Making a Difference

A loving familyBeing a social worker is never boring. Tiring yes, boring no. For the last 17 years I have worked in the non-profit field with foster parents and adoptive parents. One of the greatest challenges that I have faced is recruiting foster parents. When talking to prospective foster parents the greatest concerns I hear are “I just couldn’t let them go” and “My heart would break”. These are true statements. It is hard for foster parents to bond with a child or children and then let them go back home or to another family member.

My response is, “Wonder what kind of impact you could have made on a child.”

Even if you have a child for a week, a month or a year the impact you have on the child - and you will have an impact - could be life changing for you both. The child who lives with you for a month might not have ever attended church and heard about Jesus. That child might not have ever sat at the table and had a family dinner. That child might not have ever slept on a bed with clean sheets… or taken a bath with hot water. That child might not have ever been taught to say grace or say a prayer before they went to sleep. That child might not have ever seen a mom and dad not hit each other. That child might not ever have known what it is to feel safe and cared for. Of course, you as an adult might take all these things for granted and so might your children.

The children that come into a foster home do not always say “thank you for allowing me to live in your home” or “thank you for a bed.” You will probably hear them say that they want to go home or they miss their family. We all would feel the same way if we were in their shoes. But you look for the thank you in other ways. I know of a child who lived with his foster family and he would not have eye contact with anyone. It was not because he was being disrespectful - he just could not do it. Then, after he had been in the home for a few months, he was meeting some new people and the foster mom was watching. He held out his hand and shook the hand of a man and introduced himself while looking him in the eye. That is when you know that you have made a difference. Just a handshake you say, but that handshake will help him get his first job, help him meet his girlfriend’s dad. It will help him become a manager and supervise other people. That handshake helped him graduate high school and become a productive member of society. Sure, those things could have happened without living with the foster parents but maybe not.

Being a foster parent is hard work, but the rewards are amazing. Being a foster parent will make you cry, but the laughter you experience is beyond words. Being a foster parent can be a thankless job, but you will see the appreciation in a child’s eye when you put a homemade dinner in front of them. Sometimes being a foster parent you feel all alone, but then you receive a call from your foster care consultant thanking you for helping a child’s attitude change because you helped that child feel safe.

Being a foster parent is a way to actually make a difference in society. When you open your heart and home to a child, you are touching that child’s life and every life he or she touches.

Please call us if you have ever thought about being a foster parent. The staff will tell you the good and bad about being a foster parent, but I can promise you this - the good shall outweigh the bad by leaps and bounds!!

Learn more about Foster Care at B&GH.

Donna Yalch is the Vice President for Community Based Services at Boys and Girls Homes of NC.

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