Forever Homes Needed
By NANCY PATRICK
I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the needs all around me. I truly want to help those in need, but I sometimes have ambiguous feelings about the people themselves and the needs they have.
Rescue the Animals frequently sponsors a clearing the shelters campaign in which the centers try desperately to find forever homes for animals in their care. Last winter, my husband Mike and I adopted our own little canine who needed a home and family.
I wrote about Gracie back in January when we first brought her to our home. She came to us as a two-year-old chihuahua mix who suffered from heart worms and other forms of neglect and abuse. When you adopt a grown dog, you don’t get a medical or family history form to let you know what your new pet has experienced. You have to play it by ear and work with the behaviors your pet’s former environment created.
Rescued and adopted pets differ from puppies or kittens. Their pasts have already imprinted certain behaviors on their personalities. They may have serious health problems and many idiosyncrasies related to feeding and abusive behavior from former owners.
If seeing animals’ deprivation moves our hearts, how much more should we feel for children who have often suffered the same type of living conditions as the abused and neglected animals? Every week one of our local television stations sponsors a segment called Future of the Family that seeks to place children, not animals, in a home and family.
The most heartbreaking part of these stories involves the children themselves writing an advertisement meant to convince prospective parents that these children would be assets to their families. These testimonials usually contain photos of children, some young and others teenagers. I find these promotional pieces especially poignant.
These children often have instructions on how to promote themselves by telling them what to include and what to omit when writing about themselves. Some institutions go so far as to give the children makeovers to improve their appeal to potential foster parents.
The program directors encourage the children to mention their strengths in school, their hobbies, the goals and ambitions, as well as their desire to be part of a familial group. In spite of the promotional goal, agencies must disclose known medical histories to prospective parents.
Though understandable, the children may exclude any points that might alarm or put off possible foster parents. Motivated by desperation to join a family, they may avoid mentioning health problems, genetic issues, references to gender identity, or even attitudes toward possible adoption.
I cannot imagine how children feel when they must market themselves as products. Do they learn to deceive others to get what they want? Do they feel unworthy if they need to describe themselves with only positive traits rather than acknowledging their true feelings and attributes?
Just as an adopted pet comes with its own unique past, so do these children who need foster care. I cannot imagine what their damaged self-images and young psyches suffer further when they realize their own parents either cannot or do not want to care for them.
Authorities remove many of these children from their biological families because of neglect, drugs, danger, violence, or other deficits that make the parents unfit to keep their children.
Whatever the reasons, too many children find themselves in need of care beyond what they receive in their families. Types of care include relative/kinship care; non-related kin; traditional foster care; specialized, therapeutic, or medical foster care; and emergency foster care.
Both adoption and fostering require inspiration, love, and courage. In fact, having biological children resembles fostering and adoption in that all children come with unknown risks.
Nothing can truly prepare parents for the possibilities of caring for children with special needs; however, many people choose to adopt or foster these children. Fostering also presents the issue of love and attachment foster parents feel for the children in their care. Imagine the pain of separation when these children move on to permanent homes.
I confess that I lack the required attributes of a foster parent. I do know others who possess them, though. One such couple is C.V. and Shelly Blake. C.V., a minister at First Baptist Church, and his wife Shelly became foster parents fourteen years ago. They have fostered twenty-four children, keeping them anywhere from short term to a year.
Shelly shared with me that Abilene lacks an adequate number of foster homes to care for its own needs. Children often must go to Lubbock or Houston for care. Shelly and C.V. work with a group called Foster325 that works through several local churches to help with finding foster families. People interested in fostering can find information on Foster325’s Facebook page.
The Blakes have grandchildren of their own, yet they have room in their hearts to shelter and love the most vulnerable among us. Shelly encourages anyone who has enough love, time, and passion to nurture children in desperate need of those things to look into fostering.
I applaud all those adults who have the calling and generosity to love and care for children who are not their own. They will reap blessings I will never receive.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing