Thursday, September 26, 2013

PERSPECTIVES: Everyday Heros

I have a 2 year old boy who has recently discovered Batman.  This has been a whole new world for a family that only had girls for 7 years.  He is just fascinated with Batman and all superheroes in general, which has been a long-awaited dream come true for my husband living in a house full of women!  So we have the toys, books, movies, a lunch box, and even pajamas with a cape.  We have bought into his “hero” much like the rest of the world buys into their claimed heroes whether they are celebrities, singers, sports stars, or whoever the flavor of the month is. 

Kids love Batman because he willingly risks his body to defend a city he loves against evil.  My husband appreciates a baseball player who, though skilled, is well known for his charitable contributions.  Some heroes are admired because of their ability to sing, act, or play sports better than the general population.  Others are admired for their courage, skill and bravery in the face of perilous or dangerous situations.  But all are looked up to because they do something most of us feel we can’t.

I believe, however, that there are countless heroes among us in our everyday world.  People who do heroic things every day without the fame and fans following behind them or the recognition by the community for their valiant acts.  Here are some of mine.

Foster parents are heroes.  They may not look like it from the outside but don’t let them fool you.  They are the people who welcome children into their homes at all hours of the day or night.  They bathe little ones who may have not seen a tub of water in days or weeks.  They wash & de-lice hair and buy new wardrobes.  They comfort terrified children who have been taken from everything and everyone they know.  They juggle schedules filled with doctor’s appointments, therapy, counseling, caseworkers, and court dates.  Not to mention facilitating visits with biological families and taking care of their own family’s needs. Foster parents love, nurture, and provide for these children as if they were their own.  Then they often send them back home to their parents with a hope for a fresh start and better future and all while preparing their own family to welcome the next child that will come along.  These are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

Their children are heroes. Along with their parents they welcome children they have never met into their homes and lives. They give up space in their home and time and attention with their parents.  They welcome new brothers and sisters into their homes knowing there is a distinct possibility they will just be saying good-bye a little ways down the road.  These children are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

Caseworkers are heroes.  They work countless hours being advocates for children.  They deal with angry biological parents, support stressed foster families, and love on the children that are part of their overloaded case load.  They are overworked, underpaid, and too often, not given the recognition they deserve for the difficult and trying job they perform every day.  These workers are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

Children in foster care are heroes.  Resilient and strong seem like mediocre words to describe children of so much courage and fortitude.  These young ones have endured abuse & neglect that we cannot even begin to fathom or understand.  They have gone through so many things in their young lives that most of us will never experience in a lifetime.  And yet, if you look at them closely, you can see the hope that is still there.  Hope for reunification with the family they love.  Hope for a better life filled with love.  Hope that they can leave a painful past behind them and look forward to a future of endless possibility.  These amazing and inspiring little ones are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

 These often unseen and unsung heroes are the focus of a ministry called Fostering Hope.  Fostering Hope is a faith based organization that exists for the purpose of serving and supporting foster families and children in foster care.  We strive to come alongside these people that we consider to be the quiet heroes of our community.  These remarkable people who give so much of themselves time and time again.   We admire them, appreciate them, and thank God for the impact they are having on the foster children of our community that are hurting, alone, and afraid.  Our purpose is to do the small things to show them that we support them in their mission of giving children a safe, nurturing home to live in if only for a little while.

Fostering Hope has partnered with The Caring Closet to provide for physical needs that the families face when they take in additional children.  Through this ministry and the generous support of the community, we have been able to provide: over a dozen baby beds and mattresses, 5 toddler beds, 7 dressers, over 20 car seats, and countless amounts of diapers, wet ones, and bags of clothing for families in the last year alone.

Through partnerships with several Jasper county churches and businesses, Fostering Hope has, since its inception of March 2012, been able to:
            --facilitate senior picture photography sessions for 7 kids in foster care last year and is
              currently working on making it possible for 13 students this year
            --host a  reception honoring the students that were graduating and provide them with        
              a basket of gifts to help them get started in adulthood
            --host two Foster Parents’ Night Out by entertaining 180+ children so that foster 
              parents could enjoy a quiet evening together
            --treat over 70 foster families and their children to free movies at Route 66 Movie
  Theater...350 people in two showings!
--provide space for several meetings, foster parent trainings and a Christmas party for
  foster parents
--host two Foster Parent Appreciation Dinners serving 225 foster parents.
--provide appreciation lunches & monthly treat days for the staff at Children’s Division.

Now, these heroes may not be the next American Idol, football star, brave soldier or even the next masked crusader.  Their tales of courage and inspirational deeds may not cause 2 year old boys to dress up and scream that he’s a foster parent the way my 2 year old says, “I Batman” in a low, raspy voice. But daily these heroes make a lasting difference in our community that not only impacts families now but echoes into eternity.  And while the community sees the value of this cause, many still wonder why we chose to take up this mission. 

I have been asked many times why we do what we do.  How do you take care of these kids for long periods of time, let them go, and then just start all over with another child?  Do you ever think about stopping? Do you ever consider the effect it will have on your own children?   And the answer is, of course, yes. Yes, it is hard to let them go.  Yes, we have thought about stopping.  Yes, we consider daily how this mission we feel God calling us to will affect our children.  Every time a child leaves my home and my arms I think about why we are doing this. 

I posed these questions to my father after a placement left us not long ago.  Our family had a difficult time letting go of this little girl and in my moment of reflection I turned to a consistent support in my life. His words provide an answer better stated than anything I can think. He answered my question with one of his own, “Tomorrow will there still be children that are hurting, alone, and afraid?” 

And unfortunately, my answer was yes.  Tomorrow there will be children who have been victims of abuse and neglect.  There will be children who have endured horrendous things that make most of us cringe just thinking about  it.  These children need someone who is willing to open their hearts and homes and show them what true love is.   They need someone to show them what the love of Jesus looks like.  They need everyday heroes.

I have been married to my husband Zach for 12 years.  We have 3 daughters.  We have been fostering for 3 years and have had 11 foster kiddos in our home.  We are currently in the process of adopting our 2 year old son.  We founded The Caring Closet in April 2012 and have served on the leadership board of Fostering Hope since the summer of 2012.

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