This post is straying pretty far away from my STEM education focus. I apologize for my deliberation, but what I’m going to share with you has been extremely heavy on my heart for eight years. So, the time has come for me to take action. Please humor me as I share. Make no mistake about it, I need YOUR help. Most blogs are not up front about notifying you of that, in the end, the author is asking you for something. Maybe you’ll be as moved as I was when I began this journey eight years ago. Maybe your reaction will prompt you to share my post. Maybe something more.
My youngest daughter is 14 years old. When I first heard some heartbreaking statistics, she was a beautiful, innocent, curious, healthy six year old child. I vividly remember that night. It was a night that is seared deep within my mind. My sister and I had frequently discussed adoption. She was in the process of adopting a nearly three year old daughter. We spent a great deal of time on the phone that night discussing an epidemic in this country, and around the world. You see, right now, in my beautiful state of Michigan, there are more than 3,000 children awaiting forever homes. 3,000 children who pray that someone will answer the call. 3,000 children who cry themselves to sleep many nights wondering if they will ever be wanted. 3,000 children who are asking Santa for a new, safe home. 3,000 children who just need love and acceptance. Can you imagine, not just feeling unwanted and unloved (we all occasionally do), but actually being unwanted and unloved?
So, here it is; the statistic that changed my heart and opened my eyes: 85% of children who are in the “system” after the ripe, old age of six, will never be adopted. They age out. No one wants them after they get older.
When I heard that statistic, MY six year old daughter was sound asleep in her own room, in her own bed, surrounded by her physical possessions, in a safe and warm home, with her loving and caring and protective family. I went into her bedroom, crawled into her bed, and snuggled up to her, while I sobbed. This was it. This was the cutoff age for a child who’s legal parent was the government; “a ward of the state”. What crime did this child commit to deserve this hell on earth? The system took too long to get them out of their abusive situation. Now, their chance of a happy childhood, or any childhood at all, is nearly nonexistent.
People are afraid. I totally get it. I know I am afraid too. We don’t know these children. Maybe they’ll upset our homes. Maybe they’ll hurt us, physically or emotionally. If we are going to be completely honest, we need to recognize that, as victimized children get older, they are harder to manage. Their past causes them to act out. They often exhibit behaviors they were once victims of. It’s the only thing they know. They have few life skills. They are hurting and broken. But they are NOT worthless. These beautiful children were created for a purpose much greater than just survival.
For the next 12 years, once a child has breached that six year old threshold, he or she will spend the next 12 years bouncing between foster care homes. On average, eight different families will take them in. With each move, the child experiences the anticipation and anxiety that profound uncertainty delivers. Despite their desperate attempt to prove their worth, the vast majority succumb to years and years of devastating disappointment.
I’m ready to take action! Are you willing to step up too?