Face to Face with Tragedy

A few weeks ago my wife and I attended a “meet and greet” event for potential adoptive families, where adults get to meet and interact with a few dozen children who are ready and able to be adopted from the state of Indiana.  Our event was attended by 8 sets of adults–some couples, some individuals–and 25 children.  We had several good conversations with the half-dozen teenagers present, mingling small-talk with heartbreak, having already read the “files” on many of the children present, knowing the epitome of tragedies that led them to this moment.  Knowing the more than challenging situations that led them to be taken to an event where they are introduced, like puppies at an animal shelter, to potential adoptive families.

As we sat and interacted with the children, I could not but think of the tragic statistics on youth in US foster care: Of the 25 children present,  5 will be homeless by age 18.  6 will end up in prison.  Half will be unemployed by age 24.  And only one, of all 25, will complete college.

–  –  –

In both my current and previous jobs, I have largely worked with children from privileged backgrounds, the majority of whom will attend and graduate college.  But there they were, sitting in front of me: intelligent, curious children, so much more deserving of a shot at life than so many children of wealthy parents, and the odds are desperately against them.

I don’t understand what it means to be a Christian for many people.  I mean, logically, I think I do, but my heart cannot accept my philosophical backflips to describe the general Christian mindset of this civilized country.  I have studied theology for many years, and for every answer twice as many questions remain open.  This is, I think, the way studies are supposed to go, but it does not leave me satisfied.  It leaves me very knowledgeable, and often very heartbroken.  Stepping into the foster system means entering a world where every theological truism is challenged daily.  In this world of pain, abuse, neglect, and suffering, liberation theology, or something close to it, becomes not a philosophical argument with which to encounter postmodernity but the only damn way to survive.

–  –  –

The state child services system is undoubtedly disorganized, prone to frustrating bureaucracy, and helpless to assist in countless difficult situations…but it also rescues children from abusive homes; it steps in when no one else can to remove children from harm’s way; it tries, through limited resources, foster parents, and a plethora of corporate-owned orphanages, to place the children in safe spaces.

I understand that some problems are large, and large problems–like the election–are popular.  They make me angry too.  But some problems are very small, very detailed, very serious, and very simple.  They require vast sums of energy, but mostly, and above all, they require love.  I write today, after a summer hiatus from blogging, to ask again a common refrain.

– – –

It angers deep within my soul that sometimes
I fret over theological discrepancies of intricately framed arguments when
right around the corner there is a
child
in need of a family
and what am I but a man with a family and love to give.
But of course I am limited
and there are more children than I can possibly adopt and
care for and
give the attention they need.

Black children, white children, latinx children, contemplative children,
laid-back children, active children,
children who have been beaten, raped, abused, neglected,
and find themselves, as a reward for living through such horrors,

devoid of any semblance of a family.

You who are Christian, who claim to follow the one called Christ, who
died to bring the good news of Divine Love into the world,
witness
the pain of children rejected
and see the tangible hope that you may offer.

– – –

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To begin a journey towards adoption, visit AdoptUSKids.org, a national project working to connect foster children with forever families.

5 responses to “Face to Face with Tragedy

  1. Thank you for your input and especially your call to action. My husband and I have just recently started praying about becoming foster parents and/or adopting one or two children in need. And I have a question: why does the meet-and-greet even exist to create potential adoptions? That seems utterly dehumanizing.

    • Thanks for the comment and question. I’m torn on it–on the one hand it does seem dehumanizing, but the entire process is dehumanizing–e.g., many residential homes for teenagers have similar education and lock-down policies to a prison (limited to no outdoor time, limited education, only authorized visitors, etc.). I haven’t seen any studies on meet-and-greet type events, so I’m not of their efficacy in creating future adoptions–on the bright side, it certainly opened our eyes to children we had not previously considered and who might be a good match for our family. I imagine the events began in the pre-internet age, when it was very difficult to introduce children to potential adoptive parents. It certainly broke my heart further, but I think I’m better for the breaking. God be with you in your own journey forward!

  2. This simultaneously spoke to and broke my heart. God bless you for taking a small step to love someone…because in the face of such horror that is all we can do…

    • Thanks, Katie! It can be so hard to know what we’re doing is so small, and yet in the face of the person who transforms you, the true size of the act is, I think, made far clearer.

  3. John, good to hear about your journey and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Definitely lots of kids needing love out there! We’re in the middle of adopting from foster care in Massachusetts so we are well familiar with the pain involved in the process. My prayers are with you on this journey.

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