By Briana Jenczyk
One of the wonderful things I get to experience as a social worker in the foster care system is seeing the growth and progress our children make in their foster homes. Each month I receive “daily notes” from the foster parents, which reflect the day-to-day activities of the foster family. Through these, I am able to see the way our children grow and really come into their own.
We have a brother and sister, ages 3 and 1, who came into care over a month ago. When they first came in, their transition was difficult. The 3-year-old was terrified because he had been uprooted from the only life he knew and was left with total strangers. The DCS worker who brought him into care had become the only person he knew, so it was very difficult for him when she had to leave. His foster mom stated that on his first night, he displayed several concerning behaviors. He did things like: “hitting the dogs, spitting on them, pulling their tails…” and “he kept trying to go out the doors.” Over the next few weeks, those behaviors continued in one way or another.
During that time, we were able to learn some of the background information that explains several things about the children. We learned that the birth mother is currently incarcerated. At the time they came into care, she was awaiting sentencing. The birth mom has a long history of substance use and addiction. She typically left the children with their grandmother or other people while she was using drugs. Because of this, the children have had a chaotic start to life. There has never been a routine or consistency. From what we were able to learn, the children had also been verbally abused by the adults in their lives. All of these things are completely out of the children’s control, but it still greatly impacts their growth and development.
As time has gone on, the children and their foster parents have adjusted. Now, that’s not to say that everything is perfect, but it is to say that the foster parents and children are becoming a family. The foster parents have grown to love the children in their home and treat them like they would their own. The children are safe and cared for. They know they will be going to their foster parents at the end of the day. The children know they are safe and that they will not be abused where they are.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, about five weeks into this placement, the 3-year-old’s foster mom wrote, “He gets scared, but then, he’s also very proud when he does something well. My family was commenting on what a positive outlook he has and it’s so true. He gets excited by almost anything and he’s quick to say sorry and has been very proud of his good manners that he’s learned. It’s been awesome for him and us to spend this time with family.”
His almost 2-year-old sister comes with her own challenges, but she had more of a “go with the flow” personality when transitioning into her foster home. One of the biggest struggles both children have is the ability to communicate. They are both behind in their speech. Foster mom writes about sister, “She is chatting more than ever. She is talking so much more that it’s starting to decrease crying and fits because she can communicate more effectively.”
These children have a long road ahead, but what brings so much comfort is knowing they could not be with a better family for this part of their journey. The day-to-day is difficult. It’s not easy to see the changes when you’re in the thick of it, but that is something I get to see as an “outsider” to the daily lives of these children. I love so many things about being a social worker in foster care, and more specifically working at AGAPE, but one of the very best things is being a small part of the foster families’ journeys. Each one is unique, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that the AGAPE foster parents live out the calling in James 1:27. They are able to serve the “least of these” by opening their homes and their hearts to these children. As a case manager, I cannot help but see the hand of God working through the lives of the foster families and the lives of the children that come into our homes. It is definitely not easy, but lives are changed through the foster families at AGAPE.
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