This is a photo of the Royal Family Kids Camp staff for 2016 in our area. 74 of them, I think, gathered together a week ago to go lead a camp for about 38 kids in foster care. My 16 year old daughter Claire is in there somewhere. ( We missed her this week.)
In this photos are moms and dads and grandparents and brothers and sisters who all gave a week to go make a fun camp for kids who come from some really hard places. Here are some stats from the RFKC website: There are over 400,000 children in the foster care system. 50% of girls in foster care are pregnant by age 19. 74% of prison inmates were once in foster care. 50% of young adults are incarcerated withing 2 years of aging out of foster care. Get this…..80% of death row inmates are former foster care children. 80%.
These are hard statistics. We also know that even one or two positive experiences with another human being can change the direction of someone’s life….and give them hope in humanity again. Royal Family Kids Camp is one way that we can address the children of our nation who are in need of God’s Love. We can’t all go be a camp counselor every year. That’s ok. Did you know that you can be a “birthday buddy” for kids in foster care? If you go to the Heart Gallery, USA and follow links of waiting kids in foster care. You can use a credit card and purchase a birthday package for that child or sibling set. You/I/We can identify who the foster parents are in our community and agree to walk along side them, through prayer, through conversation…..maybe a meal or a gift card even. This is very hard work, for a reason. The devil would rather not have the chains broken on the generational yuck of this stuff. He would rather make sure that the prisons are full of former foster youth, and the DHS system is full of former foster kids who have since grown up and are abusing their own kids.
I looked up some info on the internet from what I hope are good sources. Promises2Kids is a site that says this: 30% of abused and neglected children will later go on to abuse their own children. The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the US for 2008 was $124 Billion dollars.
We can work at this, we Christians who care about the wellness of children and the heart of Father God. None of us can fix it, but together, we can work at making the numbers better. Some can adopt from foster care. Others can become foster parents. Some can journey with at risk young people so that they do not repeat the generational disease that was inflicted upon them. Some can open their homes to that sad little kiddo down the street who always seems alone, and just share a meal, or a smile, or some time. We can work at this. We can partner with ministries such as Royal Family Kids Camp, and therapeutic services that help trauma kids heal……and we can raise our children to care as much, if not more, than we do.
Claire came home today feeling exhausted and spent and full and emotional and needy and fragile and fulfilled. Her friends want to spend time with her. She wants to curl up in a ball and sleep in her perfectly cozy bed in her perfectly personalized room in her house that is full of safety and love and nurture. She wants to share her experiences and cry her tears and never, ever forget how God moved her this week……and I am her mama…..so I need to figure out how to meet her needs and care for her.
I sent her out for a couple of silly, not-too- deep hours with some friends who love her and who she will need to connect with in 10 days when school starts. Her sweet boyfriend will meet up with her an hour before curfew and they can spend some time together because he cares about her a lot and deserves some of the raw humanness of who she is fresh off of this emotional week. Tomorrow I will help her re-enter our life and still hold onto the things she learned this week.
Foster care in the United states is a really big deal. It is not pretty or glamorous and there are no easy answers. I sit across a table in a small rental home piled high with stuff way too often, with a baby bouncing on the lap of a young mama, and hear her story of childhood abuse and neglect, sometimes with a season in foster care, often with an incomplete high school education. I hear these very smart mamas tell me about their goals and dreams and how little support they have as they try to parent and navigate life and work at finish growing up. Want to know the most common career goals I hear from them initially? Cosmetology school…..and/or nursing school. Imagine that. They want to feel beautiful and they want to be healers…….
I know that God can accomplish both of those goals in all of the young mamas, in all of the children, in all of the broken homes and broken lives, in you and me. He really is good at healing and making beautiful things…….so please join me in a fresh heart cry to Him, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imaging….to heal and make beautiful the people of our land.