May has been proclaimed National Foster Care Month. In the U.S. today, approximately 400,000 children and youth are in foster care at any given time. Each year, about 20,000 of these young people "age out" of foster care, which means that when they become 18, they are on their own.
National Foster Care Month sure brought back memories for me, as I am a survivor of living in foster care. I still remember as a little girl of 4 standing there watching my mother hurried about gathering things and placing them in an open suitcase on the couch. My mother carefully buttoned up my coat and took my tiny hand into hers.
There are many broken children—as I was—because the parents are broken. But the good news is we do not have to stay broken.
She picked up the suitcase with her other hand and walked me out to a strange car, where a strange lady waited. My mother placed the suitcase in the car, slowly bent down with tears in her eyes, placed me in the car, and walked away.
As we drove away, I looked back to see my mother fading into the distance. I wouldn't see her again for another 10 years.
I sat there looking at the suitcase beside me, thinking about how she carefully packed my favorite dress and even placed my favorite stuffed monkey, Curious George, in it. Then I glared ahead at this strange woman driving me away to the strange unknown.
The only two stabilizing things throughout my childhood and teenage years were my twin brother, Jim, and God. They were the two who remained with me as I traveled from home to home. Our journey would include 11 families and two children's homes before I became an adult.
I cannot describe how it felt to go into a strange home, complete with new parents, sisters and brothers. Faces I had never seen were to become my new mom and dad. I would face a new school and try to make new friends.
When difficulties came or the foster parents got tired, they would pack my suitcase and send me on my way because, of course, I did not belong to them. The foster parents had no lifetime commitment to love me, care for me, and be concerned for me. I would always cry the night before I moved to another home, knowing I would be leaving one family that I had grown used to and heading to another house, family and school.
The hardest part was just getting used to calling them Mom and Dad, and then it would be time to go.
That is how I lived along with my twin brother for the next 10 years. Everything was temporary: the home, parents and friends. Everything except God. It was God who saw my tears at night and heard my cries. He understood my fear and my great sense of not belonging anywhere, with no parents to call my own. He especially knew the emptiness I felt not having a dad.
God was there to pick me up and keep me going through each change of my life. He became my greatest Dad, who said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrew 13:5). My greatest Dad kept that promise.
God was there when I walked down the halls of a new school alone. He was there when I sat down for dinner for the first time with a new family. He was there when I left with my packed suitcase and said goodbye to the family I had gotten used to. My greatest Dad never let me walk alone when I carried my suitcase in to greet my new set of parents and siblings. He was there to fill my loneliness. I knew He was there, because I could not have survived had He not been.
There are many broken children—as I was—because the parents are broken. But the good news is we do not have to stay broken. We do not have to use this as a crutch to stop us from getting beyond the emotional trauma we suffered. I believe when my mother took my small hand in hers and led me to the car, that is when God reached down His hand and took mine.
Look what God says to you: "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9 Luke 11:9And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
American King James Version×). And in the Psalms: God is the "Father to the fatherless” (Psalms 68:5 Psalms 68:5A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
American King James Version×, New International Version).
What do you seek? What do you need? Ask your Father in heaven. Other things may be temporary, but our relationship with God is eternal. You may be, or have been, a temporary foster child, but you will never be a temporary child of God. God will heal whatever is broken in us.
One day, the whole world will be healed and there will never be a need for a foster care system again. No more broken families will exist in God’s Kingdom!