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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Developing A Heart for the Less Fortunate, Part I, The Plight of Foster Children

As time permits I  share snatches of my life and this one has been on my mind since yesterday.

You see, yesterday, a friend who has agreed to watch our cat and house while we are out of town, came over so we could go over the details with him. Wes brought his new teenaged foster son. It's the third time I've met this 16-year-old-boy and he has certainly found a place in my heart.

He's energetic, talkative, and bright. But his loneliness is very evident. As he looked around our ample home and told me we had a nice home, I thanked him, feeling self-conscious because I know it's a lot more than we need. I guess I was seeing it with his eyes, imagining the home he might have come from. 

I don't know what his circumstances are that landed him in foster care. I can only imagine. As we chatted, bits and pieces about his mom and dad came out in snatches. He puts on a brave front, but to me his chattiness and outgoing nature mask deep hurts. He's a kid trying to make the best of it, trying his darndest to fit in.

I understand more now what is involved in being a foster child since having volunteered with Foster a Dream when we lived in California. The non-profit provided extras for foster children--things they wouldn't have had that the average American child has and takes for granted. It was during my volunteer stint with Foster a Dream that I learned that the average number of foster homes a foster child lives in in their lifetime is 15. They are often taken away from their homes without a moment's notice and may not even have a pillow to call their own. Imagine being shifted from home to home, school to school. You lose your family and friends. You are a misfit. Most of the times these kids don't even have money for a high school yearbook or a band uniform. Many don't learn to drive because their foster parents won't pay for insurance. And for a large portion of them, once they reach the age of 18, they are dumped by the foster parents and left to fend for themselves because the foster parents no longer receive payment for caring for them.

So, my heart is tender for this boy. As he watched me work in my garden while his foster dad talked with me and my husband, he asked questions about the plants. I explained what some were, and I offered to re-pot a small lemon balm plant and give it to him, provided his foster dad approved. He did, so I handed the young man the plant for which he seemed very grateful and he promised to keep it on his windowsill. It was such a little gesture. I wanted to do so much more. I only hope he felt loved through this small act of kindness.

I am not sure how I will interface with this young man in the future and meeting him has stirred up compassion again for kids who are less fortunate. Will he be taken from his tranquil and safe foster home now (rarely are they safe and tranquil) and placed in some other person's care?  Will he be with Wes for a while? Is there anything more I can do to make his life better or the life of some other foster child?

I am not sure if I have a future role to play but I know that I should be distressed and disturbed by his plight. Jesus taught us that we should care for the less fortunate, for the hurting, broken and poor. Their hurts should break our hearts. Lately I have been assaulted by this "charge" and it has a grip on me. In some of my future posts I will share other ways where God is smacking me in the face with the world's brokenness. I welcome you to share your stories with me. How is God using it to transform you.

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Teena Stewart is a published author and artist. Her book The Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father looks at the precious relationship we can have with God and the transformation he can bring about.

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