Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Friday, April 11, 2014

F Is For Foster Care

Today’s post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. If you like my posts, please share them and please like my Loved As If Facebook page. Thanks:

When I began telling others about my experience as a child, I always called the man and woman my foster parents. Technically, I was correct. They were not my parents either by birth or adoption. They were just people with whom I lived, people who took in other children, people, who on at least one other occasion, tried to keep children as they kept me. They fed me (sort of), clothed me (sort of), sent me to school (sort of), made certain I did my homework — they provided a place for me to live. They also abused and neglected me, and did their best to pulverize my spirit and psyche. It’s what many foster parents do.

Certainly, there are wonderful people who foster children because they want to love the “least of these.” Some are grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or family friends. Others are strangers. They take in children who need care, even sacrifice to provide that care. Other foster parents have less altruistic motives, but are basically decent people who provide decent care to children who have no other home.

Then there are predators who vent their rage and frustration on the children they are supposed to protect and raise. Foster children are easy prey. A tiny fraction of those predators appear in news reports. But many more are more like high-functioning addicts who methodically molest and abuse, sometimes for years, children in their care. Many child predators wear highly respectable faces. I recall hearing, What wonderful people! They care for so many children! And they don’t have to! If only they knew, I’d tell God. They don’t know how bad it is? How hungry I am. The things they do to me. And I didn’t know who to tell, who would believe me.

Unfortunately, the foster system tries to use a bureaucracy to address very human needs. It will never be able to protect children. Systems may be perfect for filing information but children (or “beds” as they are called) need loving, stable homes. Caseworkers can, at best, provide some oversight and represent the state’s interest in caring for minors. They cannot be parents to those they think of as so many “beds.” Neither can they be present when predators neglect and abuse children.
There will always be a need for foster care. And there will always be those who prey on children: this is a fallen world. Sin is real. And those who suffer the consequences of sin are too often children, whom Jesus strictly warned us not to offend. I have no easy answers. I can’t fix the flawed system because I cannot fix flawed people. I can try to shine a spotlight on the innocent victims. I want those who can love a child to step forward and do so. I want those who make policy to speak with those of us who have survived and use our wisdom to begin to change the lives of children today. And most of all, I want adults to really look into the eyes of children, and ask themselves, Is she really okay? I want adults to befriend children, not in a creepy way, but as watchers alert for signs that all is not well.

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