Excerpts From “The Connected Child” with notes by Elijah Cain. -Part 1.5

Before I continue this series of posts, I would like to state that I am in no way qualified to offer advice on dealing with issues stemming from childhood trauma, give parenting advice, or pass judgment on anyone’s past, present, or future decisions, mistakes, or realities. Furthermore, not all of my conclusions are set in stone. Like any reasonable, thinking adult, I reserve the right to alter my opinions when presented with new and better information. This particular segment of posts dealing with the issue of childhood trauma represents a small part of the learning path I’m on to try and prepare myself for the road ahead. I’m sharing with you, my readers, as a way to better digest the information I’m taking in and pass it along to anyone who may benefit from the things I’m learning. Lastly, while I care very little for the opinions of others, especially of those who have no vested interest or stake in my eventual outcome, I care a great deal for people as a whole, and, by no means, intend for anyone to feel judged or offended by anything in these posts.

The issue of unwanted children in this country is heartbreaking to me, and, most likely, to anyone who is not a textbook sociopath. If you’ve read more than one of my posts, and did so because you’re interested and not simply because you know me, you know that there are things I struggle with internally, especially where it comes to the issue of child abuse. I was not abused, neglected, or molested growing up. If you’ve read my previous post, “Support System“, you know that I had a great childhood which I had the privilege of sharing with an amazing family, in which, I’m including my closest friends. With that said, I’m not sure that having experienced any one of those horrific events at some point in my life would have better prepared me for this challenge or given me a deeper understanding of how to help a child through it. But do not misunderstand me. I am not looking out of the window of my ivory tower, searching for some child lucky enough to be rescued.

What you have before you is a man who desperately wants to be a father, and if it is in anyway possible that I can help a child overcome some form a childhood trauma in the process, than I feel it is my responsibility, and, of equal importance, my privilege to do everything I can to prepare myself for whatever lies ahead. I owe this to any child I am blessed with, regardless of the length of their stay or whether or not the potential for permanency exists.

In short, I am not dispensing medical advice, parenting advice, or judgement. I hold strong feelings of frustration toward those who hurt children by way of neglect or abuse. But, I also believe that people can change and I believe in forgiveness. I believe in reunification and reconciliation. I believe in one’s ability to overcome insurmountable odds in order to achieve something greater than themselves. A parent who faces his or her own demons and seeks help for their struggles in order to reunify with their child, has done exactly that. And you have my respect; but, more importantly, you’ve regained  your own. And, God willing, you will have earned back your child.

If I lose the ability to adopt a hundred children temporarily in my care, due to reunification with a birth parent who has undergone such a transformation, I am okay with that. More than okay. Overjoyed.

Why?

Because, ultimately, I doubt that any trauma a child might experience could ever be more emotionally damaging or lasting than the feeling that they were unwanted or unloved. That they were not worth the effort. That nobody fought for them or cared enough to pay attention to them.

So, if you’re a parent who has been on the other side of Child Welfare Services and you want desperately to reunify with your child or children, I want to encourage you with everything inside of me. DO IT! Whatever it takes. Do it. You owe it to yourself and your child. Put in the work. You can do this! There are so many programs available to you. Will it be easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely. Like nothing else you could ever do.

And your child will forgive you.

Once they know you care enough to fight for them, they will forgive you.

They still love you.

Fight for yourself; Fight for them. ‘Till next time…

Continue this journey

Excerpts From “The Connected Child” with notes by Elijah Cain. -Part 1

In the orphanage, baby Donnie has the crib farthest from the nursery door. He lies in soiled diapers for hours at a time and is the last baby fed by the attendant. Left untouched and underfed, he does little but stare at the sterile walls and ceiling. The back of his head has become flattened from remaining in that position so long.” — (The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn B. Puris, David R. Cross, & Wendy Sunshine.)

For the remainder of this series, all content taken from “The Connected Child” will be italicized. Please refer to the above link to purchase, or to find more information about this book. 

“An infant lying in a crib in a sterile institution may compete with forty other babies for the attention of a scarce caregiver. During the first weeks, the institutionalized baby will cry, but when no one responds, eventually the crying stops. Orphanage nurseries tend to be eerily quiet because babies there quickly discover no one comes when they cry. For these tiny ones, their earliest communications are effectively silenced.

Instead of receiving reassuring and nurturing embraces from a mother, the institutionalized baby experiences the world as a cold and impoverished place. There is no affectionate sensory bath, there are few sounds, and whitewashed walls reduce visual stimulus. An institutionalized child misses out on a great deal, and is at great risk.”

NEGLECT

This is one of the most heartbreaking and troubling aspects of childhood trauma for me to wrap my mind around. Probably, because it’s so easy to avoid and the consequences of neglect in the early stages of childhood development can cripple a child, well into their adult life. In some cases, the lack of human contact has even lead to an infant’s life functions failing, resulting in death.

A baby who is well attended to, will spend the very first moments of life wrapped in the arms of a nurturing mother. Feeling her warmth, listening to her coos and she strokes his or her cheek. Early cries are met with comfort and feelings of security as his needs for nourishment are met. Already, the baby has learned to trust adults and begins to form attachments with them. When a baby is born premature, and spends its first few days — sometimes even weeks or months — in an incubator, Doctors have discovered that the mere act of someone reaching in and stroking the baby’s cheek a few times a day can result in the baby gaining weight twice as fast as one who does not receive this very basic human interaction.

As children grow, they form bonds with people based on the neurological pathways that are formed during these early stages of life, even before they can consciously articulate their need for affection; yet, their ability to make connections with others dictates the quality and depth of all the other relationships they will experience as they move through life.

I wish I could spend a few hours every afternoon visiting orphanages and holding babies for a few minutes a day, making eye contact with them, interacting with them, and quieting their discomforts. It would be such a small thing that could easily improve their entire developmental process. Consequently, it is for reasons such as these that the United Sates has moved away from orphanages in favor of the Foster Care System. Sadly, by the time some of these children experience their first loving interaction, it may be with a stranger, or, worse, from someone looking to victimize this child by taking advantage of this need to satisfy their own perverse desires. Some of the children in Foster Care have experienced both of these before finding a safe and nurturing environment, only to discover that they don’t trust their new family, and are unable to connect with them. Many Foster Families have become frustrated because their placement doesn’t seem to connect with them. They make minimal attempts, only to send them away in hopes of finding a new, less damaged child to love.

This is tragic on every level, when you consider how much of it can be avoided by the simple act of holding a baby close enough to hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth. To willingly deny a child this basic early need is, in many ways, the most hateful thing a person can do, short of physically hurting, starving, or otherwise abusing their infant child. But, furthermore, as a Foster parent, knowing that you have, in many cases, missed that early window for forging a bond with your child, patience and understanding are key. Almost no child is going to remember that early neglect, nor will they be able to understand or articulate their need for closeness. In most cases, they will have defenses in place to protect themselves from what has become a foreign and uncomfortable experience, and it may take months, or even years, before a child has become comfortable enough to trust you and begin to form a lasting attachment. Sadly, not all of them will be given enough time with their Foster Family to see such improvements, before being reunified with their birth parent(s) or before “blow-out” occurs in their current placement for failure to connect.

It is for this reason that I chose to borrow content from the above mentioned book, and share with you the need for understanding the various types of early trauma many of these children have been exposed to. It’s never to late to love a child or provide one with a safe place to sleep, where meals are readily available, where they can begin to learn and grow and trust again. But it will take patience and you will be stretched to the limit, time after time, for the possibility of helping a child work through their early stage neglect or childhood trauma. And, that possibility, alone, is worth the effort. That, alone, is worth the pain. That, alone, is worth the sacrifice.

This is the first of several posts dealing with childhood trauma. The content of each is unpleasant to say the absolute least. But, in trying to understand it myself, I am forced to think about these things and learn techniques to help a child work through them. As a result, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster ride where, at the highest points, I’m filled with tremendous joy, looking forward to this exciting challenge, to the lowest points, where I find my mind going to dark places, where I have a hard time not imagining police finding the bodies of some of these horrible people in shallow, unmarked graves, inside a world where abortion has been replaced with sterilization.

Just being honest.

To me, there is nothing worst than a human being who can willingly hurt a child or rob one of their innocence. And, I apologize for dragging you down this troubling path with me, but writing to you is my therapy. You are my coping mechanism. And together, I hope we can tackle these issues, one child at a time.

Until next time…

Continue this journey

 

 

 

Approaching The Finish Line

I’m at a point in this process where my sprint feels like it’s through deep quicksand — getting increasingly more excited, having completed my course requirements with the County, but entering into the eye of the storm, so to speak. That quiet pause between licensing and child placement.

By which I mean, the first month was spent in an overwhelmed panic, desperately gathering furniture and supplies for the babies room, getting the required documents together, medical requirements completed, and background finished. I’ve completed all but the final interview and home inspection now, and that, I’ve been preparing for throughout the entire process, so there’s not much left to do. My last big hurdle was that my only vehicle was a single cab pickup truck. I’ve now solved that problem with a truck swap my sister proposed. Given that she loved my truck and her’s had a back seat, it made the decision somewhat of a no-brainer. While I also loved my truck, my desires have to take a backseat (no pun intended), coming in second to the needs and safety of my eventual child.

Now, I’m finished with everything I have any real control over, and am feeling the dull and anxious pain of my own impatience as I settle into what could potentially be a long and arduous wait for placement.

So, what to do?…

Here’s what I’m doing: First and foremost, I’m reading virtually every article, blog post, and book I can find on parenting, understanding the unique challenges of raising a foster child, and preparing myself for the transition from the bachelor lifestyle, responsible only for myself, to that of a single parent solely responsible for the care of a small child. A transition I have wanted to make for years, and now, edging closer to that eventuality, excites and terrifies me.

Planning for the fatherly responsibilities of raising a child is the fun part. Dreams of taking my son fishing and working on cars together, soccer practices and field trips, are all exciting privileges to look forward to. Handling the administrative responsibilities is in my wheelhouse, so to speak, but will be a whole new set of welcomed obligations I’m going to have to adjust to very quickly. As mentioned in my earlier post, “A Few Thoughts On Foster Care”, there are foster families who have earned a bad reputation for taking in foster children as a means of supplementing their own income. Nothing could be further from my personal motives, and to avoid the temptation altogether, I plan to open a second checking account for foster care subsidies . That way, there is a personal accountability in place to document that the money provided by the state is being used, in its entirely, to take care of the costs associated with the child’s needs. That way, there will be a charge in the account and a matching receipt to substantiate that charge. Not only will this remove any temptation to use the money to buy an Xbox, it will also make an audit from the State a breeze, should they ever choose to look closer into the management of their funds.

I am also gathering a list of resources on the best ways to plan for college expenses. Another point illustrated in the above mentioned post, is the alarmingly high statistic of foster children who become high school dropouts and the contrastingly low percentage who attend, much less graduate from college. My child is not going to be one of those statistics if I have any say over it. He is going to finish high school and have the resources needed to attend college, if he so chooses…which I sincerely hope he does. If not, that money will be for his wedding or a down payment on a house. But, a portion of that subsidy will always be set aside for his future. I would do that for my biological child, and my foster child will be shown the same love.

The God’s honest truth is this: I need this child in my life as much as he needs me. My reward will be in having the privilege of becoming a dad. There is nothing that will be out of reach for this kid if it is within my power to provide it, or, otherwise, empower him to achieve it.

As a final note, I refer to this child throughout many of my posts as “my foster child.” Understand that it is my goal to make this child my forever child. Never once will he be referred to as “my foster child” when speaking of him to another person or when speaking to him directly. This is a term I’m using for clarification in these posts only. He is a kid, nothing more; nothing less. And, God willing, he will be my kid. No different than if I had been a part of the process that brought him into this world. And, while I may not have enjoyed that part of the process, I will most definitely be a part of the process that ensures he is successful in it, free of labels and the stigmas associated with having begun his life in a government run social program though no fault of his own.

Continue this journey

Support System

In my first post entitled, The Day I Decided To Become A Foster Parent,” I made the statement that I would be doing this alone. For clarification’s sake, by “alone” I mean, as a single parent. That is not to say, “without help.” I would like to take a moment to draw attention to the tremendous support system I have in place, assisting me in and through this process. A support system, I should add, who will be very much a part of the life of my son, well after the completion of the licensing and placement process.

My support system began with the tremendous example I was given in my parents, and primarily my mother, Cathy, who is, for me, the very definition of self-sacrifice and love. Let me tell you a little about my mother. As a very young woman, she chose to give birth to me knowing how difficult her life would become as a single mother, going against the advice of friends and family to get an abortion. My father, also young at the time, was in no position to raise a child, either financially or through example by which a young boy should live.  He split, and my mother chose not to pursue child support, so as not to share custody. A decision which, for personal reasons to him, was the best decision for me at the time, not necessarily for her.

She moved to California, away from friends and relatives, where she chopped kindling to start our wood burning stove and walked considerable distances through the snow to get me to where she babysat for the extra money to provide me with the things I needed. To this day, I can remember my mother working long hours to make certain that I woke up Christmas morning to presents under the tree. On birthdays, she spent hours designing a cake that represented whatever interests I held at that age. A practice that continued years later, for each one of my brothers and sisters. She let me be a boy, even doing things that scared her as a mother, knowing that I needed those challenges in order to one day become a dependable man. To this day, I cannot recall a single day where I was cold or hungry, or missing out on a single class trip because it was too expensive to send me. I was always well dressed — albeit, much of the time from second hand stores — and clean. I never went to bed hungry or celebrated a birthday where I wasn’t surrounded by her love and by friends we had made along the way. Today, she is attending foster classes with me and buying bedding for my kids crib. Saving pictures of nursery ideas to Pinterest to show me later, and making sure I have everything I need to care for a baby.

She is Grandma, through and through.

When she finally married my step father, Scott, I was seven years old. I have had a loving father in my life since that day. He is the owner of a tree service, and has taught each of us the value of education and instilled a work ethic in me and my siblings that has been a bedrock foundation of our adulthood. He has always been faithful to my mother and provided for our family. He is, and forever will be, my dad.

Soon after the addition of my father, came my brother James. A kid I teased mercilessly as a big brother with eight years between us and little else. He has always been my little buddy and someone I can barely remember a time in my life without. I could spend a whole lifetime trying to recall all the laughs we’ve shared together over the years. He is now 28 years old and a foreman for an oil pipe-lining company in Colorado. James is someone I can count on and someone I miss on a daily basis. He is the only one of us to have ventured out of the state (or our home community for that matter) and build a successful life. He is with a wonderful girl, who we look forward to seeing every time James comes home to visit.

Two years later, came my brother Stephen. I still remember his quiet, yet devious personality. Something he has carried into adult hood, and is a quality so unique to him that he seems almost larger than life at times. He is now married to a beautiful woman and they recently gave birth to their first child, a little boy named Thomas, who has become our family’s pride and joy. Last year he started his own landscaping business and is the first of us to own his own tractor (which I still haven’t gotten to drive). He is busier than he could have imagined, and with his work ethic and integrity, I imagine that is unlikely to change.

Two years after that, came my sister Ashley. She was the most beautiful baby girl and has grown into a beautiful woman, inside and out. From the first time I held her, I have been in constant awe of her. I wish everyone reading this could have the privilege of knowing her, because she has a personality that is magnetic and a laugh that is infectious. She manages responsibilities with grace and poise, always quick to wrap her arms around anyone having a bad day, and let them know how special they are. She now manages a retreat center and is attending College part time, yet still manages to find the time to go through the foster care licensing process alongside me, so she can help care for my child while I’m at work.

And, last but certainly not least, two years after that, came my equally beautiful sister, Caitlyn. I honestly lack the words to express how much that girl has meant to me. Her energy brightens up even the darkest room, and nothing is quite as memorable if she isn’t a part of it. Being the baby of the family, she was blessed with four dads and two moms. A default that I’ve been slow to transition out of, even as she, herself, reached adulthood. I remember holding her as an infant, feeding her from a bottle, and it honestly feels like yesterday. She turns the heads of men everywhere she goes, and that is a constant annoyance to her overly protective big brothers. She now works at a prestigious vineyard, and graduated from cosmetology at the top of her class. She is one of the most genuine and sincere people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

The four of them made growing up such a rich experience and I hope that I have lived my life in a manner they can respect and emulate. They are so much better than me in so many ways, and I don’t deserve even one of them, much less all four. As adults, they are four of my best friends. I love the people they have become and could not be prouder of any one of them.

The loving parents who raised the five of us are going to be the grandparents of my child, and neither he nor I could be more fortunate. My brothers and sisters, his Uncles and Aunts.

In addition to my wonderful family, I have some amazing friends, all of whom have both encouraged and supported this decision, and have offered to help in any way I need. A couple of my best friends, Daniel and Ryan, are also doing foster care with their absolutely amazing wives and natural children. I will be leaning heavily on their experience. My good friend and boss, Patrick, took time away from his busy schedule to help me rebuild a flight of rotting stairs so my child could be safely moved up and down them without risk of injury to him or anyone carrying him. I have so many irreplaceable friendships that would never consider a request for help an inconvenience; or my kid, anything other than a tiny extension of me. He will be surrounded by family no matter who is around him.

I would like to end this segment by saying that, at 19 years of age, I finally met my biological father. He told me that missing out on my life was his single biggest regret, and through mutually shared tears, he and I began to get to know each other. We now speak reasonably often and share a love for the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders. We have grown to love and appreciate each other and we now have a great relationship. He has a wife named Peggy, and has introduced me to another brother, Andrew, and two more sisters, Crystal and Kelly. Andrew is a great guy, and I’ve recently been fortunate enough to spend some time getting to know him. Crystal is teaching English in China, and Kelly is the mother of three beautiful children. I very much hope to meet my nephew and nieces someday soon.

As a final mention, I am becoming fast friends with my Social Worker, Emily. She has truly been a Godsend from the beginning, and I look forward to getting to know her closely as we work together to make this whole thing happen. In fact, everyone I’ve met with Social Services and CWS have been incredibly helpful and supportive, and I can’t say enough about the people who have chosen to be a part of the process of matching children in need to loving families. Much of their job can be difficult but is absolutely crucial for the safety of so many children who experience abuse or neglect. My hat is off to you.

Overall, I am blessed beyond measure and — thanks to this amazing support system — I am in a great position to raise a child. He will be surrounded by friends and family, all anxious to be a part of his life and watch him grow up. So, when I said I would be doing this alone, I did not mean, by myself. This kid will never be out of the view of people who love and care about him, all rooting for his success and adoption into the world’s greatest family.

Continue this journey

Preparations

This is the exciting part, as anyone counting down the days until a baby’s due date can attest. The thrill of eliminating clutter and barely used gym equipment doubling as clothing racks, to make space for a new family member. Deciding on a decorating theme, shopping in previously unexplored isles of your neighborhood department stores, the list goes on and on.

After much internal debate, I’ve decided on an aviation theme for two reasons: The first being that it is very easy to find boyish decor when searching for aviation related bedding and adornments; the second, because his prospective father is a pilot, however distant and unaffordable that hobby has become. Revisiting old maps once used to navigate the open skies above the mountainous terrain of my rural hometown, now pieced together to form the majority of Northern and Central California, proudly displayed above a cherry-stained crib. That, and two hand-made wooden airplanes, a Corsair and a Cessna 310, mark the beginning of a slow and methodical transition into baby boy land.

Across from the crib where a power-rack once stood, lies a toddler bed made up in navy blue linens, a matching diaper changing station next to that. In the opposite corner, two matching dressers filled with onesies from newborn to 18 months. There is no guarantee this baby will be an infant, so I need to be prepared for anything up to three years of age. My collection of clothing and diapers reflect that readiness.

In my bedroom, there is a co-sleeper filled with newborn clothing, toys, and accessories. The living-room holds an assembled Pack-N-Play, and an Eddie Bauer (the pride of the collection) high-chair stands in the dinning room in the place where my mini-bar once lived. My 16 year old Lagavulin and 12 year old Glenlivet now occupy the vacant space of my range-top cabinet in lonely solitude, symbolizing the changing of a single man’s bachelor pad into an even cooler, age appropriate bachelor pad for two.

From the licensing side, I’ve attended 3 out of the 4 required classes and completed the first of 3 interviews. I am expecting to be licensed by early to mid November, and waiting for placement with the possibility of having a child by Christmas. It is a long-shot and a time frame my Social Worker has cautioned me from hoping for too strongly. And then there’s the other possibility, and the most sobering reality I am forced to come to grips with: I can meet all the requirements, have the perfect child placed in my care, love him as my own flesh and blood, and end up having him reunified with his birth parent(s), never to see him again. The idea of this has caused more than one restless night’s sleep.

Here’s the reality: Fulfilling the dream of holding a baby of your own, only to be pried from your grasp through the process of reunification, is a very real possibility. One that I sincerely hope I never have to experience, but am fully prepared for. If the only solace I can take from this is the knowledge that during the time he was in my care, he was fed, cared for, and loved, than I can live with the hole his departure will most certainly leave. Ultimately, there is nothing more grounding for a child than the knowledge, for him, that his parent(s), imperfect though they were, chose to fight for him; The knowledge, for me, that he won’t have to go through life believing he didn’t matter to the people who should have loved him the most. The knowledge of those two facts make this reality bearable and the emotional risk acceptable.

But there will be many tears shed. That is my job as his foster parent. His job is to enjoy care-free bowel movements, make messes with his spaghetti, and ensure that no member of his household gets more than two or three consecutive hours of sleep.

It should never be the concern of a child, whether or not he or she goes to bed hungry or struggle to stay awake because his parents fought all night in the next room. It should never be the concern of a child that they look presentable in public or that their health is being properly monitored and attended to. It should never be the concern of a child, whether or not they have a clean, warm place to sleep or whether that place will be with people he knows, or with complete strangers to him. It is the right of every child to be a kid, free of those concerns. Free to jump in puddles and color outside the lines, without the fear of abuse.

If those conditions are met, than I will be grateful for my time with him and excited for all the possibilities his future holds.

Until next time…

Continue this journey

A Few Thoughts On Foster Care: The need, The Children, and The System.

I feel I should level with you. I think dishonesty comes easily for most people, and not because they are liars, either. It’s because most people generalize their feelings as they relate to their actions and, therefore, fail to honestly evaluate the cause behind the effect. My truth is this: When I started this process, I did so as a last resort to satisfy my deep need to be a father. I did so because I wasn’t going to let my failed past relationships decide whether or not I would experience fatherhood. I did so, in short, out of selfish ambition. And, unlike other aspects of my life where I have proactively made choices with a predetermined outcome in mind, I have little to no control over the outcome of this process. The only thing I control is the ability to put myself in a position where I can legally obtain a child from the State and adequately care for the child in a safe and loving environment.

And maybe that’s enough.

Social Service (CWS or Child Welfare Services), foster families, and foster children get a bad rap, each for different reasons. My limited experience with Social Services has dispelled many of the unfounded concerns I had going into this process. My Social Worker has been both easy to work with and encouraging, and has been from my very first inquiry. Gaining a better understanding of the circumstances required to be met in order to remove a child from a home and the requirements for placement into a new home, went a long way in helping me recognize the need for CWS (F.K.A. CPS or Child Protective Services), as well as the difficult legal landscape they traverse on a daily basis.

Foster families are probably deserving of some criticism, but it is unfair to evenly distribute that criticism. There are families who take in children and love them as their own, and others who do it for the money. Of the latter, the children are not always cared for in a loving manner or made to feel apart of a family. Without passing judgement, I would hope that this is the extreme exception, but I’d doubt that is the case, unfortunately. I will say that as long as those children are in a safe home, fed and cared for, that is still likely an improvement over the situation they were removed from, but it’s far from ideal.

The foster children are too often stigmatized unfairly as troubled youth. I have heard every precaution from “They can be dangerous” to “They’re often difficult to reason with and manage”, and there are probably a lot who are. But before you rush to judgment, let’s look at a few statistics. According to a census taken in 2010 (I will look for more recent stats and update these numbers accordingly), there are 402,378 children who are currently in the foster care system and, of those children, 101,840 of them are up for adoption. I believe that number is now closer to 114,000.

53% have a case goal of reunification with their birth parent(s). 52% male/53% female. That means 1 in 184 children in the US are in foster care for an average length of 20 months. The average wait time for adoption is 34 months.

The median age of children in foster care is 8.2 years of age. 25% of children entering the foster care system are infants. 30,000 kids will “age out” of the system without being adopted.

The age in which the majority of kids enter the foster care system is 2 years old.

20% of children in foster care wait 5 years to be adopted.

184,000 households in the US are home to at least 1 foster child.

A male in the foster care System is 4x more likely to commit a crime or become incarcerated.

A Female in the foster care System is 10x more likely to commit a crime or become incarcerated.

Children in foster care are 5x as likely to develop some level of PTSD.

In 2012, only 48% of the adults leaving foster care were employed.

Former foster youth are 7x as likely to develop a dependency on drugs and 2x as likely to develop a dependency on alcohol.

Only 25% of foster youth graduate from college. As opposed to 41% of the general population.

Of men, 33% of former foster youth depend on Government services for their basic living needs.

Of women, 75% of former foster youth depend on Government services for their basic living needs.

1 in 3 Americans talk about adopting. Only 2% actually adopt.

Below are the reasons why I believe these children often act out against a foster family.

18.8% have suffered from some sort of physical abuse.

7.99% have suffered from some sort of emotional abuse.

6.2% have suffered from some sort of sexual abuse.

3.2% were taken into the system due to caretaker inability.

63.9% for varying other reasons.

Doesn’t it make sense that if you abuse a child, starve and/or force them to cope with substandard living conditions, or neglect a child, the likelihood that that child will have difficulty making connections with people would be fairly high? That they might struggle with grades, experience adverse health conditions, and ultimately become dependent on the system or end up incarcerated? I guess what I’m saying is that maybe we need to cut these children a little slack and be apart of the solution.

This isn’t a guilt trip, but you can certainly see why my focus is slowly beginning to shift from satisfying my need to be a dad, to desperately wanting to reach out and protect a child from becoming one of these statistics.

Here’s a little more honesty: I used to see guys with their pants hanging off their ass, hat backwards, wearing a tank-top, and judge them harshly on their appearance. And on that note, it may be wrong to judge anyone on their appearance alone, but appearances do give people an initial impression. In truth, I was more frustrated by the fact that they had a child and I did not. But, since this is my blog and there’s no one to stop me, I’m still going to say this: If you want to be treated like an adult, dress like one. Unless you’re a 16 year old skateboarder, you should probably lose the sticker on your flat-billed hat.

And then lose the flat-billed hat.

Pull your pants up. You’re a grown man, and it might be time to tell your wardrobe. The world needs more men who can behave as men so the next generation can be kids without having to worry about ending up in foster care themselves. The world does not need another 35 year old man-child who dresses like a poorly funded Justin Bieber clone. But I do owe this demographic an apology. I have more recently come to appreciate the fact that, while you may not always “look” the part, at least you are with your kid, being a dad. So, I apologize for judging you on your appearance and not acknowledging sooner that you are taking your responsibility to your family seriously. I’m learning a lot about those who don’t and the damage that can cause a child, so my hat is off to you. Wear whatever you’d like.

Just remember that you have little eyes watching everything you do, looking for an example to follow.

Be an example worth following.

And if those statistics above bother you, let’s work together to help change them.

One final statistic: If just 1 family from 1 out of every 3 churches in America adopted, there would be no more orphans in the US. If there’s room in your home and in your heart, you are very needed. But this is not intended to put guilt on anyone or even an attempt to recruit foster parents. These are just some of the things this journey has taught me, and I’m sharing them with you as they have been part of my learning process.

My future posts will be far less about this issue and more specific to my own experience. Not driven by statistics. I promise.

‘Til next time…

Continue this journey