During the month of September, Mandy has used her blog as a forum to push us all out of our comfort zones and to DoSomething in the communities where we live. When she asked for volunteers, I jumped at the opportunity to talk about what I DO to make a difference in the lives of children who have been abused, neglected, and abandoned.
Right now there are over half a million children in foster care in the United States. 15,000 of those children are from the state of Georgia. 38% of these children in Georgia are considered special needs. 2500 foster kids live in group homes or institutions. This is what I DO. I work in a residential treatment center for kids that are mentally retarded ( this means that they have an IQ of 70 or below) and have severe emotional and behavioral disorders such as ADHD, PTSD, ODD, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar, and Schizoaffective Disorder. We also deal with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Spectrum Disorders such as Asperberger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder, and Autism.
We are one of few facilities in the state of Georgia that deals with this population of kids. Right now we have 55 children, both boys and girls ranging in age from 11-18. All of our kids are in the custody of the Department of Child and Family Services. These are children that have been abused, neglected, and bounced around from placement to placement. The average child has been in about 19 other placements prior to coming to Morningstar. This includes relative placements, foster homes, group homes, and psychiatric hospitalizations.
One of my favorite stories of Jesus is His response to the disciples after they tried to send the children away because they thought Jesus was too busy to deal with children. He rebuked the disciples for sending them away and gathered the children to Himself and blessed them. This clearly shows the love that Jesus had for children. He saw them as the key to His kingdom and not troubled, neglected, abused, or delinquent. My prayer everyday as I go to work is that I will see these kids through the eyes of Jesus, Especially the more difficult ones. I pray that these kids see Jesus in me in everything I Do. Like when I offer a shoulder to cry on when images of past abuse haunt them. When I walk down the road hand in hand with a child as she dreams about belonging to a family someday. Even as I sometimes sit in silence with a child who is not able to verbalize how they feeling but they just know they are sad. When being silly and laughing gives them an opportunity to regain some of their lost childhood. By offering support when a child meets his biological mother for the first time, since he was removed from her care as an infant. Showing unconditional love no matter how many times I have been cursed at or threatened. Sometimes I feel as if these children have touched my life even more than I have touched theirs. It is the child who runs with arms open wide to hug me like a three year old would, except he is seventeen. It is the child that told me one day that he prayed for me last night. It is the hugs, the laughter, the tears, that keeps me Doing. This is where God has put me to Do something that will make a difference in the life of a child and ultimately the kingdom of God.