The 2016 Florida State Foster/Adoptive Parent Association Annual Education Conference in Orlando, Florida—
Last weekend I attended this conference where I was privileged to speak to a room full of wonderful fostered and adopted teenagers. I was excited to talk to them about how they can be truly successful in life in spite of the difficulties they are experiencing.
I also had the privilege of exchanging stories with many who stopped by our book table. What a wonderful gathering of men and women who love children they did not birth.
I am reminded of my foster mom. To me as a five year old, she was beautiful and smelled really good, but what I remember most about her was her care for me. She made sure I was well-fed and bathed. Her demeanor was always calm and low-key, not high-strung like I was used to. I saw many men and women there this weekend who exhibit the same awesome characteristics. I wasn’t in foster care for very long. I was returned to my mother as soon as she was released from the mental hospital. In retrospect I see that if the programs in place now were in place then, I would not have been reunited as quickly. The memory of this episode in my book was written from the perspective of a five year old and all I wanted was my mama, my brother, and sister. I was too young to realize that it was not the safest place for me to be. Many do have a bond with the biological parent and it is difficult to understand how a child could so love an abusive person, but in my case, it was all I knew. Belonging still matters. Foster and adopted kids need to know they belong to someone to will love, care, and provide for them.
I am so thankful for those who are willing to care for children who have been abused and neglected by their biological parents. And though some bio parents see this situation as a wake-up call and are willing to do whatever is necessary to get their kids back, many do not. Progress has been made, especially since the 1950s, to terminate parental rights if they show that they either care more for themselves than their children or don’t have the ability to care for them. Again, thank God for those who step up and either foster or adopt so these kids have a chance at success.
Another point talked about this weekend was the idea of keeping siblings together. There were six of us and we love each other dearly. I cannot imagine life without them, all of them. I am thrilled that a great effort is made in Florida to keep sibling groups together.
Big thank you to Amanda Williams with NexGen Teens for inviting me to speak, and to all those who stopped by my book table. For those who put their first names on my prayer list, rest assured I am praying each day for you until the Lord directs me otherwise.
Much has been done since my childhood to alleviate the pain and suffering of children. God’s grace helped me and continues to work through these wonderful foster and adoptive parents who gathered in Orlando this past weekend.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my sorrow regarding the two tragic events occurring in Orlando while I was there. The positive feeling of hope and camaraderie at the event I attended was horribly contrasted by the tragedies across town. I am praying for the families of Christina Grimmie and the injured and deceased in the night club tragedy. Our nation mourns.