Friday, June 8, 2012

Good-bye, T!

Today we brought our Safe Families toddler back to his mother.

We had him for five weeks and saw him go from frequent tantrums and biting episodes with little ability to play, to a much calmer, happier child.  We managed to fall in love with our Afro-sporting, bow-legged friend.

Along the way, I had some interesting conversations with friends.  The darker tones of those conversations revolved around the "is it worth it?" question.  I mean, we keep this child for five weeks while mom accomplishes, let's say, not as much as you might like to see.  Meanwhile, we interfere with the child's attachment with his mother and break our backs cleaning up messes, waiting out tantrums, and waking up in the middle of night to console the distraught child.


The good news is a conversation like that really makes you think.  Really examine WHY we are doing this.  We are not interested in enabling.  After all, we've read, When Helping Hurts (which I highly recommend, even though I don't entirely agree with it's message).

Here is my conclusion:

No, it might not be worth it.  In earthly terms, the results are probably not there.  But I believe something is happening in the heavenlies.  This child is PRAYED over and will be for life.  That child is protected and covered.  That child knows someone loved him well.

Who loves children more than the Lord?  Don't you think he is pleased, when he sees one of his children scoop up a more vulnerable child?

"when you count the cost and it all seems lost, LOVE IS STILL A WORTHY CAUSE"
(Sara Groves)

Over and over I hear from friends who are not fostering or hosting Safe Family children say, "oh, I could never do that because it would hurt too much to send them back".  Yep.  Guess what?  We don't do this for US, we do it for the kids.  It is a sacrifice.  I personally do not possess a gene that protects me from worrying about this child as he goes back to his rough life.  It is not especially easy for me to see them go.  But we do it for the kids.  We do it for the joy of giving our lives away.

"when you're pressing on though your strength is gone, LOVE IS STILL WORTHY CAUSE"
(Sara Groves)

But what about our kids?  The permanent ones?  This has been a sticking point for me!  I hate to see them hurt!  Yes, my kids were bitten.  Yes, they had to step up and help by playing with our little one, changing diapers, and cleaning bottles.  And remarkably, they end up grieving when the little guy leaves!  They treated this little guy like a brother, even though they knew he was not going to stay.

Evelea wrote a book called The Departure, which details her feelings about our time with the little guy.  I hope I get to show it to you someday because the illustrations are amazing!  But I'll leave you with her words:

Once upon a time there was a girl.  Her name was Evelea.  That girl was me.  Once a upon a time there was a boy.  His name was T___.  That boy was you.  Our worlds were so different.

Then you came to me, to your Safe home.  I held your hand and you held mine.  I didn't want to let go.

I soon learned that you weren't perfect...

But you were worth it.

We played Patty-Cake.

We played outside on the slide and the swing that I set up just for you.  If I held one end of a jump rope, you would hold the other and I could lead you around!

I calmed you down by "boop-ing" your nose.  You would go from sobbing to cracking up!

I knew someday you would have to go.  I tried not to think about it.

But that day was so much sooner than I expected. Friday.  My world was suddenly black and white.

And now, dear boy, you must depart from me.  I will never forget you, for you stole part of my heart.  I can't go with you but my God can.  I am sending him after you, and one day, if you let him, he'll be your God too.  I will miss you, my sweet T___.  I will always be your Eea, and you will always be my T___.

The joy is worth the pain in the end.


  1. Your post is so true. I love Evelea's story. I must hear several times a day " I could never foster, I could never give them up, it would be too hard." But like you said, it is hard and it is not about us!
    Keep doing the great work you are doing!
    Are you going to Orlando for the NS conference next year?

    Kelly in Colorado

    1. Thanks, Kelly. I know this is something you understand! Sadly, we will not be at the conference. We live right outside of Chicago, so the last one was easy for us to get to! If there is another one in the mid-West, we'll be there!

  2. That's amazing. "We do not do this for US, we do it for the kids." and "I soon learned that you weren't perfect....But you were worth it." jumped off the page at me. I love your hearts and your love that is deep enough to share with those who can't love you back. Thank you for inspiring me with your lives.

  3. I was thinking your post pretty much refutes the book When Helping Hurts. I read that book too, but I would not recommend it. I would recommend living the life you depicted here instead. Sacrifice to Jesus is never a waste.

    This is a matter of Redemptive Suffering v. Redemptive Violence really. We live in a context that says violence will save us and yet hold out a message that says Jesus's suffering was not in vain (and neither is ours when we imitate him) despite worldly wisdom to the contrary.

    I applaud your work and sacrifice.

    Keep up the good work.

    Blessings, and may all the pain work in its way in the mystery of God's love.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate what you are saying about When Helping Hurts. I don't necessarily agree with all it's tenets. I do however think it is helpful to think about some of the author's points about the way we help. I also think its important for any modern day abolitionist to understand these author's arguments so we can have intelligent discussions with people.One place my mind often goes is to we give money to the homeless person. Do we not give, knowing where they will most likely spend it, or open our hands to give generously because of what that does in our heart? LOVE discussions like these! Thanks!

  4. Love what she wrote. We can learn so very much from our kids. Thanks for loving even when it hurts. :)

  5. Beautiful Erika!

    Can I use this for my next South Carolina newsletter? I think your words are soooo true and need to be heard by so many people!

    Love your heart!

    1. Yes! Traci, you have to see this book! The illustrations are really great, too. Maybe I can get a copy to you.

  6. Great! Thank you - and I can't wait to see the book! I can just picture it now...closing my SFFC church-talks reading from her book ;)

  7. This was such an encouragement to me and my kids. We're going through a difficult SFFC turned Foster situation and I read what Evelea wrote to my girls - it connected with them in a way my words as "Mom" couldn't have. So thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, Noel, sorry you are facing the uncertainty that comes with taking these little ones into our homes. Such a roller coaster! Such a challenge to live one day at a time! Praying for you!

  8. Evelea, thanks so much for sharing your story. We told our kids today it is time to say good bye to our foster son, we have had for 7 months. Your words are comforting to us all. Erika, thanks for sharing ;o)