Archive for December, 2013

Why Today Matters

In the back of my mind I wonder from time to time if what I’m doing really matters. Does my limited interaction with these kids really make a difference? I have them for a night, a weekend, or a year; all of which feel like a drop in the bucket of their lives. How impactful is a little bit of time? A few weeks ago I got to find out. I was at behavior intervention training at the Bair Foundation and a group of us adults sat scrunched together in a room learning about appropriate ways to discipline a child and things you should all together avoid. All our foster kids were hanging out outside with a group of volunteers from a small Baptist church. They had a worship team sing with the kids, face painting, bouncy slides, and prizes. I sat through training and we all talked about what worked for us and what didn’t. I feel like I have such a small amount of experience compared to some of these experts in the room. I learned all I could from them, soaked it in, and tried to figure out how to practically apply these lessons to my life as a foster mom. Punishing a child by withholding food = bad idea. Correcting a child by putting him in timeout = good idea. Most of it was common sense. So what I walked away from training learning the most happened outside of that small room. We finished training and I stepped outside to get my two kiddos.

There were kids running all around, faces painted with soccer balls and butterflies. A line had formed beside the bounce slide and some kids were bouncing a basketball to my left. I searched the crowd for my two familiar faces. One of the workers walked up to me and said, “Kaitlyn is looking for you.” I went through the mental list of Bair workers to see if I could connect the name “Kaitlyn” with a face. I know my case worker. Check. I know the placement coordinator. Check. I knew the local and state directors. Check check. The name Kaitlyn was not ringing a bell.

“You know, Kaitlyn. She’s the girl that stayed with you for a weekend at the beginning of this summer.”

Kaitlyn was not a Bair worker but a little girl that stayed with me for 48 hours after she was removed from her home. She and her siblings were severely abused. They acted out. She didn’t know how to show affection or how to play properly with other children. I had her for two days until they readied a permanent placement for her. She had just a few pairs of pants, a couple shirts, and no toys. For 48 hours I played with her. We blew bubbles outside, went garage sale shopping and I bought her some new clothes, a necklace, and a toy doll house. We hung out with friends. I read to her and tucked her in at night. I kept her safe. 48 hours. Then she was gone.

“Kaitlyn has been asking about you.”

I searched the crowd again and saw her standing in the line to get her face painted. I walked over to her and she turned around and gave me the biggest hug. Then another. Then another. She beamed from ear to ear and hugged me again. She told me how much she had missed me and then took me by the hand and lead me to her current foster parents. “This is her,” she said. “This is Miss Shelly.”

It had been such a short time that I had her. So few hours spent together. But she remembers. Someone reminded me of this last week, “People won’t always remember what you said, but they will remember who showed up.” For those precious pivotal days, I showed up. Drained and exhausted as I was, I showed up. And Kaitlyn will never forget me.

So when I start to doubt if foster care really does matter, if the long days and sleepless nights really do make a difference, I will look back to that Saturday when I saw a little girl with cowgirl boots and a jean jacket wrap her arms around me and through that hug say, “Thank you”. I will know that it has not only been worth it, but every moment, every day, every hug and smile I give, really does matter.


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