The "God" Stuff!
Today is probably the most Family day of all holidays. Here's my argument....
All of the other big American holidays have a split focus. The next holiday that brings families together is about mom and the one after about dad. The July family get together is about country and barbecue (no idea how those came together but it works). Fast forward to Thanksgiving. This one doesn't win for me because it is about EVERYTHING! There is the focus of food, the games, and relatives. People are preparing for Black Friday and taking just a moment to sit around to finally give thanks - sometimes to God and others just remember highlight that day the things for which they are grateful. So, Christmas? Nah! That's about shopping, decorations, carols, gifting, mostly the kids, and somewhere in their the baby Jesus gets a mention too. The only thing these do is bring family together. But Easter....
Whether you acknowledge it in the traditional way or acknowledge "Resurrection Sunday", it is the peaceful family holiday. No fights of football teams, no real drinking, the food is modest, and there is no major shopping event tied to the occasion. The immediate family of the household will enjoy church and dinner. They will dye eggs and some families even match their clothes. I haven't learned of any family that has the annual Easter Dinner brawl. So, this Sunday wins. Kinda.
My blogs are about realness. Especially with a light on what that means for a foster child/adoptee. Keep in mind that all adoptions are not from birth or without additional trauma to the child. Mine was after 7 years of age and was challenging enough that I had to go for mine own path at 16. What could this possibly have to do with the great holiday? The God stuff!
I may be wrong. I have not been a part of every child services agency in the nation. Speaking from my personal experience and from the professionals that I know, but no one ever asks the child (let's say 6 to 16 years of age) what their religious preference is in a placement home. To some this may seem a little extreme but, trust me, it's not. Religion is important in a persons life very early in age. It is a part of a child's identity with their family. This is true even when the immediate parents are not very religious, often youth will relate religion to their family heritage (ie grandparents). When that is taken away it can feel like the last tie to their family is gone.
Religion and foster care are not foreign subjects. #Google #FosterCare and #Religion and you will find countless scholarly articles on the subject. Courts and politicians are embatted with current and hopeful foster parents are placement decisions. Not any of them use the feedback of the child. Why is this important? Connection! Let's walk through my journey as an example.
My birth family is Catholic. "Were" Catholic may be the more appropriate term, I don't know. My early memories were flooded with nuns, priests, and catholic school mats just after lunch. I wanted to be a nun and cried every time that I couldn't take communion. I knew how to recite the rosary and did so faithfully. My religion was so important to me that it was one of the few personal possessions that I can recall having with me from my past in my new foster home. It was an object of discussion there. I was just 5 when I started my foster care journey.
There are ways to ask a question without being too heavy. Had someone, anyone, asked me why I always recited my rosary, touching every bead, I would have told them, "because me and Grandma Lois" do it together. I felt that I knew what it meant to be Catholic and all I dreamed of was being a nun. Had they asked, they would have known that. I remember telling people that a lot. Had they asked, they would have know that religion was important to me and that should have been a factor. My story should have at minimum communicated the need to be supportive of my religion. I had gone through too much other trauma to have that lifeline taken away. I was proud and continued my prayers but it was more of a novelty at the home. Like most blacks in Detroit, the Surgeon household embraced religion, but not mine In the beginning it was the respectful acknowledgement that every black from the south has had for generations. They are sure to hit up the major days and as often as they can get up will make sure the kids are in church. I'm not sure if I ever saw James Surgeon dress for church. Not important. What is important is that my religion was seen as odd, weird, entertaining, rather than a part of the core of my nature. I was five. As soon as I found out as an adult where that parish was I stopped by when I visited Detroit. It was closed but it felt good to stand in front of the building. I remember the stairs and could almost see inside where the dishes with just a little water sat near a table with many candles. I felt like I could go inside without an usher and find my way back to the pew where I sat next to grandma. I could still feel the sensation when they got ready for communion and I knew that I couldn't get a wafer and drink. It felt good to stand there. I felt close to her again. So very, many years later.
While states and congress are using religion to debate the fate of children that are not even in there care, consider this...does the God stuff matter to the child? It can but not in the way that some may believe. The key is just ask. It may be more important for a child to be respected at home by adults that love them than whether or not the adults are of the same gender. It may matter a lot if a religious practice is a part of their regular lifestyle that they are able to continue that practice, even if the family does not. The "God Stuff" for me was a connection to a family that I didn't know that I see them again and needed that connection to feel real in life. It turns out that I only saw Grandma Lois a few more times ever. Everything that she left me was rooted in our religion. It was all taken away. It mattered.
So many families are celebrating Easter today. Some families like the more commercial approach, while others are deeply religious in their practice. If any of the children there are non-genetic and placed at the age of understanding (5 or older - some kids younger), just know that they may be uncomfortable. They may be completely non-religious or practice a religion where Easter is not a part of the observances. Does it matter? They may be completely disconnected from their whole family and looking at your heavily family moment may make them feel like an outsider. Does it matter?
The resounding answer is YES! It may not be actionable, but it must always matter. If there is not a placement that fits them the data can provide support for community outreach. Professionals can target identifying families that will be a stronger bridge through the difficult times and a rock if the home it permanent. Less favorable, finding out why they child's belief exist could identify areas that may expose a need for emotional and trauma impacted support if the families religious practices where socially unhealthy. Children need people that listen to them on all topics. The God Stuff need to be in the conversation.