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Other People's Children

In addition to being a public school administrator and doctoral candidate, my wife and I are also foster parents.  We currently have living with us, in addition to our 13 year old son and three dogs, three small siblings whose ages are, from oldest to youngest, 5, 3, and 1.5.  They have been with us for approximately 6 months now, and their CM (case manager) has told us to make sure we plan on having them for a long time.  I was not sure exactly what that meant, but have since come to find out, through the court system, that they have a "permanency hearing" in February.  It is pretty clear to me, without the need to even bother looking this term up, that a judge will be deciding upon their fate on this date in February.

I have begun to wonder about this whole concept of raising other people's children, both in the school house and in the home as foster or adopted children.  And what I wonder about the most is how children view us - the adults - as we impart our knowledge and enforce our rules and open our hearts and give our love.  I begin to wonder what they think of us, whether we are coaches or parents or teachers or social workers or principals.  What do they think of us and at what point does what we are attempting to do in their lives matter to them?  Because it has to matter, and they have to be open to that.

But why?  Why should it matter, and why should they be open to what we have to offer?  There are adults in many of these children's lives who have abandoned them and abused them, leaving wide-open, glaring wounds that won't heal.  Why should they trust another adult?  And herein lies the problem, the problem with other people's children.  Regardless of your role in someone's life, know that the first thing you have to do is to gain their trust.  Hard to accomplish with hurt children.  In fact, you might view it as damn near impossible.  And yet you keep going.  You must keep moving ahead, letting go of yesterday, forgetting about the hurt feelings you might have over an angry barb thrust in your direction, or the sidelong glance of disgust clearly meant to get under your skin.  It is imperative that you move on, smiling when you least feel like it, forgiving when you would much rather hold a grudge, opening up and talking when all you want to do is give the silent treatment.  Even as adults, it is important to remember that these are huge trust-building opportunities.  Why?  Because they are so ready for you to do the opposite.  They are so ready for you to abandon them, just as another trusting adult has probably done to them.  They are so ready for you, just some stranger - definitely not family - to get up and walk away for that reason alone; you are not family. You have no ties, no bonds hold you together.  Why would you stay?

You stay because you know that, at some point down the road, maybe years later, maybe decades later, they will be better people, better adults because of you.  They may not know that you are the reason, but they will be loving, caring, thoughtful, productive members of society because you cared for them.  Other people's children.  It's what we're here to do.

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