This summer our local movie theatre had a morning movie series for kids. I took a couple of my kids to a few of them and other than the time the three year-old got his shoe caught in the folding seat and started yelling, it was a lot of fun. The last week I took them, the movie they were showing was “Horton Hears a Who” (based on the Dr. Suess’s book). This was my first time seeing the movie, although I had a familiarity with the book. I sat there with four of my kids surrounding me– one internationally adopted, two adopted from foster care and one biological child. I expected this to be another enjoyable movie experience with them, but I didn’t expect it to be so emotional for me.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about Horton (an elephant) that has the ability to hear these tiny creatures (their whole society is small enough to fit on a flower), and realizes they are in danger. Because he is the only one that can hear them, he is the only one who can protect them. He is considered crazy and dangerous for his insistence that his job is to protect something no one else can see. In the last moments of the movie, the little residents of Whoville realize they have to make enough noise to be heard by those big enough to save or destroy them. It takes them a long time to come to this realization, but when they do it is with urgency and passion as they understand their very lives are at stake. They begin to chant “We are here!” over and over.
And that’s when I looked over at my sons and my daughter and saw their rapt attention to the movie playing out before them. While they watched a fictional elephant advocate for his tiny friends, I was was seeing something different. I was seeing my own fight to have the needs of these children recognized when they live in a society that doesn’t always seem to acknowledge their value, their worth, their unique struggles. That’s when I started to cry.
As a foster parent, you often feel like you are the only one hearing these kids chant “We are HERE!” with their very stability and safety at stake. It becomes the drumbeat of your heart even when your friends don’t understand, your family struggles to know how to be supportive, and you work within a system that often seems to prioritize the rights of adults over the needs of children. Even though I am no longer able to do the active work of foster care (because we have too many children to relicense under the current Nebraska law), I can’t stop hearing that call on my heart.
“We are HERE!” as I drive by the courthouse.
“We are HERE!” when I walk past the hospital NICU on my way to visit a friend and her new baby.
“We are HERE!” at the park, at my children’s school, at the McDonald’s Playland.
Once you have loved these children and their families, you can’t turn it off. You can’t go back to pretending you can’t hear them. You know they need advocates and support to get the help they need. You know there are abusive foster parents, unscrupulous lawyers, unmotivated caseworkers, kinship homes who care more about protecting the adults involved than protecting the children, and judges who don’t seem to understand how damaging it is to a child to be stuck in the system. So you do what you can to be involved and help in your small corner of the foster care world, whatever that may be. Even when other people question your sanity (“I could NEVER be a foster parent!”), you keep at it because you hear the cries of kids that seem to go unnoticed by others.
And you recognize another Horton when you see one. The foster families that sacrifice their own plans for comfort or ease to do what’s best for a child, the lawyers who tell their clients the truth even when it’s painful, the caseworkers that are willing to fight for the defenseless, the kinship homes that want to break the cycle of abuse, and the judges who hold everybody in their courtroom to a higher standard. We are all hearing the same call. We know the cost of listening and we are willing to take that on because we see the value of these children.
Do you hear the call of these kids? Are you ready to listen and then to become an advocate for what is best for them? There are many ways to be involved. The system needs quality foster parents, CASAs, Safe Families (families that provide care for children while their parents work to correct issues that could otherwise lead to losing their kids), visitation supervisors and transportation providers who take their responsibilities seriously, people who will donate time, money and supplies to organizations that support foster kids, people who can provide respite care (temporary care so foster parents can take a break), and the list goes on. The reality is, if you’ve got a gift, you can use it to support foster kids. If you can hear them, they need you.
For more information about foster care, contact Christian Heritage.