Few noticed, but Congress passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s troubled foster care system. Child welfare advocates say it will have a dramatic impact on children and their families…
“If I am unwilling to be an advocate not just for MY son and daughter, but for ALL black sons and daughters… what am I doing here? I have no right to be their mother.”
Jen Hatmaker shares her experience as a white mom raising black children.
The children were going to die.
Mohamed Bzeek knew that. But in his more than two decades as a foster father, he took them in anyway — the sickest of the sick in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system.
He has buried about 10 children. Some died in his arms.
Now, Bzeek spends long days and sleepless nights caring for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind and deaf. She has daily seizures. Her arms and legs are paralyzed.
Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
“Have you ever held a broken child in your arms as they cried out for their mommy, hoping, wishing, praying you could do anything to take the pain away? Have you ever tried brushing the teeth of a 2 year old who screamed in pain because every tooth was decayed due to the neglect they faced at the very hands of their own parents? Have you ever had to sit down two children, both under the age of 5, and explain to them how their mommy is in jail and you have no idea when she’ll be out? Each and every one of these things are true stories. These are the real life moments of being a foster parent and once you’ve experienced the emotions that sit behind the closed doors of a foster home you will never go back to living life the same way again.” -Bailey H.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I don’t know how you do it! I could never become a foster parent. It would be too hard to say good-bye to the kids once I’ve gotten attached.’ And I get it, I do. I used to say the exact same thing. But now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I serious? It would be too hard for… me?
Make no mistake. It is hard. There are plenty of days when I feel like I just don’t have it in me to do this. My ideas and energy and patience fall flat. There are endless meetings and appointments and phone calls. There are false accusations and frustrating decisions. Foster parenting can be tough.
And yet these kids are forced to do hard things every single day, through no fault or choice of their own. They are abused and neglected and forced to fend for themselves. They are separated from siblings and shuffled from place to place. Kids in the foster care system have endured more hurt in their short lives than most of us will pause to think about, let alone experience, in our own.
“The call came from a DHS supervisor at midnight: “We have a 3-year old girl at the hospital. Her mom was shot and is not expected to live through the night. Her dad has been arrested. Domestic violence. All clothing was taken by police as evidence so if you could bring a blanket that would be great. Can you come pick her up?” ‘Yes.’
“The call came from a CPS worker while I was making dinner: “I just came on the scene to find a 4-year old boy sitting in the back of a police car. His clothing is soaked with urine from his mentally unstable mother; he may have lice, and he is filthy. Can we bring him to your house?” ‘Yes.’
“The call came from another county as we were getting ready for bed. “We have a 2-year old who is sound asleep at the DHS office now. She was brought to the ER with an injury. Her mom was so high on drugs she could hardly function. This little girl is adorable. We just need someone who can take her for the night. Could you?” ‘Yes.’
“The call came from the placement desk while I was in the middle of a run. “We have a tiny 10-day old baby boy. Things aren’t working out with his current foster home, and we need to move him. Do you have an infant car seat?” ‘Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.’
My husband and I are biological parents to two young kids, as well as foster parents to a revolving crew of kids under the age of five. A friend, who also fosters, once told me that calls from DHS are like a Create-Your-Own-Adventure Game. Each “yes” takes your family on a wild new adventure you never expected. I always wonder what adventure we are missing out on with the calls we can’t take.
We say yes because these broken babies need a safe place to land. They need a mommy to wrap them in blankets and tuck them in at night. They need a daddy to hoist them up on his shoulders and gallop them around the backyard. They need clothing that fits and food that nourishes. They need to be tickled and trained and taken to the zoo. They need boundaries. They need love.
I have been surprised to find how much we need these little people, too. They are sweet and feisty and stubborn and funny. They keep us on our toes and teach us lessons we need to learn.
The next phone call will come. And my husband and I will say yes. Not because we are some amazing poster family for foster care. We will say yes because these kids are forced to do hard things. The least we can do is look into their broken eyes and say, ‘Yes. I will do hard things with you. I will hold your hand and kiss your head and calm your tantrums. By God’s grace, we will figure this out together.’
When it is time to say good-bye, I will wash their clothes and pack their stuffed animals. I will ache and cry and wish it could be different. But I will never regret saying yes.”
My wife and I have two children adopted from Korea, and we’ve both been very involved in the local Korean-American Adoption community. From time to time, we’ve been asked questions by other parents that touch on this issue, and my wife keeps telling me that I need to write a post about this. So, for this post, I’ll depart from my usual legal topics to write about something else that is very dear to my heart. By the way, the answer to the question posed above is a resounding “yes!”
I know the Certificate of Citizenship is expensive and you may find that the Department of Health Certificate of Birth Record may work fine for now, but some day you or your child may encounter a bureaucrat who claims–rightly or wrongly depending on the date and manner in which your child was adopted–that your child is not a U.S. Citizen. Get the Certificate of Citizenship now, while you still have all of the documents that are needed to complete this process. Even though you can also obtain a passport–which will show citizenship–a passport expires. A Certificate of Citizenship will not expire, and it can be used to obtain a Passport and other documents where proof of citizenship are required.
As we approach National Foster Care Month in May, lawmakers — and the citizens they are accountable to — have an opportunity to stand up for youth in foster care in meaningful ways. One key strategy to do this is by funding services for foster youth as they make the transition to adulthood from age 18 to 21. While the goal of the foster care system is to reunify children with their families, each year almost 25,000 youth nationwide — and nearly 150 in Louisiana — age out of the foster care system at age 18. That means that the state, which has parented them, sets them loose and provides no safety net, much less the moral and social support that families provide their children.