In the past six months, we’ve added 13 kids to our family-style homes! Thus far, that is our biggest influx of kids in that amount of time. With more kids come more heartrending stories.
All of our kids come with scars. They all come with emotional scarring, and some also bear the scars and burns of physical abuse. All of our kids have suffered from neglect, whether from parents not caring for them or abandoning them, or previous foster parents who barely took care of them. They’ve all known what it means to be either uncared for or unwanted.
We have one little one that was dropped off at a neighbor’s house while the mom went to run errands. Mom never came back.
We have a family of kids that wandered the streets with their mom. Their two older siblings vanished and no one knows where they are.
At least two of our kids’ biological mothers live as prostitutes. These kids tell the most horrible stories – kids being taught to steal as preschoolers, kids being left alone for days with no food, kids being abused by the mother’s customers, and kids watching their older sisters be sold, knowing their turn would come.
When we drive these kids home to live with us, they are normally traumatized and malnourished and full of intestinal parasites and lice. They do a lot of sitting and staring the first few weeks, but slowly, slowly, they start to blossom. As they get healthier physically and realize that they are in a safe and loving place, they start to come alive and be children again.
As horrible as their stories are, and as much as they’re still imprinted in our kids, those stories don’t define our kids anymore. Visitors come and ask us, “So, which ones are the orphans?” Why can’t they tell? Because our kids aren’t orphans anymore. They are part of a loving family now, with lots of brothers and sisters and cousins, some biological, some not.
The secret to helping kids get healthy again is by putting them in real families, who love them and treat them like their own. They need to attach to their caregivers and know that those same people will be there for them day in and day out. I cannot even express my joy at seeing one of our house-moms get all “mama-bear” about defending one of her kids, or one of our house-dads showing tender affection to one of his kids. Our kids are not orphaned or abandoned anymore. We are changing their stories.
We keep seeing a new movement that says, “Send all the kids home to their families! Children's homes are bad!” Our response: Don’t put everyone in the same basket. Each country, each children’s home, and each family and individual child has their own story.
Listen to our stories.