Those were the words spoken by an 8-year-old little girl last night as a stranger tucked her into bed. She and her younger siblings had just been removed from their home in the middle of the night and placed with people they didn't know. So many times we try to anticipate our children's feelings. Are they frightened? Are they confused? How can we help them? And so many times, these children stop us in our tracks with only a few words.
"Thank you for taking care of us."
When I read those words on my friend's FB page this morning, all I could think was "wow..." I kept coming back to it over and over again, my heart simultaneously breaking for that little girl and her siblings and thanking God that, at least for now, they are in a safe and loving home. I kept coming back to those words and let them truly sink in, and I thought about all of the other times that a child's innocent words have left an ache in my heart.
I remember the first time I provided respite for a foster family, when 6-year-old Rocket asked me "So what exactly are the rules in your house?" I think he was under the impression that I didn't have any because I really hadn't had to get onto him for anything. I told him that my main rule is to "be respectful of others" and that included things like no yelling in the house (because I have neighbors upstairs), no hitting or kicking, etc. He replied, "Why no hitting?" I told him that hitting hurts people, and that I never wanted anyone to be hurt. Rocket's face fell, and he replied in a quiet little voice, "People hit at my real house." :'( I knelt down in front of him and told him that that made me sad and that I was really sorry to hear that. Then I assured him that no one hits at my house. Ever. He looked up, smiled, and said, "You're a really nice lady!" and then went on about his day as if he hadn't just taken my breath away with a few little sentences. I'm so used to only fostering infants and toddlers that it was a whole new experience having children who could verbalize their experiences before coming into care.
|Photo used with permission|
No child should ever feel unwanted. No child should ever feel fear in their own home. No child should ever be put in a position to thank complete strangers for doing what their own parents should have done. No child should ever have to be in foster care.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that children are living out these things every day. Foster care is necessary because some parents will fail their children. It is our responsibility as foster parents to walk with these kids through times of uncertainty, hurt, and fear of the unknown. We do our very best to be an anchor for these children to hold on to when the big feelings come and threaten to take over. And when their words hit us in a way that leave us heartbroken and breathless, we let them them know without a doubt that they are loved, that they are safe, and that they are most definitely wanted.