Thursday, September 20, 2012

Project Zero

Today was one of those days . . . it started with a root canal, there were some bright spots (lunch with my mom), but mainly, it was one of those days that felt like a root canal--fighting kids, frustration trying to get some stuff finished up around the house, and I'm trying not to give into a cold, but by late afternoon, it always seems to be winning. So at 5:45 this evening, I was not excited to be loading my kids back into the car to head to (of all places to go with a headache) Larry's Pizza.

Then we got there and my attitude was quickly readjusted. We weren't at Larry's to meet my parents or some friends or just to enjoy an evening as a family. We were there to meet the foster child we've been paired with in a mentorship program. The program matches kids who are in the foster care system and are waiting to be adopted. These kids' parents' rights have been permanently terminated and they are very aware that they are available for a forever family but are still waiting.

Right. Finding throw pillows for my bed suddenly seems trivial, very, very trivial.

Our sweet girl (I will call her A here to protect her) has been in the system for 6 years. I'm still fuzzy on all I'm allowed to say, but she hasn't been living with Daddy Warbucks waiting for him to locate her real parents. And when we met her, she looked at her case worker and said, "Where is my adoptive family? I'm ready to meet them. I really want to be adopted."

Broke my heart.

Later, her case worker told me that she was in the final stages of being adopted when something happened and the family wouldn't commit to her anymore. Can you even imagine? The one thing you want more than anything is handed to you and then yanked away. And you're in middle school. And you have been abused and abandoned. And it seems like everyone at school has at least one parent that will be there past their 18th birthday. And the house you live in today might not be the one you live in tomorrow.

A root canal sounds like a spa day compared to the life A calls normal.

Project Zero used to be called Pulaski County Adoption Coalition (i think). They are working to raise awareness about adoption and their biggest goal is to have NO adoptable child waiting in foster care for his/her family. Go to their website: and learn more about them. It's an AMAZING organization created and driven by foster moms who decided fostering and adopting wasn't all they could do (though they are still doing those as well).

About a year ago, I read a book called Kisses from Katie . . . I ignored my family for a couple of days because I couldn't put it down. Basically, Katie is around 24 now and is living in Africa running a nonprofit organization and caring for the very poor and the very sick and raising the 13 girls she has taken in. It got to me. Then I read a few more books that also got to me. I started wondering what we could do to make a difference. I'm not going to bore you with all the details, but I wanted to foster or adopt or something. And after a lot of discussion and prayer and wondering and talking, Josh and I still weren't sure what we were supposed to do. I mean, the Bible calls ALL of us to care for the orphans. Then, "randomly", I got a call from a girl (lady, woman, whatever, she's my age and I still say girl) who was starting a program through Project Zero. It was a step down from foster care and rather than try to explain it, I'll let you read what their website says about it:

Mission Statement
The mission of Project Zero's Mentor Program is to bring caring individuals from our community and unite them with adoptable children growing up in foster care.  We want to provide each child with a mentor to support and encourage them through various transitions in their life.
The Need
Arkansas currently has 500 children available for adoption through DCFS; 160 reside in Pulaski County.  Our children need stability and permanency.  Many foster children spend time in shelters or group homes, and often transition from placement to placement.  They struggle with the lack of stability and consistency.  We feel mentors can provide this stability that our children so desperately need.
Program Information
Project Zero has created a one on one mentoring program to unite adoptable children with caring individuals.  The program will provide the child with a long-term, stable support system.  The process consists of completing an application, performing background checks, and In Home Consultation, and a staffing with DCFS.  Project Zero will walk you through every step and be there to answer all of your questions.
For additional information or to get involved in this exciting opportunity, please contact Project Zero's Mentoring program director Amy Smith at
Amy had barely finished telling me about the program before I was saying, "YES! YES! This is exactly where we are right now. Yes! Send me the info, please!!!" I was on cloud 9 because it felt like a perfect fit. It has taken several months to go through the paper work and the red tape, but tonight, we finally met A, the sweet little girl that we get to love on. We do not (as of now) feel like we are called to adopt her and the amazing people at Project Zero and DHS are not pressuring us to. Our job, our privilege is to love her and provide some stability and affection and prayer and support while she waits for her forever family.  And it's not always going to be easy--I know--the heartache and the logistics of adding someone to our family and schedule are going to be challenging. But, oh man, she is worth it. We get to tell her that God loves her and then we get to SHOW her His love with fun things like skating and shopping and going to the Museum of Discovery. We will get to celebrate birthdays and accomplishments and hold her hand when she moves foster homes again. We get to pray for her and beg God to bring a forever family to her (even though those in the program say it is highly unlikely she will be adopted because of her age).

So here's my challenge to you--do you have a couple of hours every week or once a month to give to a child who needs some stability in his/her life? Can you be a cheerleader for someone who is on a team they didn't choose to be on? Can you walk through life with a precious child who has been broken by her own parents and is floating around in a broken system hoping against hope to feel whole and wanted and loved? Maybe you don't feel like fostering or adoption is right for you, but you want to give more than money towards the orphans around you. Think about mentoring.

When we left tonight, A said she wanted to come home with us. Her case worker and I explained (again) that's not the way this relationship works and she seemed to accept that and was smiles and hugs as we waved goodbye. I felt like I was going to throw up. She barely knew us, but she wants to be wanted so badly. Later, as I laid in bed with Sascha, I felt all these emotions swirling around me--sadness for A, gratefulness for our life, a strong urge to protect my kids yet a compulsion to carefully expose them to the real world around them. And I wondered, "Why us?" Why did God choose for my kids to be born to 2 parents who love them immensely and want the best for them? Why did A's family mistreat her so badly and consistently that she would be taken from them and sent to live with strangers because that was the better situation?

I don't know all the answers. I know that I am grateful and convicted and that somewhere in my Bible it says something along the lines of, to whom much is given, much is expected. And it also tells us to care for the least of these. I'm not going to change the world by taking A rollerskating. Heck, I'm not even guaranteed to change her life. But I will go down trying and pray that one day when she is a vet or a teacher or a lawyer like she dreams of now, she will know that the Bass family loves her.

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