Frequently at foster parent gatherings the organizers will trot out a young man or woman who grew up in foster care and is now educated and successful in a career as a teacher, writer, or in another productive field.
Like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, this poster child has beaten the odds. The fact that we introduce him at all indicated that this is an unusual person. And to become this unusual person, like Jackie Robinson, the foster child needed extraordinary talent, tremendous drive, and a good bit of luck. Rarely do all those elements come together in one person. For most in similar situations, whether a young black baseball player in the 1940s or foster children at any time, the cards are so thoroughly stacked against them that their best effort will not bring them success in their field of choice, but only setbacks and discouragement. The exception proves the rule.
Much more common is the difficult child, a work in process. He or she needs constant encouragement, monitoring, second chances, protection from life-changing mistakes, the freedom to make small ones.
Shuffled and shunted from home to home
Often passed along by time to graduation into independent living
Their feelings flatlined and neutered by society’s unconcern
No surprise that they strike back in dispassionate anger
Offending a society that has not befriended them
Foster parents need patience and consistency. Go slow. Accept small gains. Don’t expect miracles. Like nursing a stunted plant or a bedraggled flower to health, look forward to the joy of restoring harmony to a life adrift without a base.