Tracy’s knees shook so hard under her borrowed black skirt that she was afraid the audience would notice. The girl on her right cradled a bouquet of flowers someone has passed to her, and the boy behind Tracy coughed loudly until his girlfriend winked across the stage to him. The director raised his hands and the chorus came to life. Tracy closed her eyes and sang from her heart; she didn’t need to open them because no one was there to hear her sing. She sang because it made her happy and forget about her life for a short time. When the last note faded, the audience erupted into applause but Tracy didn’t smile. She had sung for herself; no one else cared. Suddenly, the girl next to her leaned over and whispered, “Who are those people out there jumping up and down and waving?” Tracy looked out and saw them; an African American boy with cornrows and saggy jeans, a Hispanic girl in a bright red dress, a Caucasian boy holding the hands of a mixed-race toddler. Two House Parents snapped pictures of the choir and a youth counselor cradled a fussy toddler on her hip. Tracy eyes lit up as she waved back. “That’s my family,” she laughed.
Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. They have done nothing wrong, but somewhere along the way their parents became unable to care for their children appropriately. The family tree has been uprooted and the child must now set down roots in a new place. Now
that child, that branch broken from the stability of the family tree, is a
foster child. The roots of that child are shallow…newly transplanted from the
deeply established roots he or she has been plucked from. The child
may act out, simply because that is the only control she can wield. Her
foundation has been shaken to the core and she is understandably angry.
She may become withdrawn, she may become angry, and she many become
belligerent. Her behavior is the only control she has in her life
guess what that child craves? Normalcy. Fostered or not, she wants
what her friends have. She doesn’t want to stand out or draw attention to
herself as different from everyone else. So something as simple as a
chorus concert at school can throw a foster child into a panic. Those
roots that were transplanted not so long ago are shallow. The dress she
wears is borrowed. The car she is dropped off at school in belongs to a
residential group home. And her family isn’t in her life right now.
So what do we do? We step in. We as loving and supportive people who have a heart for
foster children want to do what we can to strengthen those roots. So we
write checks to support programs. We donate clothing and laundry
detergent and Christmas toys. We attend events to raise funds and
awareness. And we bundle ourselves into cars and vans and parade into
gymnasiums to support those who have no one to clap for them. Are we the family? It doesn’t matter….we’re there, and we’re clapping and cheering for
someone who may not have grown from our family tree. It’s what we do, as the family we like to think we can be to
children who desperately need it. And when that curtain rises…we
applaud louder than anyone else!