Thursday, January 16, 2014

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

You see it in the headlines every day. It's blasted on the evening news.   
Yet another story of child being abused or neglected. 
Horrible, heart wrenching stories.

"Child Left in Hot car Dies"
"7 Children Found Living in Filthy, Roach Infested Home"
"Toddler Found Wandering in the Street Alone"
"Dad Arrested After Breaking Infant Son's Leg"
" 4 Children Die in House Fire After Being Left Home Alone"
"Baby Left in Crib for Days..Found Dehydrated..Lying in Feces"
"Parents Arrested After Raid on Meth House..3 Children Taken into Custody"

I could go on and on. But you get the idea. You hear the stories. You see the news reports.

Every. Single. Day.

How do you respond when you see those stories? How do they make you feel? Think about it. What do you say...or do? I know how I've responded. Let's could go something like this:

"Oh, that is so awful! How can people be so mean and cruel? Those poor children. Those no good, blankety blank blank parents need to be beat! Just give me five minutes with them! Trifling, I tell ya! Turn the channel! I don't want to see this mess! Wait, there..ok, that's better. Funny home videos. HaHa Look at that cute dog dancing! How sweet!"

Aaahhhh. That's better. Cute and cuddly is what I like to see. Don't we all? That doesn't hurt to watch. Cute little doggies. Sweetness. I don't have to think about abused children or sad things if cute little doggies are shaking their booties for the camera.

 How many more of you turn the channel when those "hard truth" stories come on? How about the starving African children commercials? Or what about the abused animal commercials? Of course we turn the channel. Why wouldn't we? We don't want to see the horrific things of this world. 
Out of sight...out of mind they always say. 
 If I don't see it or hear about it, I don't have to think about it. Right? And if I don't think about it, maybe it's really not there. Not happening. is good in my own little world. No bad stuff here. Just smiles. Everyone is Happy, Happy, Happy! Don't talk about that bad stuff..the horrible things that are happening elsewhere. That's not us. We don't do those things. So it doesn't affect us at all. NOT OUR PROBLEM!

Listen to me carefully dear friends...Children are being neglected. Innocent children are being abused in every sense of the word. It runs the gamut from emotional abuse to downright physical torture. From not getting enough attention and love to being chained to walls..raped repeatedly. 
Things you cannot even begin to wrap your mind around are happening 
RIGHT NOW. Somewhere in this this our this your your very neighborhood. 
It's happening. It's there..I promise you. I would venture to say that less than 5% of the abuse cases reported actually ever make the news. It's probably much less than that actually. 
Ask a teacher how many children they see on a daily basis where there is abuse or neglect suspected. 
Ask a police officer how many homes they visit where children are found to be abused or neglected. Maybe not even to a criminal level but they see it. 
 No food in the fridge and the kids have no shoes on in 20 degree weather but Mom's on her Iphone and Dad's playing the Xbox...parents screaming and yelling and cursing at the 4 year old for not taking better care of her little sister...Mom or Dad so drunk or high on drugs that they didn't realize that their 3 toddlers were playing in the middle of one of the busiest streets in the city.
 Ask a nurse what she sees..Bruises on the kids. Injuries to the children and the parents' explanation just doesn't sound plausible.

 It's happening. Here. There. Wherever you are. 

How do you respond to it? Are you like me? Turn the channel. Leave the conversation. "Let's not talk about about talking about something happy? How about them Tigers! Didn't they have a great season!" Just because you ignore the situation or refuse to acknowledge what is happening does not mean that the problem ceases to exist. 
Or are you one who abruptly exclaims, "Man! That sucks! But it's none of my business. Not my kids so it's not my problem."
 Or maybe...just maybe...are you the one who thinks, "That's so sad..I'd really like to help..but what can I do about it? I don't know how to help." 
Yes. You. I want to talk to YOU!

There are so many ways that you can help abused and neglected children.

 Become a foster parent
Well, this one is obvious right? :-) Foster families are on the front lines. Taking in children who need a temporary place to live while their biological families get the help they need to become better parents. It's hard. It's draining.
 It's a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job. Some of these kids come from really hard places and it's emotionally, mentally and physically draining. 
But it's one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. Just think, if I wasn't a foster Mom, I'd never gotten to meet or love on these beautiful children that God has placed in our home. Good, loving foster families are always needed.

Volunteer as a Guardian Ad Litem
Guardian Ad Litems are volunteers who are appointed to represent the best interests of the child. They are the advocate for the child in any court proceedings. They are able to stand up and say, "I am for this child! His/her best interest is all I am concerned with." They are the voice for the voiceless. Their job is to look for the best possible permanent situation for the child and advise the court on their opinion. It is a wonderful way to get involved without having the 24/7 commitment of a foster parent.

Support foster families
As I've said before, fostering children is hard. Foster families need support. They need families and friends to encourage them and pray for them. Something as small as a text or call saying, "I'm thinking of you today" would mean the world to a foster Mom who's struggling to get through another day. Offer to come by and chat or watch the kids while Mom gets some much needed chores done. I am blessed with a wonderful family and several great friends who support us in this journey. Sometimes just being able to vent or talk about a rough day is all we need to continue on. Also, if you are a pastor or attend a church, consider starting a foster care ministry. Offering support, clothing or children's supplies to foster families in your community. There are many ways to support and encourage foster families.

Be an advocate
Advocate for these children. Get these kids front and center in the minds of your community. Share the need for people to help on your social media, blogs, etc. Speak to your pastor about having a foster care/adoption workshop at your church to spread the word about the need for foster families. Or maybe allow your local DSS or children's advocacy group to come in and set up an information table in the lobby. Have a small dinner or gathering in your home where those interested in fostering/adoption can come and get more information. Get the word out. Remember out of sight, out of mind. We want people to SEE the need. The more people who see the problem, the better chance we have to find people who are willing to DO something about the problem.

Support the biological families
This one is hard for some, including me. Our immediate reaction to those who have had their children taken from them is to judge them. I've learned through this journey that sometimes it is merely a case where the biological parents don't have the support they need to be good parents. Or they don't have the education. They didn't have good parents themselves to teach them how to be a good parent. It is rarely a case of parents who don't love their children or want what's best for them. Often times it is more the case of they just don't know any better way. Offer to help transport parents to parenting classes. Be a mentor for a single Mom. Be a support person for a struggling alcoholic or former drug user who's trying their very best to stay clean and care for their children. If you have a business, offer employment to allow someone to become self sufficient. Invite them to church. 
SHOW them this Jesus you are so willing to TALK about. 
Love on the unlovable. You know, you haven't always been so lovable yourself. Remember, the ultimate goal of foster care is to return these children to their families. Helping to strengthen those families is, I believe, one of the most important things we can do.

Support Agencies that Help Children
In our area, there are several agencies that are on the front lines. Miracle Hill, the Julie Valentine Center, Salvation Army just to name a few. Shop at their thrift stores. Donate unwanted items to their stores. Support them financially. Volunteer your time to their ministries. The Julie Valentine Center is our local rape crisis center. Offer to volunteer to help with basic office duties. Offer to help transport victims and their families to counseling sessions. Do some yard work for them. Contact your local agency. I bet they'll be happy to talk to you about volunteer opportunities for not only individuals but groups. How great a local mission that would be for your church's youth group or men's ministry!

This is, in my opinion, the most important thing we can do. And the best part is...this is something that anyone and everyone can do. Pray for these children. Pray for foster families. Pray for the biological families. Pray for the caseworkers. Pray for the Guardian Ad Litems. Pray for the judges to make sound decisions. Pray, saints, Pray. Flood the gates of heaven with pleas to God the Father to wrap his loving arms around those children who are caught in the crossfire of the Enemy's deeds. Pray for those children who are not yet found. That they will know that there are people who love them and are there to help and not cause further harm.

There are so many ways to get involved. So many ways to be a hero to these children who so desperately need to know that there are still heroes in this world. It is my prayer that you will search your heart and pray for guidance from God on what He would have YOU do for the least of these.

Thank you to all those who have already stepped up to do something. 

I reap joy every single day when I hear the laughter of these children. I reap love when I see the smiles that were so few and far between just a few months ago that now come so frequently. Oh, yes, do I reap!

For those who are fighting the battle already...Be encouraged today. Don't give up. Stay the course. Keep the faith. What you are doing IS helping. You ARE making a difference in this world. You ARE changing the world for God's Kingdom.

For those of you who have not yet stepped into the battle for these kids...

What can YOU do?

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