Refugee Foster Journey

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

We’re at the very beginning of this process. We’ve gone to the Bethany Christian Services info session to learn about the URM (unaccompanied refugee minor) program. Tomorrow we start the first of 10 training sessions to become foster parents. They will teach us how to deal with kids that have experienced trauma, but also, teach us good parenting skills. We will sit through a total of 22 hours of training time. I’m not going to lie, my undiagnosed ADHD self does not know how she’s going to last through all that sitting and listening. I can’t sit through a half hour sermon without wanting to crawl out of my skin. But I am fully aware that my discomfort is nothing compared to the suffering our future kiddos have experienced.

It terrifies me to think about what they’ve seen. I’ve read enough horror stories from refugee journeys. Not to mention, whatever terrors that led them to flee their beloved home and family in the first place. My kids have had ideal childhoods. They have all of their needs met, and most of their wants. They are safe, happy and loved. All children should have that.

I’m also terrified to actually take these steps towards being the person I always have said I would be. I always thought of myself as an adoptive mom. Since it’s something my heart has longed for as long as I can remember.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables changed my life when I was younger. And lucky for me, in a house 20 miles from my own, she changed my husband’s life too. We both saw ourselves in her. Her free spirit, her imagination, her determination to stand up to the bullies. The way she redefined the way life should be, for herself. She was an orphan. We loved her and our hearts ached for her when she felt unwanted. No child should ever feel unwanted. We longed to be the kinds of people that would love an unwanted child, and give them a second chance. Lord, could we love them as well as they deserve? Even though we are broken, selfish people, can we put aside our comfort and put the needs of a child that was broken before they even came to us?

It’s one thing to ask ourselves to take steps towards an orphan, a stranger in need. But to ask our kids to do the same, it’s a big ask. Avy is all for it. She has the heart of Anne Shirley and her heart bleeds for those that deserve better. Micah welcomes everyone, and doesn’t think too much about it. But Corban, is cautious and reluctant. He speaks the truth we all know. Our life is great, our life is simple and we love each other. Why would we mess with that? We have what most people work so hard to achieve. A peaceful, good life. Why wouldn’t we just spend the rest of our days enjoying that?

I want him to want to share. I feel so blessed. And I feel it to the point where it feels like excess. It’s unfair how good my family has it and yet, across the ocean there are mothers that pray every day that the bombs would stop so their baby can sleep. Children out there that long to be held and treasured, while mine are showered with abundance. But I can’t expect my 11 year old to grasp that. His whole life we have tried to teach him to share his blessings. But he is surrounded by kids that have more than him. Kids that take karate, have three different gaming systems, cell phones and take regular vacations to Disney. That’s his normal.

Photo by Sandy Kumar on Unsplash

He handles it well. He doesn’t complain and he actually has told us he appreciates that we don’t have these things. But, I’m sure he feels jealous. Shoving photos of starving babies in Africa in his face won’t change his reality. What causes him to consider adoption is meeting other kids that have been adopted, or have adopted siblings. When he considers what he could get out of this deal, he’s more interested. The potential losses for him are too great to ignore. His comfort, the attention of his parents, the ability to splurge on toys or activities, and the feeling of strangeness as we get used to a new person in our home. He genuinely believes someone else can do it, and it would cost them less. The truth is, he’s not wrong. There are lots of other people that could take this on, that have bigger houses, bigger budgets, and no other kids to consider. But they’re not necessarily willing to do it. So, I have to get my son to understand the desire to do good for the sake of honoring God, the sake of serving others. We want to do this, because we are willing. Honestly, we may not feel willing all the time. But in our hearts, we want this. When I read about the refugee crisis, I have to do this. I will feel guilty forever if I do not share my blessings with these kids that deserve so much more. And I believe that in the end, it will be good for my kids too. They will learn to have different values than their peers. They will learn to put others first sometimes. They will have an expanded understanding of the world and culture. They may learn a second language. They may develop a stronger work ethic, as the new children will most likely have come from cultures where they worked to provide for their families. They will develop more compassion. They will sadly understand racial inequality first hand. They will get a friend or two out of this. Hopefully, they will get a sibling.

I’m trying to rid myself of expectations as we walk this road. First of all, we may never be matched with a child. Every time Trump adds a country to his travel ban, every time he lowers the refugee resettlement cap, the likelihood of us welcoming a refugee youth decreases. If we do get to move forward, we may be matched with a child that ages out of the system before their paperwork is complete. If we are matched and they come, they may not be an ideal fit for our family, or us for them. If they come and we all love each other instantly, the honeymoon period is not likely to last forever. They may want to join our family because they simply want to get the best education they can and move back home to support their family as soon as possible. Or they may have family back home that they long to reunite with and they just see us as a safe place to be for a time. Or, they may truly be alone in this world and desperately want us to fill the void where family love should be. We are trying to be open to it all.

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

We have also been told that once we are matched, we may wait up to a year for them to actually arrive. However, typically it has taken about three weeks for the child to fly in. So we need to be prepared…either way.


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