By Briana Jenczyk
Resilience can be defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Resilience is a word that is often used to describe children in foster care. Children in care are tough, and sometimes they come across as “hard to love” either through their behavior or the way they connect with the people around them. We know they have the ability to adapt to new living arrangements, new rules, and being separated from the people they knew and loved, but it isn’t easy. Children in the system are also some of the most vulnerable in our world. They often take time to open up and show how they really feel: scared, hurt and abandoned. While the children are incredibly resilient, it takes time to break down the walls they were forced to build in order to connect with them and for them to feel safe.
The importance of connection and love is best seen before the cross when Jesus looked Peter in the eye. What Peter saw in Jesus was not condemnation or hatred for his denial of who our Lord is. What Jesus’ gaze said was, “I know what you’ve done and I still love you. I’ve got this. I’ll see you in three days.” It’s not uncommon for children to come into care and have behavior issues as they try to cope with the reality that they’re in a new home and their parent(s) aren’t around every day. But during this vulnerable time, it’s extremely important that foster parents extend the same kind of love we see Jesus give to Peter, despite negative behavior or broken rules. Our children need more than anything to feel seen, loved and protected.
Navigating the foster care world is challenging. Relationships can feel one-sided, and relationship building can take time. In my experience as a case manager, the beginning of trust and a beautiful relationship is often seen in the little things. It’s when the child comes to foster mom for a tissue to clean cake off a messy face when there is a pile of napkins in view on the table during a difficult visit with the birth family. It’s when the child pretends not to care but looks back at foster mom to make sure she’s paying attention to the new toys and games. It’s in “tickle fights” with foster dad instead of pretending to be “tough” all the time.
We know that not everyone is called to be a foster parent, but everyone can be involved with foster children and the people caring for them. This can be as simple as providing a meal or babysitting. These kids may seem tough on the outside, but if you’re able to spend any amount of time with them, you’ll find the most beautiful souls just looking for a place to belong. We see beauty rise from the ashes and lives changed when we commit to love through the messy and broken. Kids in the foster care system don’t come from easy places, but they are strong and resilient. Healing for our kids comes when we believe it’s possible, do our part and do it together.