Attending that first MAPP (Mentoring and Partnering in Parenting) class caused a mixture of emotions for us. Before we even walked through the door of the conference room, the smell of cigarette smoke assaulted my senses. I'm extremely sensitive to it as it triggers migraines for me. No one could smoke in class. It was just that the smell was clinging to their clothing. I wondered if I would be able to do this.
We then saw our fellow classmates. There were around twenty people of all ages and from all walks of life. I tended to notice some rough looking characters first. Two of the guys looked like motorcycle biker dudes. My first thought of dismay was, "These are the people who want to be foster parents!"
Over the course of the first two or three weeks the teachers narrowed the class down to only those eligible to be licensed. However, I have to admit that God taught me a few lessons about making judgments based on appearance over the next ten weeks. The two rather tough looking characters actually were two tenderhearted men who truly cared about the well-being of children. They were included in the four couples and one grandmother who finished the class with us.
The amount of paperwork required for the classes was overwhelming. House plans of our homes had to be drawn. Specific amounts of square footage in bedrooms were required per child. Our home had to be determined as safe. Fire safety escape routes had to be drawn out. Medications must be locked up. Kitchen knives were to be stored safely. Guns and ammunition had to be stored safely and separately. There were even regulations regarding pets.
On top of that everyone in the home had to have physicals. We had to have TB skin tests. Certification for First Aid and CPR had to be completed. Everyone over age twelve had to have a background check run. There were reference letters to request. A family profile had to be made including pictures of us and our home. We had to explain why we were taking these classes. This was overwhelming to us to accomplish while trying to process all the information about how the foster care system works.
The problems children in foster care have were mind-boggling to us. I remember being shocked when they described to us children who cut themselves or spread feces all over as a way of coping with the pain inside them. I wanted to weep. We truly desired to help but were we capable of dealing with troubled children?
Throughout the course of the classes it was stressed that the goal was to reunite the children with their biological families. Most of us struggled with this. It was hard to see that the parents even deserved a second chance to have their children after some of the unspeakable horrors they had put their children through. However, from the experiences my husband and I had in ministry, we knew that many times people simply did not know a better way. They did love their children, but they needed to be taught. This is what the foster parenting system attempts to do.
What we realized more and more as we went through the classes was that foster care only puts a bandage on a hurt. It truly couldn't heal broken families. Sometimes the bandage would hold things together, but many times the bandage would be torn from the wound making a wound the would gape even larger. It broke our hearts to know that the true healer of all wounds, God or Heavenly Father, was totally left out of the picture. We wondered where the Christians were to step up and offer a real solution for these hurting children and families. Yet we ourselves felt inadequate to walk down this new path we had begun.