Your words have lifted me up in this tumultuous season, I can’t thank you enough for really caring so much that you would take the time to pray and to write thoughtful, God inspired words.
Through tears I have read every single one, sometimes multiple times, and they have encouraged and inspired both of us.
This is going to be a long and heartfelt post and in it I am going to share some things that may shock you. I hope you read it to the end.
Since the beginning of the year, we have been under attack. Both figuratively and literally. As in, actual people cursing at us and wanting to throw it down in the driveway. We have experienced gut wrenching betrayals by children and families that we have loved and invested in for years and years, and been utterly shocked and disappointed in the legal system and organizations that are supposed to have children’s best interests at heart and fail miserably.
We experienced a “whole new level of crazy” when someone who had given us a furniture donation became infuriated that we gifted it to a pregnant teen. We were surprised that this person missed the entire point of our foundation but, clearly, it was missed. One parent, who literally abandoned her children by walking out of their lives, moving across the country, hooking up with someone a felon and starting another family, somehow ended up standing in our yard accusing us of stealing other people’s children.
A DCF investigator inappropriately named us by name, which is a TOTAL breach of trust by the way, in an ongoing investigation (we were not directly involved, we were simply references for one of the parents) which then caused us to be viciously attacked by the parent who ended up in our driveway screaming vulgarities at us and upsetting the child and everyone in the home. This same investigator then told us that she knew more about the situation than we did even though we’ve been involved for 9 years and she has spoken with them 4 times.
It’s like we are unwilling participants on the Jerry Springer show.
And we are VOLUNTEERS. As in, we don’t get paid. We don’t get support from the government because we are considered “non relative caregivers”. This is done on our own dime and we could not do it without contributions from all of you. We do this because we love people and children and want to see them safe and successful.
In the meantime, we are trying to keep a roof over our heads with one income all the while raising a bunch of children. I’m not sure if you are a parent, but I’m sure you know that to raise children successfully includes spending time with them, playing with them, nurturing them, listening to their non stop stories, watching them flip water bottles repeatedly, observe them proudly “fidget spin” until you want to throw those gadgets in the bushes and run away, teaching them to ride their bikes, swim, tie their shoes, use their words, making them go outside for exercise, making sure they brush, wash, and aren’t wearing the same dirty clothes for days, and praying over them while tucking them in at night. You also have to feed them all the time, pick up after them, drive them everywhere, do their laundry, wash their dishes, and make sure they are safe.
We have, in the 16+ years of fostering, focused our efforts SOLELY on purpose of reunification. We have supported entire families and men and women in prison because we sincerely believed that the parents, given the opportunity to improve their lives and do the right thing, would want to do that for the sake of their children.
And we were wrong. WRONG.
Do we want to believe that all of these dysfunctional parents will wake up one day and find God and find their way? Of course we do!
After a decade working with the same family and waiting, praying, supporting, giving, and investing, we have yet to see any improvement. Do we want to believe that all of these parents will wake up one day and find God and be reunified with their kids? Of COURSE we do! We pray for it, we encourage it, we talk about it, we take them to church, we take them to rehab, we take them to counseling, we take them under our wing, we buy them phones, we pay for first, last, and security, we pay their utility bills, we get them jobs, we provide every opportunity and yet things stay the same. And… we are done.
We have spent so much of our lives enabling parents and families who have had every opportunity afforded them, and they choose not to change. It is the same ole’ same ole’ except at a new address. An address that we probably lined up, paid a deposit on, painted, and furnished for them that will be filthy, infested, or abandoned shortly thereafter because of their lifestyle, and because they had little regard for our efforts.
Would you like to know why I believe they don’t change? It’s not like they are bad people because they aren’t. They are children of God and people of worth. Many of them have good hearts that mean no harm.
So, why???? Why do they choose to live like this?
Why do they reach their hand out for our help and use the same hand to stab us in the back the first chance they get? Because… they are damaged. You see, their parents were damaged by their parents who were damaged by their parents and now they are damaging their children. It is a generational cycle and it needs to stop.
Which is why we are quitting.
We are quitting the parents and the outreach to families for the purpose of reunification. The fact is, we don’t want reunification into dysfunctional families. We don’t want anymore damaged kids. We want to break the cycle.
Here are the facts: Virtually everything a child learns about what is right, wrong, pleasing, helpful, expected, and safe, PLUS their future health, growth, future achievement in school, basic coping skills, emotional well being, attachment to family and involvement in community happens in the FIRST FIVE YEARS OF LIFE. In a nutshell, the first five years of life determine whether these children are going to be stable, successful, human beings.
It is everything! It is a tiny brain developing and absorbing everything it comes in contact with.
This is when the HARD WIRING of their brains and personalities are developing and this is statistically when most of the abuse occurs. Did you read that?? MOST ABUSE HAPPENS in the FIRST FIVE YEARS. .
The imprint will be indelible. A child born into a world of chaos, to an addict, an alcoholic, an uninvolved or abusive parent, a young teen with no support or experience, or someone with a mental illness, has now become a victim.
These are statistics, they aren’t opinions.
These tiny, innocent babies learn that a life filled with drama and chaos and strangers and yelling and lying and police and filth and hunger and stealing is how you survive.
THIS IS THEIR “NORMAL”…
We have fostered toddlers that sneak into the cupboards and forage for food and open the refrigerator and eat entire packages of hot dogs in the middle of the night because that is what they know. When they are hungry, they had to go and find food and eat as much of it as they could because they didn’t know if it would run out.
We have had children who had to bathe in stores or with a neighbors hose because their water was turned off for four months. Children who have lived with a rotating door of strangers, abused by their mothers boyfriend who masturbated next to them while she was in the other room, children who only know how to grunt because nobody taught them words, or songs, or colors, or animal sounds. Nobody was reading them “Goodnight Moon” or “Dr. Suess”. They fell asleep on the couch or on the floor, filthy and unfed. These kids grow up with no keepsakes from their childhood. No photo albums or baby books or blankies. No special toys. No “First Tooth” proudly displayed in the cabinet.
We have fostered children who lived with such a bad roach infestation in their home that a roach had lived in this child’s ear. It was there for weeks until one day, in the shower, it crawled out.
They hold loosely to everything and have learned not to mourn over “things” because when you move from place to place you lose track of stuff. You only take the clothes on your back and what you can stuff in a car because you’re sneaking out to avoid the landlord. Sometimes angry boyfriends will sell all their possessions or destroy them in a rage. Sometimes their Christmas toys get repossessed because Mom stopped making payments to the Rent To Own place.
They know that their clean urine can be sold to people trying to pass a drug screen and wake up often to complete strangers sleeping in their house or passed out on the couch. It is a completely different world that these innocent little children have to navigate, and it’s costing them their innocence. It is also creating something in them that makes a peaceful environment disturbing to them. Uncomfortable. Unsettling.
It makes them crave drama.
In a peaceful environment, they will often create turmoil and stir up some chaos because it’s been imprinted on their brains and it is familiar to them.
They are bored without it. Can you imagine?
Stuff that makes our hearts pound and gives us upset stomachs and we avoid it at all costs is the stuff they thrive on. It gives them an adrenalin rush. It’s entertainment. They pull up a chair and get some popcorn because this is the show they watched growing up. This is what creates those “crowds of teens who stand around watching and cheering” when someone is getting beaten up. Oh sure, they know right and wrong, yes they know the law, yes they know all the rules that they don’t think apply to them. But this kid… this young adult has a need for drama, a quest for excitement, and the insatiable desire for attention. Because they are a part of the cycle. And most never grow out of it.
They have grown up watching their parents lie to the police, the child protective services, their boss, the landlord, the power company, the car salesman, their significant other, lie after lie after lie and we sit back and wonder how they became such liars. We watch TV shows like “Cops” where the people arrested with cocaine in their pants pocket and on their nose trying to tell police that it’s sugar from a donut. Even when faced with the evidence of the test kit that proved it was cocaine wiped DIRECTLY from the snout of the man in handcuffs, he continued to insist that is was sugar! We laugh at the audacity, and the incredibility factor, but the fact is that this is tragic. And it makes me angry. It also makes me face the ugly fact that we can no longer advocate for reunification with parents who won’t step out of the cycle. This generational pattern makes it incredibly difficult, and dare I say virtually impossible, for these people to be good parents.
There are plenty of opportunities out there if they truly wanted to change their life, but they will no longer be offered by our foundation. They will no longer take advantage of us, we will no longer enable them or excuse behaviors that jeopardize the development of the children.
We know that this will seem harsh to some, and being steadfast in this will be one of the hardest things that we personally ever do because we are both givers and exceptionally forgiving, but it is necessary.
To keep peace in our house and protect these kids from the drama, we have to say, no more. No more drama.
For those of you who might criticize us, until you can come alongside us and see firsthand and know what we know from being up close and personal, then please don’t offer an opinion unless it is supportive. We don’t want to lose your support, we need you! We need praying people and positive people and people who are willing to stand beside us and in front of legislators and child protective service workers and say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”! People that will tell their stories and help us break the cycle.
We believe that God has led us on this journey so that we can make a significant impact in the protection of children in our community.
Bruce and you have gone way above and beyond helping disadvantaged children only to have ungrateful parents break your hearts. Anyone that criticizes your decision should try walking in your shoes for a while
Wow. Thank you for what you do for the children. Thank you for opening your hearts to them, and for giving me a glimpse of what you’ve experienced through your efforts. I continue to have you, Bruce, and the children in my prayers.
As someone who cannot deal with drama, I get it. May God give you the strength to go on with his work and help the children help themselves. It has been my experience that people do not appreciate what is given to them. They begin to feel entitled. So when you can guide someone to doing things for themselves it is really helpful and ultimately appreciated. Like an excellent teacher or mentor.
God is not done with you….the “Little Red Wagon” proves it.! And I believe in your strength and faith God will see you through this trial and stand by you till your wings will soar again! I love you and Bruce. Ace and Debbie.
Your article sounds like it could have been written by me! We are an organization that has tried to help rehabilitate the mothers of these children. We opened our doors in June of 2011. We too have been targeted by the forces of evil. A few of the mothers have had enough desire to change and do the work that it takes to save another generation from dysfunction and poverty, but the majority don’t have enough desire to do the work it takes to go to counseling, take parenting advice, and get the grades in school to achieve a career that will enable them to live a better life and break the chain, even though we provide a beautiful 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment and utilities for free and furnish all the necessities for living and help them get in school! It breaks our hearts to see these women throw away this once in a lifetime opportunity and take these precious children back into the lifestyle they came from. We are The New Beginnings of Southwest Florida, Corp. Find us on our website: thenewbeginnings.org and on facebook. I love what you are doing for these precious children and I will pray for you. When I was discouraged (one of the times) God gave me 2 Corinthians chapter 4. May it encourage your heart to never give up!