24 children. All ages 8 and under. Taken from their families, their surroundings, and any and all familiarity they might have. That was the reality for all of these children in our county this week alone. They are sent many times to foster families almost immediately, but there are some that end up in shelters. Why? Because homes are full, the children have more needs than some families can supply, or because they belong to a large sibling group and many people cannot take in 3-5 children at a time.
So this is where these precious ones go. What’s a shelter? It’s essentially an orphanage, though that term is outdated in the American society–that’s what shelters basically are. Though they are meant to be safe places for emergency situations and almost all children stay no longer than a few nights until placement can be found for them, there are times where children live here for months or even up to over a year because a family just can’t be identified for them.
If this breaks your heart, thinking about a 6 week old, or a 2 year old, or even a sibling group of 4 being placed into one of these shelters, then please stop reading now. The pain of the reality that these children face doesn’t always end here. Sometimes there’s such a mass influx of children needing placement that the shelters are full. That’s what happened this week.
There were a number of children who literally had nowhere to go at 9 p.m. at night. Their ages were all ages 6 and under, many of them babies or toddlers. Take a second to think about that. They had nowhere, literally nowhere to go. By the grace of God and the loving hearts of many families that were willing to go outside their comfort zones, these children did have a safe place to lay their heads for the night. But for many of these children, it was literally just for a night, nothing more. Some of these children are bouncing from home to home to home because they’re still placed in emergency respite situations.
It’s heartbreaking. It literally kills me. Can you imagine being a newborn and not being able to bond with one caregiver because you’re being shuffled around so much? Or can you imagine being a 3 year old separated from your 4 other siblings and you’re the only one of them left in the shelter who hasn’t been able to find a family? I can’t. I can’t even imagine it.
That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we open our home to children who are desperate for someone to love and care for them. That’s why we fight through red tape, behaviors, adjustments, crazy visitation schedules, and having people come in and out of our house on a constant basis. These little ones are worth it. They are worth it more than I could ever even put into words. They need families, they need a hot meal, a warm bed, and someone to kiss their boo boos and hold them when they’re sad.
Yes, the goodbyes will be hard, the adjustments will be difficult, and there will be days when you literally feel you can’t do this one second longer, but I promise you, it’s WORTH IT. They are worth it. So take the leap of faith. Reach out to a foster parent you know and ask how you can get involved. If you can’t foster, there’s SO much more you can do.
- Provide a meal for a foster family when they get a new placement.
- Offer to clean their home, fold laundry, or wash bottles or dishes.
- Donate clothes, baby equipment, diapers, wipes, bikes, or anything else a child might need.
- Offer free babysitting so that the foster parents can get a minute to breathe, especially in those early days of a new placement.
- Give gift cards for Target, Walmart, or even a date night restaurant.
- Provide assistance or advice with natural hair care.
- Pray, send a note of encouragement, or let the family know they’re in your thoughts.
Most of these things don’t even cost a thing to you. Most of these just require time, but I promise you it will help out a foster family more than you know. Just knowing we have people here to come to our rescue in those early days or stressful times in a case alleviates the burden that sometimes foster care can bring. So I urge you, get involved, show your support, or better yet become a foster parent yourself!
Bailey and her husband have been married 4.5 years and live in South Florida with their foster children and crazy dog, Nessie. After suffering from infertility for over a year, they felt the Lord calling them to a life of fostering. They began their fostering journey in September 2015 and took their first placement in January 2016 and have had eight placements over the two years since. Bailey shares glimpses into their life on her blog, Whichever Shoe Fits.