In the last couple of months God impressed it upon my heart to reach out to one of my foster children's biological parents. After going through the appropriate channels for permission, I was able to get a letter out recently--our first communication in 11 months. I heard it was received with tears.
I didn't know if God intended to open a channel to ongoing communication, or if it was to be a one time letter, so I went with a basic introduction, high level update on the girls and encouragement that redemption is a gift offered to everyone--no sin was too great for God to be waiting on the other side with outstretched arms for a future of healing and hope.
That 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of copy paper was scrawled out between the daily loads of her babies' clothing in my laundry room and bathed in prayer. Honestly, it merely scratched the surface of all the words I have for this parent and those of others we have had in our home.
In the last year as four foster children have lived with us for periods of time ranging from 10 days to 11 months, I have pondered all the things I would want to say to their parents, if given the chance.
None of these children arrived via a typical adoption scenario where I would express gratitude for their parents' bravery in placing these children in a situation where they could have a more secure life. These children were all involuntarily removed for various reasons--often combinations of metal health, neglect, incarceration, substance abuse.
Many of my imagined conversations were full of frustration and anger. As children weep uncontrolled, angry tears that I cannot fix, suffer panic attacks, experience nightmares--or take out their negative emotions on me I disrespectful ways-- I have less than loving thoughts.
I wish I could video the gut-wrenching tantrums and take them to high school classrooms with the message: THIS is the cost of drug addiction, domestic violence, living a tough gangsta life..
I cannot look at an arrest record in the paper without thinking about the number of children each mugshot represents. My mind reels with questions I want to shout:
How could you do this to an innocent child?
What drug/man/hurt/crime was worth missing tucking your baby into bed at night or watching them master something new?
How does it feel to know someone else is rocking your crying child, being gifted their artwork and receiving their goodnight hugs and kisses?
Why can't you get it together for your babies' sake?
When compassion wins, I am saddened by just how deeply imprisoned in sin/illness/addiction/past hurt these parents must be--because who willingly endangers or neglects a child? It is from this place I can genuinely pray for restoration and healing. I know THIS is the place from which I must serve--despite how emotionally messy it can feel.
In many ways it would be simpler to just make these birth families "bad" and the system a "good" savior--but if you are reading this you are old enough to know real life isn't that simple. Looking into the pasts of many of these parents I realize they are the products of abuse, neglect and painful childhoods themselves. They need deliverance from their past and healing too.
This perspective changes the way I foster parent. It leads me to pray with the children for the parents--that they would know restorative, redemptive healing and love. It also leads me to zone in on truth with these kiddos--the importance of respect for authority, boundaries, responsibility, spiritual connection, work ethic and education.
As I was halfway through writing this post last week I received a response letter from the birth parent--it was open, kind, grateful and full of hope. It also requested that I continue to correspond. My oldest foster daughter reveled in the fact that we are pen pals. I saw an immediate change in her demeanor--she became much softer and affectionate towards me. Funny how peacemaking has that effect.
And like most everything else in this foster journey, I have no idea what God is up to so I am holding on for the ride.