It's back to school time at my house, and three kids equal three different buses each 45 minutes apart. Looking for a positive spin on this, I thought it be great to have time with each child individually every morning. I hadn't thought about what would happen if we missed a bus, particularly the first one.
However, this is exactly what happened on the first day of school. As the back of the bus grew smaller and smaller until it vanished, all I could see was this nightmare domino effect wreaking havoc on the rest of the morning. It played out in my mind in slow motion as my oldest daughter and I stared at each other. How does Kid Number Two make Bus Number Two if I drive Kid Number One to school? And what about Kid Number Three still asleep? He's too little to stay home alone. Panic set in. Note to self: make sure husband does not leave for work early on the first day of school.
For eight years, school buses retrieving the Schlaack kids have picked up at the same corner. I never considered this might change some day. Sure enough, the bus pass had the new location right on the front. I was so entrenched in the way it had been that I didn't even see what was written in black and white.
So as I stood on the corner wondering what in the world we were going to do, one thought flashed through my mind so fast I'm a little surprised it even registered. "Is this what it is like for foster kids?" Things change in their lives constantly with no warning. And unlike for me, it is not even written down for them where they can see it, if only they would read it.
Many foster children enter up to three different schools during the course of one school year because they move around so much. Foster parents aren't required to attend parent-teacher conferences or participate in the educational process for foster children. Some foster parents do these things and more. Far too many don't.
Can you imagine not laying eyes on the school your preschooler attends each day? Four-year-old Trey was placed in foster care after his mother overdosed on heroin. His foster mother had never been to his school, had never seen his classroom or met his teacher. As his Guardian Ad Litem, I never felt right about this. Still, Trey stayed in this foster home because his basic needs were being met and we had no reason to move him and no guarantee he would land somewhere better.
If your kids are back in school and you have some time on your hands, think about how you might give some of it to help a foster child. Tutoring or volunteering at schools or non-profits are all good ways to give back to children who really need you in their corner. You might even consider giving the greatest gift of all: opening your heart and home to a child who desperately needs someone to love and protect him or her, and attend parent-teacher conferences. To learn more about fostering, click here.
As for our first day of school, we got lucky. Our wonderful neighbor who works at the middle school was heading out the door just as we were coming around the corner. Disaster avoided. The kindness of a neighbor in my small community put our morning back on track. I think that is exactly what will put our foster kids back on track too.