It’s REALLY That Bad. The Secret of the Hidden Children

They say there’s a huge need for foster parents…but where are all the kids who need them? We don’t see them…because they’re hidden children.

It seems bad, or, at least, it should seem bad. The numbers are enormous; it’s talked about with such urgency and you can’t deny it’s a problem. And yet… it’s just not convincing.

You glance at the image again and the phrases run through your mind.

“There’s such a need for foster parents.”

“Our county is in a crisis.”

“Children are being placed 4 hours away because there aren’t enough foster homes to take them.”

So why doesn’t it feel real? Urgent? As desperate as they make it out to be?

You’re sure they’re not lying about this…and yet, if it’s really that bad, where are all the kids?

Why don’t you see them? Know about them?

What’s up with that?

 

Your question is valid and needed. This might help.

Do you pay attention to the news? Not the big national stuff, but the local news? You know, the store that opened downtown, the food drive happening at the elementary school, the local arrests for drugs or domestic violence?

That news? Well, that is where the need for foster parents is hiding. It’s not broadcast or announced, it can’t be, but if you ask yourself one simple question you’ll start to see it.

What if there were kids involved?

The arrest for domestic violence.

What if there were kids involved?

The shooting at the 7-11.

What if there were kids involved?

The home raided for drugs.

What if there were kids involved?

The media won’t tell you about it, but many times, there are.

There are kids involved.

But the kids are innocent.

And that’s why the media isn’t covering it.

It’s a privacy issue. It isn’t their fault their parents were selling drugs. It isn’t their fault the grownups in their lives tried to solve problems by beating each other up. It isn’t their fault that someone got shot.

It isn’t their fault.

And so the kids are protected. The media doesn’t tell you there were children removed from the home. It doesn’t show the social workers hastily carrying the kids’ clothes out in garbage bags. It doesn’t follow the screaming child to the social worker’s car as he is taken from the only family he’s ever known or loved. It doesn’t announce the surprise visit to the school where the innocent student learns she can’t go home but is instead being escorted to some family she’s never met.

And so the need for foster care hides in plain sight. You don’t hear about it until you become a foster parent. And then you get calls about thirteen children in the course of two weeks. You start to see the situations on the news and realize it’s connected to the child in your home.

The arrest for domestic violence on last night’s news?

There were kids involved.

The shooting at the 7-11 someone posted on Facebook?

There were kids involved.

The home raided for drugs?

There were kids involved.

Those massive, humongo foster care numbers that people always talk about start to pare down to the young people placed with you. They become lives, individuals, in your own community, in your own home.

And you start to realize that this is not some distant problem, it is here. It is now. And you can’t stand the idea of kids spending the night in a social worker’s office because there is nowhere for them to go.

This is the need.

Your own local news means a child near you is in need of a foster home. So what can you do about it?

Maybe it’s not much. Maybe right now, all you can do is share this post and pray.

That’s okay.

DO NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT. You know what is good for you and your situation.

But if you’ve been asking where all the children are, it tells me you care. And now you get it. You realize the reality of your very own community. So, if you are able to do something, here are some suggestions.

  1. Share this post so others are aware too.
  2. Find out who in your life is already fostering. You might be surprised, since this is something foster parents don’t often post about. Put the question out there on your social media networks, then, let your friends know you want to support them the next time a child enters their home.
  3. Bring your friend a meal or two the next time a kiddo arrives (and paper plates!). Don’t ask if she needs this, SHE NEEDS IT! Just bring it. Ask her when they eat dinner, what they eat, and then tell her you’ll bring the requested item 30 minutes before dinner on a specific date. THIS IS HUGE.
  4. If you can’t do the above, call a local restaurant that provides delivery service and order a meal to arrive at your friends’ place 30 minutes before their normal dinner time. They WILL THANK YOU.
  5. Pick up your friend’s laundry, wash, fold and return it to her.
  6. Run to the grocery store for her.
  7. Babysit her other children so she can take the foster child to all the first week medical appointments required.
  8. Get a list of all the things the child didn’t come with and run to the store for those items.
  9. Attend classes at your local DCS to find out what this foster care thing is all about.
  10. Get licensed for “respite” (which really just means caring for a foster child for a week or less).
  11. ASK! Continue to ask foster parents what you can do to support them. The needs of their children change frequently. Many times, those needs are not something you can help with, but continuing to ask is encouragement in itself. Plus, the more you ask, the more they trust that you really do want to help. And the more willing they will be to call you when they DO have a need you can help with.

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This article originally appeared at Parents of Foster Care.

Sarah Harmeyer
Sarah is a foster and adoptive mom. She writes at ParentsofFosterCare.com about real life in order to share real encouragement. Because, without the real and the ugly she can’t share hope, answers, or, when it looks like there are no answers, comfort.

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