An Unprecedented Response

As we’ve heard over and over again – these are unprecedented times.

We’re figuring complex things out in real-time. We’re adjusting our schedules, our jobs, our entire lives. 

Right now, kids are home and inside for more hours than they’ve ever been before. Schools that used to take care of so many needs for kids (not just education) are no longer meeting in-person, but through e-learning. Churches that open their doors once or several times a week are now going online for their services and meetings. Small businesses are struggling and trying to stay a-float. Essential workers are working extra. Non-essential workers are hoping they can stay employed. 

I could go on and on, but there’s no need to do so. You’ve probably spent more time reading and watching the news over the last few weeks than ever before.

This is all understandable. These are the precautions we’ve needed to take as a world-wide community to ensure that we “flatten the curve” saving as many lives as possible, and I’m grateful for a safe home and family to shelter-in-place with.

But I know this simply isn’t true for so many.

Families who were most vulnerable before this virus, are now, even more so. Jobs are being lost. Mental health issues are resurfacing or becoming more acute. Support from family and friends is now only offered at a distance for the sake of everyone’s physical health.

And because of this, it is unfortunate but easy to assume, many children are being mistreated at home to the point of neglect or abuse.

At some point, those situations will come to the surface. When we’re back in our regular routines, schools are back in session, parks and libraries are open, and events in our cities begin again, we will start to see the fallout from this time of isolation. Reports will come in of suspected abuse or neglect, and the child welfare system that tends to be burdened on its best days will almost inevitably become completely overwhelmed.

Much like the healthcare system will continue to be overwhelmed if we don’t stay home, the child welfare system will soon be flooded with far too many cases because we’ve stayed home.

Too much abuse. Too much neglect. Too many kids being removed for their own safety. Not enough staff. Not enough beds. Not enough families.

Sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, but I promise, I’m getting to the hope and beauty that I normally like to dish out.

Sometimes, beauty just comes from the ashes.

In the middle of the most difficult season many of us have ever lived through, our empty buildings and streets show that we are deeply connected.

We are working together to protect our most vulnerable by staying home right now. We can continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable by showing up later.

When these children begin to emerge from their homes and have deep needs that go beyond what the system can normally handle, we can show up. We can expand the state’s foster care capacity. We can offer another safe home, another safe family. 

Let me be clear: I don’t think it’s always wise to make big decisions in the middle of the collective crisis that we’re experiencing as a world.

For many of us, making it to the end of the day is the best we can do right now. We’re trying to care for our kids full-time while working from home and somehow, also crisis-schooling. We’re figuring out how we’re going to pay the bills. We’re missing our friends and family. We’re worried and overwhelmed.

If that’s you, this isn’t a plea for you to overextend yourself or to be guilted into anything. The last thing children in foster care need is someone who jumps in as a foster parent without fully assessing the costs.

And there are definite costs. Foster care is complicated, and it’s not for everyone or for every season of life.

But for some of us who have suddenly found more space to process our lives, those of us who have experienced more quiet than we’re used to and begun listening to ourselves a little more closely than before, it’s possible that this time is somehow, unexpectedly, providing clarity.

We can feel things shifting in our hearts. We’re gaining new perspectives about what we want to hold onto and what we want to let go of. When it’s finally time to return back to normal, we want “normal” to look a little (or a lot) different.

Perhaps what’s emerging inside of you is a desire to support families and children in the foster care community. I encourage you to do it. Even when we’re far apart. Even from your home. Even when it’s hard. I’d be so happy to provide you with some ideas about how to get started. 

Right now, there are foster and adoptive families in your community with kids who’ve already experienced trauma. Now, they aren’t getting their regular visits with their parents due to the virus, and they aren’t seeing their therapists in-person. They are trying to adjust to this new way of life, but they have so many factors that make it even more difficult. Your support would mean so much to them.

Perhaps for some of you, you’ve considered this before. In fact, you’ve told yourself that in another stage of life or when things slow down you’ll start the licensing process to become a foster parent. You’ll get the information. You’ll sign up for the classes. You’ll reach out to an agency.

If that’s you, and you have the mental and emotional space to do it, I encourage you to do that today. While you’re safe at home, I encourage you to make a phone call. Request some information. Ask some questions. You don’t have to make any decisions. You don’t have to say yes or no right now. But you could learn a little more. You could take the classes online while you’re home and waiting for this whole thing to end. I’d love to help you get started.

It is absolutely true – these are unprecedented times. And that means, we need an unprecedented response. A response that’s never been seen before. A response of immense compassion and intention. A response that cares for those who are vulnerable right now and cares for those who will still be vulnerable when we return to normal. 

We’re doing it, and we can continue to do it. Together.

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