I’m the middle child, halfway between my older sister and younger brother, all born to parents who have been married for over fifty years. I would describe my family life as normal – mostly good with bouts of dysfunction and chaos. Yet, while there were no white picket fences in my story, I always knew where I belonged. Certifiably crazy as they may be, I know that I am, and will always be, one of them.
Unfortunately, there are many kids today who are missing this sense of belonging. I should know. My son was one of them.
Isaac was born belonging to a family. This belonging was short-lived, however, as his biological family’s poor behaviors (according to the state) prevented his parents from being able to raise him – and though there were multiple attempts to teach, rehabilitate, and reunify them, there simply came a time when it was determined that the only house he had ever known wasn’t safe for him anymore.
When the parental rights were terminated, Isaac no longer belonged to people, but rather to the state of Kansas. That’s right. He belonged to a piece of land, surrounded by borders and governed by a broken system full of bureaucracy. He became a case number, a thick file, a burden on the tax payer. He belonged to nearly three million residents, yet the reality is that he belonged to no one at all.
When the light of his future was snuffed out, he was forced to traverse through life on his own. He moved cautiously and slowly, knowing that dangers lurked around corners and that behind the smiling faces, people were not always as they claimed to be. While other children his age were learning things like how to write in cursive, life was teaching Isaac that trust is a trap and love is a lie. This caused him to withdraw, shut down, and often live within the safe confines of a fictional world in his mind while a harsh reality swarmed around him. He DID NOT belong.
And then …
A phone call would change his life forever. It was the middle of March, 2012 when I first heard of a ten-year-old boy in need of belonging. I learned that he liked video games and Star Wars, was not a fan of school but kept his room organized and clean. Though I still had great fears and hesitations about adopting and motherhood in general, my husband and I agreed to meet him.
On a Saturday night, the doorbell rang. Under the guise of babysitting, we would open the door to a boy and to the possibility of new future. We spent the evening talking and playing, trying to get to know him. It was certainly surreal and awkward at times, but it was the first step on a road that led to belonging. He moved in with us just two months later, and on December 28th, 2012, we stood before a judge and asserted that we would like for Isaac to forever belong to us.
On that day, the light that had been snuffed out started to glow faintly again. Though it flickers at times, over these past months it has grown brighter, casting out the shadows of uncertainty and a fear of never belonging. Within Isaac, a new confidence has been found. He is more open, he’s doing better in school, and he is making new friends. He gives more hugs, and his defenses are melting. He’s now comfortable in his skin and comfortable in this family. No words that I write would ever do justice to the difference we’ve seen in a boy who had lost his sense of belonging.
But this story of belonging isn’t just about Isaac. I’ve come to find a new sense of belonging as his mom, as a wife to his dad. We belong to him just as much as he belongs to us. We belong as a family, and we thank God every day for that.
This Saturday we celebrate National Adoption Day, a day that brings to light the children that are finding their new belongings in families, all while there are thousands of foster children across America whose parental rights have been terminated and who are still yearning to belong. Their heads hit the pillow each night with the fear that they might be in the group that “graduates” out of the system when they turn eighteen – a nice way of saying that they may never belong in a family again.
But I’m confident that they don’t have to. Certainly there are homes that will be open to a child or children looking to belong; perhaps that home is yours, or belongs to someone that you know.
Below are websites listing the children in Kansas, Missouri, and across the United States who are waiting for that family. These aren’t just pictures, but are real kids with real lives – lives that deserve to belong, just like the rest of us. Spread the word, and let’s find them homes. Every day that passes is another day in which they don’t belong.
(Note: Head back to the blog this Saturday for additional insights on adoption and how you can help.)