I was born in the 70’s and as the baby of my extended family, I was constantly surrounded by much older cousins. One of their favorite songs from that era has become my new Foster Care Theme Song…….Ozzy Osborne’s ‘Crazy Train’ 🙂 I do not attempt to understand what motivated Mr. Osborne to write those lyrics, and I don’t make a habit of listening to music that does not glorify God, but there are a few verses of this song that could have been written by a foster child……or a foster parent who is caring for a special needs foster child! Living with a child who has experienced significant trauma or has been exposed to a multitude of ‘bad things’ feels exactly like being on a runaway train……cue the chorus: I’m going off the rails on a crazy train!
Fortunately, God has our backs and He’s not going to let us crash…….
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Deuteronomy 31:6
We welcomed 5 year old Mowgli, and 3 year old Kiwi 3 months ago, and they are very sweet. However, they are also very troubled. When I was mulling over what word I would use to describe them, there are actually so many words that characterize the condition of these children and their emotional states, I had a tough time deciding which one would give the clearest picture of these two kiddo’s…….one word just isn’t enough. DAMAGED, HEART-BROKEN, CHALLENGED, WOUNDED, ABUSED, MISTREATED, FRACTURED, CRUSHED, MOLESTED, MISUSED, VIOLATED, MISHANDLED, CORRUPTED, & ABUSED…….yeah, those all work here.
The behaviors started from the very first hour that they were here. Tantrums, fits, throwing things, screaming, crying, cursing, hand gestures, sexual talk, and abusive language……they are a part of our daily life now. We didn’t go out like we used to, we couldn’t. Both children would become little screaming demons the moment that we stepped foot in a public place. Kiwi would revert to a 1 year old to get her way and if you so much as looked at her sternly, she would cry at the top of her lungs. Mowgli was far worse. He acted (and still does on occasion) like a thug that you see in the movies…….he seems to grow to a whopping 6 foot tall and has the demeanor of a full grown abusive man. He would (and will) cuss you out, flip you off, threaten to beat you up, and tell you that you’re stupid……and it never mattered where we were, or how many people were around. These kids had absolutely no concept of how to behave in civilized society, because their parents do not have those skills. They have been little sponges, soaking up every bad habit, every wayward behavior, and every bit of meanness that their Mother and Father displayed. Both children have either witnessed, and/or participated in: sexual acts, drugs, drinking, stealing, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and mental abuse. All of this added up to a very crazy three months.
Slowly, we are coming out of the ‘Foster Care Shell’ that we have to retreat into when a new foster child enters our home who has special needs. Whether its a 5 year old with an attachment disorder, a 4 year old with severe behavioral issues, a 2 year old who looks like he got into a fight with a heavy weight boxer, or an infant who has to endure the painful process of detoxing from drugs……they can all take a toll on our family and how we live out our lives in public. Understandably, and through no fault of their own, we must rally around these newest additions because they are so confused, angry, and sad. They need extra special care and a whole lot of patience until they learn to adjust and get to know us. Until this past Sunday, Dave, DJ, Casey and I have been dealing with this, along with our extended family, quietly and on our own.
It wasn’t until Mowgli had a major outburst and meltdown at church, during Vacation Bible School no less, that we realized the need for help from our church family. We tried to tag-team going to church……..Dave would take some of the kids in the morning, and I would take some of the kids at night. It got to be exhausting, so we only went when our turn for ministry duty arrived. Some would ask where we had been and others thought we had just stopped being members……..a few people knew of our foster care ministry, but for the most part, we seemed to have just disappeared.
Reaching out to our Pastor changed all of that. I have gotten to know him better when I started using God’s painting skills at church, and one day I decided to be really honest when he asked me how the foster kids were. He knew we hadn’t been coming to church faithfully, but we had always glossed over the rough stuff and laughingly said that, “We signed up for this, but our church family didn’t!” The stern look on his face when he told me that, “As your brothers and sisters in Christ, yes we did sign up for this” almost made me cry. I unloaded on the poor man, and surprisingly, I knew that God had led me right to his door to do exactly that. This past Sunday our awesome pastor told the whole congregation about our ministry, and what they could expect from these kids………the good, the bad, and the ugly. Somehow, having them know has lifted such a weight from our shoulders.
Pride and fear of embarrassment led Dave and I to hide away and try to ‘fix’ the behavioral problems before we ventured out to our civilized church……..and then ultimately, to civilized society. Our intentions were true and our hearts were in the right place……..after all, we didn’t want these kids shamed or looked on as a bad influence to the other kids. What we didn’t realize, or expect, was that our church was ready to embrace these kids as their own and offer their love and support to all of us……..and that hiding out while waiting it out, was not fair to our other children. Being foster parents can humble you in a second, reminding you that you can do nothing without God’s help. Foster kids will teach you that just when you think you have seen it all and have gotten the hang of parenting these precious angels, they will throw your whole world upside down with one public display of defiance. We have no choice but to lean on God, and God’s people, to get through it. We have no choice but to ride the Crazy Train, and trust that God will not allow it to derail 🙂