This is hard for me to write because I don’t like to offend people, or make people feel bad. And if you recognize yourself in this post, please do not be offended, and don’t even apologize. I’m just sharing this in hopes to help people do better. I don’t think I realized how much of a problem it is until this weekend and now I can’t leave it unsaid. I know most of it is well-intentioned and well-meant. I know people (some) are genuinely concerned. But honestly, most of us are just
curious nosy and we like to know the nitty-gritty details.
But here’s the problem: I can’t tell you. And it really is none of your business. Okay, if you are still with me, I’ll let you know what I’m talking about. When you see me with a child you’ve never seen before and I say “this is ____________.” I might say “this is my friend” or “this is my daughter” Or “We’re taking care of her for a little while” or I might even say this is my niece or nephew. Or I might not offer any other information. Don’t ask.
“Oh, is this a foster child?” Yes, right in front of the child. And then the other questions follow. I’ve had everything from “Why was he/she taken?” to “Are you hoping to adopt?” “Do you like the parents?” “Do you think they will get their child back” “Do you think they can properly take care of this child?” There are countless variations of these questions, and, unfortunately they come from all of you. I’ve hardly met someone who hasn’t asked. I probably used to do the same thing. I don’t even remember anymore.
All I know now is that each story is one of pain. Its one of brokenness. Its one where generations of a family has struggled under the weight of abuse, addiction, poverty, unfair treatment, sometimes mental impairment. But always a mountain of things that make it harder for this child’s family to provide a safe, loving home. And sometimes the family is doing well but the system won’t let them have their child… Or the requirements they have actually make it harder for the family. Because the truth is the “system” we have in place for helping these children is just as broken and dysfunctional.
The bottom line is, the story is for the child to tell, someday, if he ever wants to. To someone he loves and trusts. To someone who will listen and care, and desire to help him heal. It’s for his parents to tell, if they ever want to, to people who care about them and want to support them.
My job is to offer this child and her family unconditional love, grace, and support, and give this child back at a moment’s notice.
So next time you see me with a child and I say “this is my niece _______________”, if I don’t offer any other explanation, please don’t ask. Or, better yet, if you must ask me something, ask me “is there anything I can do?”