Knock, knock ... Yes, I know you don't know me, but if you don't mind, please allow me to stay with you. Allow me to sleep in your home with you and your loved ones you treasure and protect. Feed me, clothe me and give me safe journey to many places I must be at. I won't be a burden, will do my best to hate most things about you and this whole situation - not because I don't appreciate what you're doing for me, but because I have to hate something about it all.
This is one of many facets of thoughts that can sum up one of the greatest treasures and rewards in some people's lives. How many of us could openly feel we could take on such challenges and demands with so little of gratitude and acknowledgement in return? I would struggle with it and yet, I’ve expected it. I have encouraged it (still do). Fostering is something can be done to children, to elders, to others from foreign lands and it is something that sets new standards and reaches new heights when you think of modeling for your children or others.
May is National Foster Care Month. Let me offer a comparison of why it is vital to recognize such efforts. According to the Child Welfare League of America national data and statistics, in 1999, the United States had 562,712 children in out of home care across this nation. These are children placed in foster homes, in group homes and not with their loved ones. Since then various laws and standards have been monitored to assure compliance with federal regulations that helps to ensure more accountability and reunification when it can be accomplished while preserving the safety, permanency and well-being needs of the children as charged through the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA). Through those efforts, as reported by the Ann E. Casey Foundation, www.childwelfare.gov, and the Children's Information Gateway, that number has decreased to 420,698. Some of the decline is related to placements with relative caregivers, some due to safe returns home, some due to youth who come into care older and then age out. Then there are those that are adopted as well. It is also notable that in that same timespan there are more than 2 percent fewer children in group home or treatment facilities, which could support that these increased efforts and monitoring standards have assisted in reducing some mental health issues otherwise prolonged.
Having said all that, I must say that I feel blessed, humbled and privileged to have worked with so many foster parents, so many community partners that embrace these successes, so many within our legal systems that want to assure there is true success that impacts our next generation. I have known good and bad caregivers. While I say there should be no bad ones, I know that is not the case. I also know that through bad things also yields positives as well. These positives could be lessons learned, could be streamlined supervision of the providers, could be more effective education/training to those that need it, and so much more. But the hugs you see a child give to one who has been there at 3 a.m., the tears you see as they are parted from that caregiver they so desired to hate initially and the bond you can see if fostered and supported that has been established between birth parents and foster parents are things that paper, websites and studies can't begin to calculate as a trend or success. Those are things that embellish deeper reasoning, deeper thought, and deeper support for causes, for groups, and for individuals that can and are able to be that humbled body, that are able to be that dart board (if you will), and that are able to show there are those that can truly desire difference in the lives of the young. I can't say enough about some of the ones I have grown to love over the years (you know who you are). I can't say enough about their successes – like a child they once had bringing their own young back and saying "to grandma's house we go ...." I can't think of any greater recognition for such awareness than those stories of successes when at times the thoughts were there were none.
This month and always I appreciate the fostering programs implemented. While there is room for improvement in any respects, there is pride in knowing the steps taken have been steps taken towards doing just that: improving. If I have worked with you, I thank you. If you have worked to assist in those successes, I thank you. If you have supported (in any other capacity) efforts to assist families and to foster success in reunifying children to their families, I thank you. If you educate others on those programs, on those agencies, on those individuals that assist in these efforts, you too are thanked. This is our success we can appreciate, our celebration of individuals selfless desires to be the fixed asset in an individual's life, and I embrace this success.
Thanks to all for your countless deeds.
Darrell D. Locke