Marines.Together We Served

Monday, May 08, 2006

Nobody's Child

In today’s world, children seem to be the easiest of victims.

Consider with me the following: “Families in which there is substance abuse are more likely to experience abuse or are at a higher risk of abuse” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services web site). Studies show that young children are more likely to be physically abused, whereas the older they get the greater the likelihood they will be sexually abused in homes where drug abuse takes place. Not a pretty picture.

My wife, Isaura, has been working with children in this category for the past ten years. She was a stay-at-home mom until our two daughters were finished with high school. Reentering the market place after such a long hiatus was challenging. But she has always wanted to be involved in social work, so when the opportunity came along for her to be a “house mom” for adolescent boys, she took it. This was a group home run by Excell, a non-profit organization. These boys, mostly in their teens, a few younger, would be in prison for their crimes if they were adults. Now, like most guys, I’m protective of my family. Watching Isaura leave every weekday morning for the group home to make sure these boys were out of bed, fed and off to school, gave me pause for concern. I wanted to protect her from whatever she might have to deal with each day. I had to leave such matters in God’s hands.

After I was assigned as pastor to the Ripon Free Methodist Church, Isaura found a job with Agape Villages Foster Family Agency in a neighboring town. This non-profit organization has been around for more than forty years taking care of discarded children. My wife does several things within the organization, but mostly she interviews prospective foster parents, and then she teaches the training course designed to prepare these new foster parents with the realities of bringing a new and often troublesome child into their home.

The major problem agencies such as Excell and Agape face is the vast majority of the children placed into their care have been either physically or sexually abused. Often both. The damage this does to the child is not only criminal, it’s heartbreaking, not to mention it scars these kids in ways that are virtually irreparable. Agape is a Christian organization, so they believe in the power of God to transform and heal these precious lives, even these children that many people do not want.

Why do we have foster care agencies in the first place? For two very solid reasons: First, decades earlier children would be left alone in the world because their parents died from a plague or other disastrous event. They would then be taken to an orphanage where they would live until they were old enough to be on their own. Second, extended family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc) would take children in to keep them in the family. However, with the fragmentation of the family unit today, and the abolition of orphanages, more and more children are being cast aside. The integrity of the family unit has been shattered. Divorce, abuse, drugs, and a general disregard for life have all contributed to this growing problem.

Is foster care the answer? Yes and no. Yes, because it does work. No, because nothing replaces the original family plan. We need to get creative in our thinking so we can best care for these displaced children. Foster family agencies, both private and governmental, screen would-be foster parents which requires an extensive (and costly) background check on all applicants. It’s true, foster parents are paid to take care of the child. But most of the adults who sign up to be foster parents are not particularly interested in the money. They simply want to love a hurt and rejected child.

I will continue this in next week’s article. In the meantime, if you live in the Central Valley of California and are interested in this topic, please go to the following web site: http://www.agapevillages.org/default.asp. Otherwise, contact a foster care agency where you live.

Make a positive difference in a child’s life! Perhaps “nobody’s child” could become your child.

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