With God, all things are possible
The first time I met my brother was in fifth grade. He was a great artist, and would often draw during class. One day the ends of his hair fell into the corners of his mouth while drawing. The other kids started making fun of him for “eating his hair”. I stood up for him that day. He still likes to freak people out who don’t know he is adopted by telling them he had a crush on his sister in fifth grade. (Insert eye-roll here).
My brother and his brother went into foster care in 1986. For the five or so years they were in care, my brother was in 10 different homes. He described only 2 of those homes as “good”. Eventually he and his brother were placed with a relative - she was a single mom, with her own out of control daughters. The boys were too much to handle. Eventually my brother’s brother ran away from home permanently. When he was 16, my brother landed back in care- in one of the good homes he remembered from his earlier time.
By the time he was sent back to foster care, he had become very involved with my family. Growing up in a very straight-laced Christian household I have to admit now how much I must have challenged my parents. I often brought home friends from troubled backgrounds. They came to church with us, and we would stand along the back wall during the service. With weird hair, piercings, and wearing “Charles Mansion” and “Death to Pigs” shirts, I’m sure we made folks very uncomfortable. But I did that not as any form of rebellion, but because I knew those kids needed something I had. My parents weren’t divorced, they loved each other, and my mom had a huge heart for teenagers. She can get anyone talking, and her hospitality is unmatched. My dad is quiet, but such a stable force for good. I couldn’t give those friends a better home life, but I could share mine and let them pretend for a while that they were part of a different kind of family.
When my brother went back into foster care, his foster mother challenged us as a family to get into his life for real. We did.
I’d love to tell you that it was magical and happily-ever-after. It was not. This boy destroyed my picture-perfect family, brought chaos and an anger I had never seen before. He targeted my mother. He used her love against her. A short time after he turned 18, he left after an ugly and irrational knock-down drag-out. We felt very humbled by the whole experience- everyone tells you you’re doing something SO amazing, it’s so great! We felt like absolute failures while we picked up the pieces of our lives.
But- if you don’t know, let me tell you- with God, all things are possible. The anger and hurt my brother had to come to terms with were like ocean waves- big ugly ones knocked you off your feet and threatened to drown you. But there were good times, and opportunities for my brother to heal along the way. Many, many times after he left home did he find himself reaching back to my parents for stability and guidance. And many times he realized how much he loved our family, and we loved him.
I cannot say enough how proud I am of him today- who he is, and who he chooses to be for his own wife and children. He IS my brother, my blood, my family. I’m proud and so grateful I can say that.
We shall see what God will do this time around with my family and foster care. I don’t expect it to be pretty and magical; but I hope to be used for good change in the lives of children.
What is one small reform you think would most benefit the foster care community?
If I could reform any part of the foster care system it would be to address social worker burn-out. Find better ways to rebuild & rejuvenate these hard workers. More funding for more workers and smaller case loads. Therapeutic care (talk or other therapy; weekly or monthly massage as part of a health insurance package) as a care-giver/trauma worker.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Chrissy. I grew up in a family of 6: my parents, two sisters and my brother- adopted at 16 as a foster. My husband & I are now going through the process to adopt through foster care as well.