We we warned that jumping into the world of foster care would change us. I just don’t think I could’ve realized how many layers that change would strip away and reconfigure and shift, making it impossible to ever go back to our “before”. From big things like our faith, marriage, and parenting decisions to little things like this neglected blog space. We’ve been given a glimpse of where and with whom God’s heart beats strongest and we simply cannot go back to the days of spending the bulk of our waking thoughts on wall colors and perfect meringue recipes. We’re still trying to make sense of what this perspective shift means for our family and how it merges with our “before”, but what we know for sure is that we feel like we’re right where God wants us… clinging to Him with our eyes pointed toward the mess and hurting.
When our daughter came to us as a scared and anxious 8 month old emergency foster placement, we only had two hours to prepare. Two hours to run around getting diapers, clothes, bottles, baby food, and other necessities for this baby we knew nothing about. We spent the majority of that first week carting her around town to stock up on all of the things we were missing and scheduling all of the required appointments. In hindsight, this should’ve been a time for her to decompress, get to know us, and start building a foundation of safety and security in our home. We turned down help from our amazing friends and neighbors because we thought we knew what we were doing.
Since then we’ve learned about the critical importance of attachment, bonding, and trauma-informed care for these kids who have been uprooted from their homes, often coming from already extremely difficult circumstances. We’ve had the chance to get to know dozens of foster families and the precious kiddos in their care. We hear the same stories of feeling isolated and “needing a village” from just about every family. We’ve also noticed that there are countless folks who want to help these children and families but don’t know where to start.
Earlier this year we decided to do something about this. It started as a small passion project, bringing meals and encouragement to foster families, and it has since snowballed into a bonafide non-profit organization. When we opened it up to the community, people came out of the woodworks saying they want to do something. Community donations have poured in and a local storage facility is allowing us to use one of their giant spaces to store donations for foster families. We’re able to deliver these donations in the form of “Welcome Packs” to help alleviate the need for families to run around trying to gather stuff for these children who often come with very few belongings.
We’re still in a haze of disbelief and gratitude as we watch this new baby, Foster Village , come to life but we’re mostly just excited to see where God takes it. I hope you’ll take some time to visit the website and follow along on social media to learn more about it!
Along with the call to come alongside other foster families, our hearts have also been turned inside out for the thousands of kids who are aging out of the foster system every day. We’ve heard first hand experiences from our daughter’s birth mom who aged out of foster care and our eyes and ears have been opened to the alarming statistics. It’s estimated that roughly 50% of these kids will end up homeless, 50% unemployed, and 60% of the girls will become pregnant within a few years (source: www.foreverkids.org). Not to mention the fact that, statistically, 1 in 4 eventually end up in prison (source: National Resource for Family and Policy Connections).
These statistics are not evidence of bad kids, they are evidence of a society that is failing its most vulnerable children.
But how can we do better? I truly believe that the most important first steps involve listening, observing, and engaging with these kids to better understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes. We need to actually come alongside them, not just throw more laws and money at the problem. We don’t all have the opportunity to connect with these kids in tangible ways, but we do have the technology today to make it possible for everyone to sit down and listen and come up with more informed ideas of how we can do better.
I was recently contacted by Barry Thornburg, a Denton-based filmmaker, letting me know about an amazing project he’s working on that will make this very thing possible. Barry is creating a documentary to show how “meaningful relationships with responsible adults is the distinguishing factor between foster youth who thrive as adults and those that do not”. Good gravy, this makes so much sense, you guys. This documentary will be a window into the real life of a young man, Donovan, as he navigates his way into the adult world after aging out of foster care. This is an invitation to better understand the lives of these kids who need us most.
“The audience will intimately observe the intricacies of these decisions and how adults from different parts of his life get involved, for better or for worse.
What makes this film unique is that it draws upon his personal perspective. In addition to observational footage of him (gathered by a film crew), he is also given a camera in which he can record things that he thinks should be included in the film and giving him an opportunity to explain his decisions in his own words. This behind-the-scenes perspective can empower those in a position to mentor with empathy and understanding when interacting with people in Donovan’s shoes.
Whether it is finances, health care, transportation, employment or education choices, Donovan does not have the luxury of a traditional family support structure to guide him every step of the way or catch him when he falls. Social workers, medical professionals, educators and volunteers all have exceptional opportunities to mentor and guide youth and young adults in situations like Donovan’s because of their frequent exposure to them. This documentary will show us how they work with Donovan and how he responds to each.
This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.”- Life Project
Barry plans on using this documentary to be a resource for the general population as well as professionals and lawmakers who are making decisions on behalf of these kids aging out. He’s also designed a lesson plan to accompany the documentary that will undoubtedly stir up life-changing conversations.
I encourage every single one of you reading this to go watch the short clip about this documentary and to support Barry’s efforts as you feel called. And please visit his kickstarter page to learn about ways to join the project. I feel so honored to be able to share this with you all!
“This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.”- Barry Thornburg
Someday I may come back to this space with a burning desire to share recipes, wellness tips, and wall colors. But for now I am thankful for those of you willing to join us on this journey of exploring the deeper cries of our family’s heart. Sometimes it’s the best we have to offer.