I met Helen at Replanted Conference, and as I talked to her, I knew I wanted you all to hear her story too. To hear from those who have walked through foster care is a gift to us all; we need the perspective of those who have lived it. Helen’s life had a tragic start when her father passed away at the age of three. With her mother unable to care for her, she entered foster care and was placed with a relative. Tragically, her mother died when Helen was just six years old. Right from the get-go of our conversation, my heart hurt for her childhood—the snapshot of memories painful to bear. Bounced from relative to relative and again several times more, Helen shares the journey she’s lived, and I’m so encouraged by where she has landed today. I can’t wait for you to hear how she’s continuing to find hope and healing now as an adult.
HERE ARE MY 3 TAKEAWAYS FROM OUR CONVERSATION:
1. Children need more than a physically safe home.
Physical safety is essential. Children who enter foster care often do so because they are in unsafe conditions—whether it’s an issue of abuse or neglect. So, when a move has to occur, of course, safety is a priority, but as I listened to Helen, I hurt for her. As she talked about being physically safe but not feeling fully loved in a way that a parent gently nurtures their child, I wanted more for her. I wanted more for her than to have her basic needs met. Particularly for children coming out of trauma, feeling emotionally safe and loved in a way that says, “you matter,” is so important if any healing is going to occur.
“I didn’t have anyone hugging me or embracing me when I fell and scraped a knee. I think she was loving in a way that can be loving that you have a home and structure and safety, but nothing like hugging or going to counseling or telling me that I’m loved or important.”
2. Counseling with the hope of Jesus can be life-changing.
When Helen moved in with relatives who saw her need for healing, it was a new experience. No one had given her opportunities to receive counseling before, and yet, because this new family didn’t know Jesus and they brought her to shaman healers and witch doctors, she left feeling more confused. She didn’t feel hopeful. She felt herself sinking lower. She moved out of her relative’s home as soon as she could and turned to friends to help soothe her desire to feel connected. But they nor their unhealthy habits seemed to lift her up. It wasn’t until she reached out and met new family—her biological dad’s family—that she started to find a place of healing. These new family members had something she had never known before—a relationship with Jesus that was alive and active. Jesus offers the power of redemption and healing. I am so thankful for the ways the Holy Spirit draws people to Himself.
“I gave my life to the Lord through their love and relationship, and that’s what started me going onto know the Lord and grow in my faith, which has allowed me to meet amazing people and get the right healing and counseling.”
3. We must do our best to see what the best for children is.
There is not a one size fits all best placement option for children in care. Relative caregiving can be beautiful, good, and right, but it isn’t always the case. This is true for traditional foster homes, residential homes, and group homes as well. For Helen, although there were relatives available, they might not have been the best fit. Helen wished more than anything that someone would have stepped in and looked at the bigger picture. She wished there were more people checking in. She wished there were more resources for her relative caregivers. There were pivotal moments in her life where she simply wished more people were fighting for her. I, too, want that for our children, for them to know they are not alone, that they matter, that they have purpose and that we’re all doing our best for their best.
“I wish I would have had people fighting for me.”
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