ONE Can Be a Really Big Number When it Comes to Foster Care

The number 1 gets lots of press when it comes to ranking things in order. First place, first chair, first round draft pick. After all, who doesn’t want to be first?

But as a quantity, the number 1 is unimpressive. It’s barely more than zero and merely half as much as it’s neighbor, number 2. One of anything doesn’t accomplish much. One Oreo cookie leaves a person feeling very incomplete. One point in most athletic events won’t win you the game (OK, soccer fans, I hear you – I said “most” athletic events). One person isn’t even enough to run a teeter-totter. One isn’t enough in so many areas of life.

For all it’s limitations, however, there are a lot of people who can point to one person who truly played a transformative role in who they have become. One coach, one teacher, one mentor. When we understand the impact that one person can have on another person, it’s incredibly empowering. Each of us has gifts and resources that could have tremendous impact on the lives of others, if only allocated for that purpose.

The power of one became even more real to me a couple weeks ago at our annual Summit in Nashville. We hosted the Foster Voice pre-summit intensive which featured 5 adults who either spent significant time in foster care or experienced the difficult realities that kids in foster care experience. It was one of the most powerful things I’ve been a part of in a long time.

These amazing people provided so much wisdom and insight. We listened, we asked questions, we learned and we are so much better for it. Among the many themes that emerged was the reality that one person, one caring adult can have tremendous impact on the course of another person’s life.

Crystal tells a story about a social worker who started talking to her about her poetry. The worker asked her if she had ever considered putting her work in a book. When Crystal said that she had thought about it, the worker told her she wanted to order one and asked for an invoice. Crystal was confused and explained to the worker that the book didn’t actually exist yet – it was just something she had thought about. The worker understood perfectly and had just spoken a vision into Crystal’s life that she never forgot.

Alex shared about a foster care placement he had as an elementary student for about 18 months. He is now a husband and a dad. He shared that, to this day, the woman that fostered him for that short time is still what he thinks of when he thinks of maternal love.

Jaimie aged out of foster care and was working check-out at a grocery store. Over time, she developed a friendship with one of her customers. Eventually, that customer discovered that Jaimie had been in foster care and eventually asked if she still had an interest in having an adoptive family. She did and at 19 she was adopted.

Diego arrived at Aaron and Mary Blake’s house as a teenager. From the time he set foot on the front steps, he knew something was different. Now, as a husband and father, Diego talks about the things he does for his wife and the fact that everything he does he saw modeled by his “pops”. He gained a vision for what it means to be a husband and dad there, and he shares that it changed his life.

Kevin never actually entered foster care. He had grown up in a middle-upper class family and had been severely abused. Reports were made, but, because of his seemingly stable and affluent environment, the investigators never came past the front door and he was never removed. Eventually he found himself on the streets as a teenager sleeping in a tube slide on a playground. One of his basketball buddies took him to his house and this boy’s mom gave Kevin a place to call home. Eventually, she was the one who danced with him during the mother-son dance at his wedding.

Those of us who heard these stories were struck by the tremendous role that one person can play in the life of a child in foster care.   It serves a reminder of the power every person has to invest a little of themselves into someone else and the difference that can make.   Here are a couple questions to consider:

  1. Is there a person who did or said something that has tremendously impacted your life? What kind of investment did it take for them to do that?
  2. Is there someone you know in foster care that needs you to demonstrate how much you believe in them?  What would it look like for you to do that?