There are reasons I adopted kids from foster care. There are reasons that I wanted to do this rather than adopt internationally. There are reasons that I convinced Jack that this was the best way to grow our family even if it was not the easiest way.
One of those reasons died in tragic accident last week and I am, in a word, devastated.
Let me explain.
Years ago I spent time working in another city, a city with a profoundly poor inner core where poverty, alcohol, drugs and gangs were common, so common in fact that it was not really safe to walk around at night. We did anyway, stuff happened but we survived to tell the tale.
It was a tough place.
I was 19, very idealistic and also incredibly naive.
The center I worked in was designed for families but my passion was the kids, I loved them all but I had some favourites and as the years went by and I watched them grow up a few of them etched their names into my heart.
There was Sarah*, Paul and Jane, 3 kids whose Mom was working really hard to keep them out of the system. I helped her by watching them for free whenever she needed, I loved those kids, one day they did not come over and went home instead, Mom was not back from work yet. They sat down on the steps to wait for her, the neighbour called Family Services and the kids were apprehended. I kept track of them for awhile as they bounced around the system and then I lost them. It broke my heart.
There was Daisy and her 6 brothers and sisters, their Mom died of a drug overdose one Easter, Grandma kept the girls and the boys ended up in foster care. The boys lived in a hotel room with rotating care staff for months because there were not any foster homes open to take in 3 boys. When they were finally placed they were split up even though Wolf and Storm were twins. I lost track of them after that.
There was Nastia and her siblings, I loved them too. One night Mom left them alone to go to the bar and her little brother Timmy set the house on fire. They went into the system, we fought with her to get them back, she did, but looking back I wish things had been different. All of the kids ended up with serious addiction issues and another generation of children ended up in and out of foster care.
And then was the trio, they were three kids who lived almost across the street from us. There was Marin, the oldest, she took care of her younger brothers Simon and Bob. They lived on the edge of abject poverty and although their parents had few skills they really did do their best with what they had available. The kids came to our house constantly, they were dirty, they had lice and Bob always smelled awful but they worked their way into my heart. Bob used to come and poke his little head up into the front door window shouting "you open!". We were usually closed but for them we opened the door and gave them a snack because we knew they were hungry.
Over the years I watched Marin, Simon and Bob grow into adults from a distance. I heard about how they were working to break the cycle of poverty they grew up in and although they still became teenage parents why had jobs and partners who stayed. They were young but they were creating families who were committed to one another and although they still made some less than stellar choices they were doing a much better job than what they had grown up with.
Bob died last week in a tragic car accident, it was a stupid teenage boy kind of accident, some alcohol and speed was probably involved and he left behind a pregnant partner and young child. He was changing his world, he was breaking the cycle of poverty and his life was cut short not because of drugs but because he did a stupid thing and it ended badly. Any middle class kid could of made the same mistake, it happens to teenagers, their judgement is not always so great.
Those kids, the ones who etched their names and smiles into my heart made me want to adopt from foster care, they made we want to help kids who through no fault of their own found themselves in a situation where they no longer had a family. They made me understand what it is like to be neglected, to be hungry, to be desperate for love and human touch.
Those kids are the reason I am the parent I am, they are the reason I put myself out their to be scrutinized by social workers, to be judged as a parent and as a person. I did it because those kids deserved to be loved and cherished, they deserved to well fed and clean, they deserved hugs and unconditional love. They deserved so much more than they got. Some of them made it, some did not, some broke the cycle while others are repeating it.
They system is not perfect, society is not perfect, the world is not perfect and neither are any of us, but while we wait for perfection children wait for families to love them.
*all names have been changed