Charles E. Richardson

Pilots, bankers and bags of weed and seed

wmarshall@macon.com

Last Tuesday I had dinner with some pilots, investment bankers and bags of weed and seed. Let me explain. These weren’t ordinary pilots or ordinary investment bankers or plain old bags of weed and seed you’d find at The Home Depot, Lowe’s or Ace Hardware. No these folks — and bags — are much more special.

I was honored to sit in a room of foster parents. I was asked to speak to them by Angela Brown, Social Services Supervisor at the Bibb County Department of Family and Children Services that oversees the foster parent program. Some parents were new to fostering and others have been taking children into their homes and hearts for decades. They were gathered at Northway Church for their annual foster parents dinner held, appropriately, during Foster Parents Month.

Listening to their introductions as they went around the room was more than heart warming. One of the questions I had before coming to the dinner that was answered: How do you let children, scared, frightened and uncomfortable, into your home and heart, sometimes in the middle of the night, after loving on them for days, months and sometimes years, let them go? We’ll, you don’t. There were so many stories of children going from a foster child to an adopted child by a foster parent I lost count. In fact, I sat next to Northway’s pastor, Kevin Mills. He and his wife Katie have two children and have adopted another — and by the time you read this — may have signed the paper work for their second adopted child they have been fostering. Talk about leadership by example.

Northway has shown the way. It has opened up its facilities for the foster parents’ monthly meetings and provided age appropriate child care, and, some members of the church have followed their pastor’s lead and become foster parents, too.

I called the foster parents pilots because by opening up their hearts and homes they are changing the trajectory of a child’s life. Just like pilots guide airplanes to higher altitudes, a foster parent has to push through whatever turbulence a child has seen during their young life — and I heard some horror stories — to help them understand they are safe and secure. It takes patience and love in the face of fear.

The world has changed and not for the better. Just last week, according to the DFCS Region VI Director, Lachard Dennard, four children died and, if I heard right, we were losing about one child a day. Losing any precious little soul is too many.

The need for foster parents continues to expand. Bibb County has to depend on out-of-county homes because we don’t have enough foster parents. Certainly, it takes some swimming to become certified, but that’s understandable.

I called these parents investment bankers because while the child is with them they are constantly making deposits into their lives. And believe me, no foster parent will ever strike it rich raising foster children. The per diem barely covers the cost of groceries. The investment, however, pays off in several ways. Society gets to make the withdrawals because foster parents have been making deposits into the children’s accounts. Their portfolios include love, security and stability. Our jails and prisons are filled with examples of overdrawn societal accounts.

When I reached the point in my speech where I described them as bags of weed and seed, I must admit I got some strange looks, eyes asking, “Weed and seed, really? What are you talking about Richardson?”

In the spring of the year we think of getting out of doors and lawn care. My problem is dandelions. It’s a constant fight. I spray and spray, but they keep coming back. Children who are allowed to grow wild are like weeds taking over a lawn. Pretty soon they are out of control and are capable of doing almost anything imaginable.

Foster parents have to keep the weeds at bay, while feeding the children in their care so they’ll have all the nutrients needed as they grow and blossom to become beautiful people — people who weren’t crowded out by weeds that tried to choke their potential.

So the next time you see a group of children that might look a little odd to you playing together like brother and sister, they probably are. Call me if you need an explanation.

Charles E. Richardson: 478-744-4342, crichardson@macon.com

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