“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for as such is the kingdom of Heaven.’ ” Matthew 19:14 (NKJV)
Today in church we had our annual Thanksgiving worship service where testimonies are shared. This is always a time of praise and joy, but also a heart-rending time for our congregation—as stories are told of God’s grace at work in seemingly impossible circumstances. Relationships are healed, in some cases illnesses are miraculously cured, and Jesus’s life is affirmed in many unique ways.
At today’s service, a young couple got up to share on the microphone. In hand the couple brought a sweet (obviously girl) toddler, dressed in a pretty dark velvet dress with pink trimmings and a matching headband. The couple gave testimony of how they had decided to raise the large family which they wanted through adoption, only to find out how incredibly costly it is to adopt just one child, let alone many! (How tragic is that!!!)
So finally, God had steered the husband and wife to the path of foster care—which in some instances can lead to adoption. Knowing that God was in charge and directing them the couple proceeded, and within a few months this precious little girl had been entrusted to their loving care.
While the husband and wife were sharing in church I experienced a déjà vu of long ago pain as my mind raced back to 1973 when I was forty years old, a fairly new Christian believer, and a contented wife and mother of five. Our children were growing up fast. Because I loved and enjoyed being a mother so much, I wanted to go on with the career which had brought me joy and fulfillment since I’d had my first baby at just under 21 years of age. Thus, quite naturally, Joe and I began to think about doing foster care.
So we signed up with Milwaukee County Welfare Dept. to receive foster children. In those days the wheels moved fairly quickly, and within a few weeks we were given three beautiful blonde sisters, ages three, six, and eight, to care for. Like many foster children, these sisters came from an atmosphere of chaotic dysfunction. What is more, unspeakable things had happened to them that should never happen to anyone—anywhere.
The girls brought their chaos into our home and we had some dicey weeks with them, weeks marked with severe temper tantrums and manifestations of fear. But the love and the order in our home did wonders. After a couple of months it seemed like the girls were our girls. We sincerely hoped we’d be able to keep them forever, and perhaps we would have—BUT, Milwaukee County discovered that the girls’ father and step-mother had paying jobs which could support the children, so the county insisted on returning them to the father’s home.
Never mind that we told the Milwaukee County Welfare Dept. we did not want their money—Joe and I would gladly support and raise these children without any outside help. No matter that the step-mother had been heavily addicted to controlled substances, and had an iffy background. No matter that the step-mother had (in the home with the girls’ father) two unruly sons who started fires and thought of other ways to terrify the three sisters (as one of them used to confide in me: “Them’s naughty boys!!”).
Never mind that Joe and I and our five children loved the girls, and had so woven them into the fabric of our home that we would miss them terribly. Within a few days, suddenly the three sisters were gone. A week later, the six year old called on the telephone and said to me, “Maggie I wish I could come to your house!”
We were a bit whacked from these events and thought we would need a long break from foster care, when a couple of weeks later the phone rang and a distraught sounding social worker asked, “Can you take two little boys?” The following dialogue has its humorous side. So here it is.
Me: “How old?”
Social Worker: “One and two.”
Me: “When would they come?”
Social Worker: “NOW! They are sitting on my desk!”
In retrospect, I really suspected perhaps that social worker had told me a windy about them sitting on her desk. Those little boys did come to live with us, and to our knowledge they never BOTH SAT ANYWHERE at the same time! They were always in motion. (This was long before children were incarcerated in car seats in transit. You can imagine what a pleasure ride was like in those days!)
Again, we lost our hearts—but this time we were worn to smithereens, physically as well as emotionally, in the process. Finally, we decided to remove the option of foster care from our family scene. Meanwhile, many questions have surfaced, in the past as well as today. What ever became of those children? Where are they today? What kind of people (mid-lifers no less!) are they? Do they know the Lord Jesus?
It goes without saying that I shared our Lord’s love with the foster children every day, in every way I could. Yes, I hope to meet these now-adult people again, in Glory! I believe that, somehow, I will recognize them.
Margaret L. Been, November 2014
Note: The above-pictured players re-enacting a familiar scene are two of our daughters, Laura and Debra, and one of our sons, Eric, plus an obliging doll—circa 1963. Excuse the gender confusion of the doll. We were not really confused. We simply couldn’t come up with a boy doll at the moment. :)