The first day they drop off a child at your home who has been in foster care is hard. You know something bad has happened or they wouldn’t be there. You don’t yet know the details, and truly they don’t matter at this point. A child needs a safe and stable place to sleep and that, you can provide.
After some time they begin to wiggle out a special little place in your heart. It’s hard not to guard that spot because you never know how long they will stay or how hard it will be if they go home. All you know is, for right now, they are yours and you love them accordingly.
More time goes by. They learn the ebb and flow of the family and they may, or may not, start calling you Mom and Dad. They have a permanent spot at your table, you’ve probably picked out most of their clothes because they came with nothing, and everyone gets accustomed to them being around.
Almost always they gain weight, or grow, or both. The body is a funny thing when it feels safe enough to concentrate on normal things like growing instead of surviving. Their eyes brighten, their smile emerges, and every now and again they talk about the past. This makes you cry at night when they aren’t looking. Sometimes it seems like more than you can bear. Then you think about what it must be like to be them; scared, lonely, afraid, surviving, and you remember why you do this.
You do it because they need you. Your family may be weird or have some good old fashioned dysfunction, but it’s better than where they came from. They sleep well at night because they know you are there, even if they don’t act like it or seldom admit it.
Then, one day, the caseworker calls and the decision has been made. They are not going back home and the child is now in search for a forever home. They want to know if it can be your home. Frankly, the decision is pretty easy unless there extenuating circumstances. You’ve cared for them for a while and they are now a part of your DNA … they are family. You say, “Yes” and, for us, that meant now there were seven.
Today was one of the days that remind us why we do what we do. Today we got to stand before the judge and hear her decree that Team Parker has two new recruits. Antonio Levi Parker and Andrew Isaac Parker had moved from the reserve roster to the starting lineup. We’ve done this before back in July of 2015 with Eli, and this was just as emotional in every way. I choked up several times during the session.
As we stood in the courtroom, the attorney asked us a bunch of questions, and apparently I can’t remember the need to answer them out loud. She reminded me several times. They asked us things like, “Can you care for this child in every way; emotionally, financially, educationally?” You wouldn’t think that is a heavy question, but it is. All of our answers were, “Yes,” but the truth is, maybe we can’t, but we will try. We will make mistakes, guide them wrongly, repent, regroup, and try again. Just like we have with the other five. That’s what families do. They stand with each other, even when they don’t want to or it’s hard. Sometimes that means drawing tough lines, sometimes it means discipline, sometimes there are tears, and many times there is joy. In the end there’s always family.
No one except God knows what the future will hold for this growing team, but today, Team Parker picked up some strong recruits. May His mercy and grace mold them into ferocious Kingdom Warriors, and I pray we have a small part to play in their transformation.
Welcome aboard fellas!