I was talking with my sister in law the other day about foster care children, and the system itself.
And I was reminded that we are very, very lucky indeed.
My mother would fight tooth and nail for my children. My mother in law would fight. My sister in law would fight for them. There isn't any one person in my whole family who wouldn't do everything in their power to see my children kept safe. Kept together.
But there are other children out there. Other children, right here in Winnipeg, who don't have someone to advocate so viciously on their behalves. Thousands of children whose families are either unwilling, unstable, or simply incapable of taking in these children.
And Child Family Services does their job. Children are taken out of unsafe environments and given over to someone else to care for them. There are private companies who do the same- all for the best interests of the children.
Still, my heart breaks for the children. Not because someone is trying to keep them safe, Thank God someone is doing that. But because they don't have someone in their family fighting for them.
And it makes me cry. So again, we are very lucky. Not only do we have family whom our children could turn to if something tragic happened to my husband and I; we also live in the time and place that we do.
If this were only 10 years ago, and something bad happened to my husband or I, and our families weren't able to take the children, our children would be separated.
They would be sent to different 'group homes'. Because they are aboriginal. Because in order to avoid a 'residential schools' type accusation, the government decided that aboriginal children could NOT be placed in 'white' families.
In order to appear to be preserving heritage, the government unilaterally decided that aboriginal children could only be fostered out to aboriginal families. Unfortunately, there are nowhere near enough aboriginal families looking to become foster parents. Only about 10% of the aboriginal children would find placement under those conditions. And the other 90%? Group homes if they were lucky. A hotel room with a paid babysitter if they were not as lucky.
Siblings split apart, girls over here, boys over there. Young children here, older kids there, teenagers kept apart from both. It's a hard knock being taken from your parents (even with good reason)- but then to be separated from your brothers and sisters? Bad to worse. And if no one stepped forward, willing to take in a family of siblings? Years and years spent apart. Having no personal possessions, nothing of their "own"- other than a garbage bag or back pack full of clothes.
So I cry, because I am lucky enough that no matter what, I will never have to worry that my children will be separated from each other. And I cry because there are children out there who aren't that lucky. And I can hardly wait until our children are older- so that we can foster aboriginal children who aren't as lucky as ours are.
I urge anyone who has the time, desire and stability (it also requires a huge commitment of energy, patience, and love)- consider becoming a foster parent. You probably won't get to "keep" the child you help raise and will, most likely, come to love- but maybe you can offer that child (or children) a safe place to be nothing more than a child. Even if it's only for a week.