May 17, 2010

reasons, not excuses

We went to our monthly foster parent support meeting early this week.  They are put on by our agency, and it’s a great way to meet other foster parents.  Since it is Foster Care Awareness Month, they put on a little open house dinner-ish thing for the foster parents.  It was very nice of them.  I really enjoyed it.

A couple of our closer foster parent friends were there – (they are the ones that had X-man’s brothers, and they are who he moved in with when he left our house.).  They had a couple of little boys with them who had been placed with them the night before.  Intake had actually called us with these boys the night before, and we had to say no because we currently only have one twin bed open.  (Anyone know where I can get some bunk beds real cheap?)  We sat down for dinner with them and Zee piped up, “Those are my cousins!”  I really was thinking he probably had them confused, but then one of the other boys said, “Hey look!  That’s Zee!” 

What are the chances?  We are two hours away from where they are from, and their cousins just happen to be placed with a couple in our agency who we know well?  CRAZY! Their cousins also have two siblings in care (about ten minutes from where we live).  So if Jae and Zee’s brother and sister end up moving in with us, there will be 8 kids from the same family in foster care in the same town.


If that’s not an example of the cycle of poverty doin’ it’s thing, I don’t know what is.  (By the way this is a great book about the cycle of poverty, and is very helpful in understanding where a lot of these kids come from.)


Imagine that you grow up in a small town, or a big city for that matter, and your family is poor.  Not by any choice of your own – maybe both your parents work as hard as they can, but can’t make ends meat, maybe your dad is into drugs, maybe your mom is really depressed, maybe they are both gone all the time, and you’re really not sure what is going on.

And then there’s the abuse.  Everybody is stressed out and no one knows what to do.  Maybe sometimes your mom hits you, maybe sometimes your dad touches you, maybe there is never anyone there to get you ready for school, maybe all three.  There’s no food in the house, and you’ve pretty much had to figure out how this world works all on your own.

You’ve never left the town you were born in.  You live in a poor neighborhood, and most of the people around you are in about the same situation.  You don’t really have any role models, no one to look up to that seems to have it together.  Since you’re in a poor neighborhood the schools are no good – most of your classes don’t even have textbooks, and most of your teachers don’t have college degrees.

So what is it that tells you life should be different than this?  Who is it that helps you to change?  What will motivate you to live a different life?  How do you know that any of this is wrong?


These aren’t excuses.  But they are reasons.  This is the cycle of poverty.

It doesn’t keep me from ever getting angry at bio parents whose children are hurting on account of their decisions.  It doesn’t keep me from venting, or wanting to point fingers.  But it does help to realize that when it comes to their kids, 99% of people do the best they can with what they know.  I don’t want to act like I am responsible for being where I am.  I don’t want to feel entitled enough to act like that person I described couldn’t have easily been me.  I feel so blessed that it isn’t. 

I don’t know where Jae and Zee’s mom came from.  I don’t know what she’s been through.  I don’t know if she had anyone growing up to tell her that there was more to life than what she was experiencing. 

The truth is, I was in the middle of a post venting about their mom’s lack of effort.  And sometimes, I really feel like I need to just because it is so difficult dealing with the aftermath and these boys’ broken hearts.  Instead I should pray for her though.  And love her.  I’m challenging myself, while being realistic, not to judge their mom and to do my best to support her. 


  1. Great post. I'm definitely going to look into that book. Oh, but I have to admit that when I glanced at the title I thought it said, "reasons not to exercise"... :)

  2. first of all, i couldn't agree more that what we see is people raising kids the way they were raised and they don't know how to do it any differently.

    AND I also have a hard time being as "loving" as I should towards bio parents. I do a good job to their face but outside of that I just want to complain about them and it is hard for me not to.

    I am glad you found my blog because I really love reading yours :)

  3. Well said, you are totally right about the cycle of poverty. I used to work in the inner city in one of Canada's poorset cities and watching the same thing happen to generation after generation was so hard.
    Thank you for doing what you do, you make a difference each and every day.

  4. This happened out a recent FPA meeting I was at. There was a foster mom there who had been fostering a teen for sometime. Another foster mom showed up with her new placement, 3 siblings. The teen recognized them and said "those are my stepsisters and my stepbrother!" Now the teen actually had been resenting her little stepsister for making the accusation that put their father in jail. However, by the time our 2 hour meeting was over [the kids play supervised elsewhere], they had made up. They were super excited to see each other again at the last meeting. Small world, but I agree that it is sad.

  5. I see this too, even though I'm not fostering yet. The greatest success I've seen in these situations is when the children get involved in a good church. Successful people who can model and teach good behavior attend church and are service oriented and willing to take the time to help mentor a child and or an adult. Just one of the ways religion can make a difference.

    This cycle isn't just about wealth or poverty to me though - it's really about being functional. What is it that keeps people from being functional? If they can learn new behaviors that are functional they can find their way out of the cycle. It does seem to be like a black hole though, that life can suck them back in so easily.

  6. I hope it's OK that I read your blog... I'm a friend of Katherine Kruger and live in St. Louis. When I was teaching we read the book you recommend on poverty and I agree that it provides helpful understanding and insights to the cycle that occurs for these families.


Thanks for commenting!!


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