The day they came to take me was bitterly cold.
My mother had been locked in a long battle with the Department of Social Services over the matter of whether she was fit to take care of my siblings and me. Estranged from her own family and in the middle of what turned out to be a losing battle with alcoholism, she was desperately clinging to the idea that motherhood was still a possibility. But we were taken from her that day, and never saw her again.
I’d like to tell you that things got better from there, but they did not. What unfolded for the remainder of my childhood was a series of multiple placements in turbulent homes where safety and security became a daily battle.
Borne aloft by a childhood love of learning and kindnesses that bent the arc of my life, I managed to navigate my way through the labyrinth of dysfunction I was born into. Though things turned out OK for me, the truth of it was that the long hard road to my personal and professional success was unnecessary.
It is a struggle that still goes on today. In the U.S. alone, there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system and over 117,000 waiting for adoption. For many the dream of “home” never happens; they age out of the foster care system in staggering numbers and often join the ranks of another system — addiction, incarceration or early pregnancy. And another cycle of rootlessness begins, driven in part by the extreme lack of kind and caring foster families willing to provide an environment that can break this inherited cycle.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the future for these kids. These kids are strong, resilient, driven, filled with possibility and worthy of being loved.
Here are 4 reasons why good people should consider foster parenting:
- It’s an Opportunity to Say “Yes” to a Cause. Many of us are committed to causes that are near and dear to us, at home and abroad. Foster care is a cause you can impact right here in America.
- Breaking a Cycle. For many of these young children, they have done nothing wrong. They are simply the inheritors of a set of circumstances that none of us would sign our own names to. But you can put an end to this cycle for a child. You can change their trajectory.
- Bettering Society. A Greek proverb says that a society grows great when we plant trees in whose shade we know we will never sit. Investing in a child is planting a seed that will blossom and grow in future years in ways we can never imagine.
- Finding Fulfillment. Many foster parents will tell you that becoming a foster parent brought their lives full circle, affirmed their faith or healed a void in their own life. In opening their homes and their hearts, they quickly learned that they were changed and impacted just as much as the child.
During those early turbulent years with my mother, a babysitter once jotted down the following entry: "This little boy does not have a chance in the world.” When I saw this many years later, I actually smiled. A chance in the world was what I had been seeking all along; it’s the exact same thing that many young children are seeking today.
It’s a chance you can provide.
Steve Pemberton is a corporate executive, philanthropist, bestselling author and speaker. His book, "A Chance in the World," has been made into a feature film, releasing in theaters May 30, for one night only.