- But Not Those kids
I am thankful that my social media posts and blogging have led to an influx of interest in foster care from my friends and followers. The conversations have been so enriching and the range of families has been so encouraging. #anyonecanfoster
However, there are two groups that are often noted as those kids that people don't want to welcome into their homes: the sexually abused and teenagers. The crazier part is that all of us, adults, have been teens and many of us have been sexually abused ourselves... though we act as if we have forgotten.
This is obviously unfortunate for so many reasons, but I thought I'd share some truth about my experiences and thoughts about children that fall into these categories.
Children who have been sexually abused
Think about a time when someone has wronged you, made you feel inferior, or broke you down. Now imagine being rejected because that was done to you. Crazy, huh? Children in care experience this all the time. Caseworkers call for placements and as soon as the receiver hears "sexual abuse" they replay with an unmoveable "no." Now, if I can be candid, this used to be me when I first signed up for foster care. I envisioned that every child who was sexually abused would act out sexually on other children, but my first placement taught me that was a lie.
A wise foster/adoptive friend of mine, Rhonda, sat across from me in a Chipotle and said directly, "If you don't want to foster or adopt children who have been sexually abused, then this isn't for you." It sent a chill through my body as I thought about the increasing number of children who have suffered this type of abuse and woke me up to be a safe place for them. Out of 13 placements, 6 of my kiddos had experienced sexual abuse. None of them abused another child or exposed another child to sex while in my home. Honesty, careful supervision, safety, and love led us to build a space for them to be anew.
Wanting safety in your home is valid. In that, be a safe place, not another long-handled spoon closing your doors to vulnerable children. Change your questions from "have they been sexually abused" to "how does their trauma manifest" or "what is the best way to keep them and others safe." When we reject children/people who are victim to atrocities like sexual abuse, we create future adults who act out of rejection, hurt and fear. Instead, choose them and love them back to wholeness.
You will often hear me comment that I plan to one-day switch gears in foster care and have a home full of teenagers, who my husband and I will mentor and prepare for life after high school. I have always loved working with teens. To be honest, when we first got into foster care, I mentioned to my licensing worker that I prefer children who can feed themselves, dress themselves, and wipe their own butts. For us, teens have been the easiest to foster. Let me cancel some widely believed lies for you:
- Yes, teens can be around small children. They are not villains who seek to do cruel things to your babies. In fact, one of my teens was the very BEST for our toddler and wanted to help out any second she could.
- No, all teens don't run away, do drugs, and have sex in your home. Set boundaries and clear expectations. Let them know where they can go if they feel overwhelmed and provide safe ways to cope when they're feeling low.
- No, teens won't steal all of your stuff. I know that money starts to become more important the older we get. DJ and I always try to find ways to help our teens make money. We will allow them to do chores for money, help them find jobs or internships, babysit, etc.
- Yes, teens want to be parented and loved. I find that most of my teens haven't experienced true loving parenting that allows them to be themselves and speak their minds, while also setting expectations and holding them accountable. It may be foreign for some, but many teens learn that they need it. The impact you have on a child could change not only their life but generations of lives to come after. Choosing teens matters!
- & Yes, teens are children! This is was what is often forgotten. Teens are victims of circumstances too. They need hugs and hot meals too. They want to laugh and play and be included too. They need corny mom jokes too. They need love too. People never get so old that they don't need family. We all need a family.