In a crowded lecture hall, a professional marketer comes up to share his story of being in foster care. He starts by sharing a story of a love relationship in college. He shared how they met on campus and how long they’ve been together. He shared how he participated with her family during family socials and holiday parties. Being asked why he never took their daughter over to meet his family during the holidays, he shared his story of being in foster care and not having a family to go to during the holidays. He continues sharing, “The next day my girlfriend broke up with me. Her mother told her she wasn’t going to date someone without a good family to return to.”
It breaks my heart to hear that as far as we’ve come with acceptance, equality, and education some still hold on to an outdated stigma of our community members who have had the fortunate opportunity to better their lives through foster care. Many are still marked with the labels such as misfits, unreliable, liars, unworthy, unqualified, uneducated, etc. without ever an opportunity to prove themselves. I know our past can make a big difference in the direction of our future, but have we considered the journey the individual is taking?
I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a mother who bettered her family’s lives through Treatment Foster Care. She said, “I love the work that your agency does. I know it changes lives, because just to see the difference in my home from before and after [Treatment Foster Care], the chaos is not there anymore.” She spoke of knowing that something better for her family is out there, but not knowing how to do it on her own. We believe a blazing majority of Parents want the best for their family, but just don’t know where to find it in themselves and in the community. That’s when having the opportunity of Treatment Foster Care can make a world of difference for them.
When we focus so much of our attention on one factor such as being removed from a home, are we missing the fact that both the child and parents are receiving help to build an even stronger family upon reunification? When we focus our attention too much on the parents who aren’t bettering themselves, are we missing out on how much confidence and personal strength the child is gaining through wrap around services? If we focus our attention too much on counting the children who fight to live a lifestyle we don’t agree with, can we remember that all change is difficult and this may be the fight to finding something that works for everybody?
I think we can all agree that life in itself can have its darker days for all of us. I can only imagine the amount of perseverance and strength it takes to bring one’s family out of those darker days. I know we can gain more strength, community, and character from going through such days. I’ve met many successful members of our community who’s had the opportunity to grow through foster care and they are far from the labeled stigma many still carry. They are successful lawyers, parents, doctors, police chiefs, counselors, advocates, business owners, and the list continues. They are in no way the misfits many think our foster youth becomes. In fact, they are those I look up to.