I’ve truthfully never used this space to ask anyone to do anything. For years, this column has been called “The Observer.” Which indicates it’s about my observations of life. Observations of our community.
To be honest, It’s mostly been observations of my family: of how they’ve grown; how they make me laugh; and occasionally, how they make me cry. It’s also been observations of my own life, mostly about ridiculous moments and some sincere ones in between.
An example of the ridiculousness recently: A friend walks into my office at work. But she can’t find me even though she was told I was in my office. I hear her (because I am in my office – albeit under my desk looking for a folder filed into the tremendously large stack of folders tucked away back there.) So then I try to get up, with folder in hand. And instead, I fall over backward, hysterically laughing because of the insanity of the moment. And she looks my way and doesn’t even ask why I’m on the floor, falling over backward or if I’m ok. I can only assume it’s because after years of friendship, she now assumes that me falling over on the floor backward is nothing unexpected.
But here we are in January 2021, and while everyone is breathing a sigh of relief over flipping a page on a calendar that we don’t care to live through again, I’m using this platform to ask our community to reach out to others. I’m asking if 2021 will be the year we quit waiting to make a difference in the lives of others and do something we thought we could never do.
Our family is certified for foster care.
What that means is we get phone calls and texts from child protective services at various times throughout the year asking us if we will take in children who have been taken from their homes. Honestly, we say no a lot. Or we offer what’s called “emergency care” and we house a child for a night or two until another solution is found. But sometimes we say yes.
In October, we received a call for a six-year-old nonverbal boy who was taken from his home. We agreed to take him for a few nights until a more permanent solution could be found. But here we are in January, and guess who still lives with us? If you know us, you don’t have to guess. He’s six. He’s precious. He’s fun. He makes us laugh more than anyone. He was classified as nonverbal because of a difficulty with speech, but he’s working through that, and in between his confusing gibberish of conversation, we are starting to hear real words and understand real phrases.
He’s with us because we love him, and honestly, he fit in well with our family. So we called his social worker and agreed to foster him until his case reaches completion and is resolved. But he’s also with us because of a severe shortage of foster homes in our community. The numbers are stacked against the children who need homes. At any given time, there’s typically a couple of hundred kids in need of care, but less than 100 homes available in Terrebonne Parish. The stats are similar in Lafourche. People say “I could never survive the heartache of letting a child go.”
I understand. I do. Kids go back to places we find unimaginable, and it often breaks our heart.
When my heart breaks, I think of the broken hearts of all the children who have lived through the unimaginable. And while I don’t have all the answers or solutions to a broken world, I know I can create a safe place for a night or two. Or even a few months. Or sometimes a year. “Do small things with great love,” Mother Teresa said. We’re doing small things. Trying to make a difference in a world with more heartache than I ever imagined.
Fostering gives a glimpse into someone else’s brokenness, and sometimes it’s hard to recover when you hear the stories and live with someone who has lived through things it seems impossible to comprehend. I want to act like the pain isn’t out there. But ignoring someone else’s pain doesn’t solve a problem or help mend a hurting heart.
So would this year be the year you make a difference? Get certified to foster a child in need. Or become a volunteer CASA and be a voice for a child without a voice. There’s so many ways to make a difference and heal a heart. Let this be the year that we learn to give more of ourselves than we thought we could.
To sign up for foster care certification please call 985-857-3620 or to become a CASA volunteer call 985-876-0250. POV