I keep hoping there will be a great story. I anxiously await any of the former foster youths to tell me, “foster care made such a positive impact on my life.” Or a caseworker to tout the efforts their county has gone to in order to serve vulnerable families. I want to hear a foster parent tell me, “DSS has been phenomenal. They have gone above and beyond to help these children.”
I wish that was the case.
But, as it turns out, foster children who make it out of this broken system and into the world as a functional adult seem to do so in spite of the system. And reality is that it is nothing short of miraculous when foster children become anything other than a frightening statistic, void of healthy family connections.
Caseworkers that genuinely seem to care about the kids move on to other jobs instead of fighting illogical policies and policy-makers, too burned out to continue.
I have wondered, a few times, if the entire social services system was out to destroy families and hurt children. The Department of Social Services. Often vilified. Frequently reviled. Unpopular and detested. The entire system is under-funded, overworked, and overlooked.
I want to blame some person or some entity for the current catastrophic state of failure that I see permeating from social services. A government system that desperately needs to be a well-run, well-oiled machine has a wrench in the gears.
I contemplate a solution daily, because a solution is clearly needed.
As much as I don’t want to admit it. The solution is simultaneously hugely complex and annoyingly simple.
Emotions. Reigning in our natural, organic humanity is hard. We don’t want to be annoyed, irritated, inconvenienced, or hurt. We have no intention of purposefully putting ourselves in positions of difficulty. And fostering or adopting can put a complex emotional strain on the most stable of adults.
Getting past the emotional complexity is going to have to be a choice. At some point, if this (or any) crisis is to be solved, we MUST choose to put ourselves into a state of inconvenience. We must choose to lose our ego to a larger cause. We must exchange our faineant existence for others’ needs. Not because our life depends on it, but because someone else’s does.
We must learn what sacrifice really means, and it isn’t giving up your soy latte on Saturday.
The simple solution is us. The functional adult members of society. The non-felonious, hard-working, responsible, human, grown-ups. We CAN fix this.
The truth is that the social services system is horrendously broken. It is aggravating to navigate. It is heartbreaking, overwhelming, and exhausting. However, at the end of the exasperating process is a child. A child. A human being. Worthy of respect, care, discipline, love. Worth every ounce of annoyance. Deserving of family. Needing an advocate. Screaming for a voice in legally-mandated silence.
The truth is that we are the solution to this madness. We can offer a voice to this muted, marginalized population. We can give of our time, our money, our hearts. We can offer our family to those without. We can choose to sacrifice what makes us comfortable in order to offer a modicum of comfort to these invisible children.
The truth is that this month has ZERO meaning without us, the adults, making choices that directly, positively impact the foster youth population. Complex or simple solutions hold no importance without willing adults choosing to act. We hold the power to vote, to speak, to demand, to choose what is right.
It is the last day of National Adoption Awareness Month. I hope that all of us have gotten a bit more aware. But more than that, I hope that this awareness compels us to act.
To change the life of a child.