The Truth About Foster Parents and Foster Children

 I am an author. I work successfully in my field. I am a mommy to three precious angels who have blessed my life since the seconds they entered it. I am a wife to a man who makes a difference in this world, every day. But before all of this, I was a child, and for a time, a child in need of a family. I was a child in care.

God bless those who open their hearts and homes in the most selfless and giving of ways to those that deserve it most — our children. I say, “our children,” because that is what children in care become. When children must leave the homes they were born into, for a matter of months or permanently they become our wards. You do not have to be a foster parent for this to be true. I am responsible, you are responsible, our nation is responsible for these children. The way the least of us is treated, IS a reflection on us and our society. In the U.S. alone, close to 400,000 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. Over 100,000 of them are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. Every child deserves love. Every child deserves a home and a family. And along the way, what is often a hard and troubled way, these children deserve hugs, their own pillow and their own undergarments. They deserve a place to put their things that is not a big black garbage bag. They deserve support, praise, security — but where will it come from?

I will always be grateful to those that fostered me for the time before I crossed the threshold of my forever family’s home. Foster parents truly do what they do out of a love for the children. It is not a service one would ever do for the money, as the money foster parents spend is never equaled by the money they are paid by the state or the love they pour out. That is not why they do it. Quietly and with love and patience, they serve OUR children. They do not ask for praise for themselves, nor do they see themselves as saviors. They are people, real people who share their homes, their family, their dinner table and every extra minute of their time with these children, and I was one of them. Someone fed little me, got me dressed. Bathed me. Snuggled me. Kept me safe. They did this knowing that one day I would leave. I would not be there forever. Knowing their heart would be sad, though they would be happy I’d found a forever home.

I have been many things in many life and a foster child and adoptee are just two of them, but I do know that without those who loved and cared for me, I would not be where I am or who I am today. For that, I will forever be grateful. I found my forever home at 14 months old. I was lucky. There are thousands of precious children who are aging out of the system every day. In 2012 over 23-thousand children left the system without a forever family. That is unacceptable. They are CHILDREN. Playful, caring, hopeful. They want to ride their bikes and have someone call them home for dinner. They want someone to care if they do their homework and eat their veggies (even if they don’t like broccoli) and know it is forever. There are so many children waiting. Waiting for love until they can be reunified with their birth family or forever family. We can all make a difference in some way for these children.

It is my hope that all of those who would like to help, whether it means fostering, adopting or assisting those who do, will reach out to resources in your area. Even if you cannot foster or adopt, there are many groups that collect supplies for foster families who receive emergency placements. Groups like My Very Own Blanket take donations of handmade blankets to give to foster children. The Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption is always a great resource for ways to help spread the word or to organize a kickball for a home game with your friends. Things we take for granted like birthday parties are something you can help provide for a foster child. Groups like Pop Up Birthday and Birthday Buddies can be found throughout the United States to give these children something that seems like a given of childhood. Help out the My Stuff Bags Foundation, who gives bags with blankets and stuffed animals to kiddos who have just been removed from their homes. here are always ways to help OUR children. It is amazing how much you will receive, just from giving. Do SOMETHING. You can ALWAYS do SOMETHING.

-Madeleine Melcher

Originally posted on Huffington Post