of devastating circumstances. I know there are, because I have met them. I’m a foster parent.
 
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
 
How wonderful, indeed!
 
Every day we have the opportunity to improve the world around us, whether it’s in how we treat others, or picking up garbage from the playground or the street, offering to help a stranger in need, or—yes—opening our homes to a child or children who are in traumatic times of transition—perhaps even giving the gift of a forever family, if their original family is not an option for them anymore.
 
Adoption through foster care is not something special people do. Sainthood is not required in order to be an adoptive parent. If it were, there would not be a single one. We are all flawed humans who fail our children on occasion, but who want to be part of the painful yet beautiful thing that is adoption. We recognize that no child deserves to be a ward of the state, floating around between families. A willingness to be hospitable, to be inconvenienced, to be consistent and available and present is pretty much the crux of it. You don’t need a big house or a minivan. You don’t need a spouse or a house (an apartment will do!). You just need to be willing.
 
If it’s something you’ve considered, may I echo Anne Frank’s sentiment and nudge you with the reminder that “nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?” You’ve been thinking of it—you’ve considered it—you think maybe someday you’ll open your home to a child who is between permanent homes at the moment.
 
How about not waiting another single moment? How about getting that ball rolling tonight?