I learned something during my first long shift at the shelter where I am now employed. It was my first time handling "intake" for a new resident. The young girl's probation officer delivered her to the shelter, and as soon as I saw her, I thought fantastic, another juvenile delinquent. And now I feel ashamed for even thinking this, but she came in the loose-fitting, elastic waist pants that kids wear in juvenile detention centers. She had a huge stocking cap on top of her head, and walked with her head hung low. She avoided my eyes. For the past week in my new role, I quickly learned that many of our "children" are teenagers who are one move away from long-term jail sentences. Perhaps in my mind I was going to be nurturing meek and broken young ladies who had been neglected and abused, and needed a safe home away from the mistreatment. In my mind, all of the girls were grateful and sweet. This is not quite the case.
When the girls went to bed, I had a couple of hours left on my shift. I cleaned up the kitchen and checked to make sure everyone was in their own bed. Then I took out the intake paperwork for our new resident. What I read broke my heart. She was born to a drug addicted single mom. From infancy until age five, she was in and out of foster care, passed around to different neighbors and relatives. She was sexually and physically abused. She was neglected. At age five she was adopted by a foster parent that she was never able to attach to. For the next few years she struggled in school, had frequent outbursts, had trouble concentrating, and began acting out sexually and physically. As she got older, she started running away from home, getting into physical fights with her adoptive mom, experimenting with drugs, and having intercourse at age thirteen. At one point, she stayed with a neighbor, until problems started in that placement. She was always missing school, getting into fights, and shoplifting and eventually ended up in a juvenile detention center. Her paperwork concluded with her psychiatrist stating that she suffers from "post traumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder." That big stack of papers might as well have smacked me over the head. This child is not a delinquent. She is a victim. True, she has made her own choices and mistakes. But how many of these mistakes stemmed from an early childhood that was void of safety, security, compassion and guidance? After my first week with my new girls, my resolve is even stronger. I am completely certain that God has called me to parent children who have been discarded or let down by their original parents. And I am so thankful for my wonderful husband, John, who has joined me in this journey! Tuesday at our last appointment with our caseworker, we made a few changes to our adoption application. We were already "open" to all races and genders, but now we are also considering "all ages". We believe God will lead us to the children that He wants to bring into our family. Thank you for your prayers on our journey!