For many children and teenagers Spring Break means freedom. It means freedom from tests and teachers, freedom from the rigidity of the school schedule, and the occasional freedom to travel. A single week of possibility.
However, many children in foster care have a drastically different experience. Spring Break can mean loneliness without the familiar faces of teachers and peers, it can mean anxiety and rest disruption without the structure of the normal week, and it can also mean being completely overwhelmed by the fear of missing out on whatever their biological families are, or would be, doing.
Youth who find themselves in the foster care system are removed from everything that anchors them. The people in their lives with whom they have the strongest attachment, their parents, are not able to be with them every day. Their relationships are reduced with greater community of individuals with whom they have attachments: pastors, neighbors, coaches, teachers, etc.
For these children, Spring Break doesn’t equal freedom, but even more loss.
If they are in a foster home, they have a family that loves and provides for them until they are able to be reunited with their biological family. But that doesn’t always mean it’s comfortable. And school, though difficult and not-super-fun, can many times act in a way that normalizes their experience.
After suffering the loss of their parents, their pets, their physical home, routines, they have a full week where they are forced to take a break from the thing that has kept them grounded.
A week of guessing what their bio parents are doing.
A week of scary new experiences and destinations.
A week where they don’t have their friends and teachers, school counselors and lunch-ladies to help them have a break emotionally from all that is going on around them.
A week of exploring and enjoying, drawing close to and falling in love with a family to whom they will one day have to say “goodbye.”
A week rid of distractions, allowing more time to reflect on the trauma or neglect they witnessed in their home and the traumatic experience of being removed from their home.
How do we help? What can we do to relieve as much of the stress and anxiety from these children and teens as possible?
- You can pray. Pray for these children and families to continue healing, to continue growing.
- You can give. More financial resources for The CALL, Project Zero, and Immerse means more families, more adoptions, and more resources for the teens who are homeless, living in group homes, or aging out of the foster care system.
- You can show more mercy and grace to the foster families and children with whom you interact. Don’t assume you know what they are going through, but provide them more compassion and empathy than ever before.
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer