My childhood was probably very similar to many of the children in foster care today. I was a happy baby girl and had a very rambunctious little brother (Jeff), but around us there were many moments of strife, sadness and mental illness. My parents were average hard-working people, but I remember …
… the many fights, the smell of beer on my father’s breath, the many beer cans on the tables when I awoke in the morning and I remember how life was when my mother left him. I remember a couple of my mother’s different boyfriend’s and what they did to me as a toddler. Most of all, I remember the new step father that joined our family promising lots of happy memories.
But, he didn’t create happy memories for us – just the opposite…I remember his beatings and I have vivid memories of hearing him beat my brother and seeing the hand-print bruises on his tiny little face. I remember the night he left our mobile home to take my 5 year old brother out to the middle of nowhere and leave him on the side of the road — just to punish and scare him–a 5 year old!! By the grace of God, I’ve been able to work through those memories and keep them from haunting me every day. Some children aren’t so lucky.
It wasn’t long after that we went to live with a new family. I stayed with one family for about eight months, but they couldn’t handle my brother, Jeff. He was probably classified as severely ADHD and emotionally handicapped (as they’d label today), so he bounced from home to home and probably lived in about nine different homes. We became “Society’s Children” and were raised by other families, mentors or houseparents. Our lives drastically changed.
On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the US. Many of these kids have similar stories of abuse, neglect, abandonment and fear — most importantly, they live with many painful secrets they never have the courage to share. Many of these kids feel it’s their own fault and if they’d only been “good enough” things would be different. Some walk around with hatred so strong they wish their parents were dead. Some kids still, after all the trauma, wish mommy and daddy would bring them home. Some kids just “function” and try to get through life, figure out how to survive and find their new “normal”. As a result, it’s important to note that each of these 400,000 kids needs a mentor, needs a warm hug, and some gentle guidance.
I believe that it was because of the countless mentors, houseparents, good role models and great homes I’ve had in my life that have helped me “go down the right path”. It’s because someone thought it was important to model and develop in me a faith in Christ at an early age.
Do you have a similar story? Have you had a mentor that has greatly influenced your life? Have you ever served as a mentor for others?
Until next time, please remember James 1:27
- May is National Foster Care Month! (idahofosterparents.wordpress.com)