Anytime I have heard people talk about the foster care system, it has been negative.
I’ve heard adjectives like broken, damaged, lost, struggling and sad used to describe the children that come from the system, and words like "difficult" and “not worth it” to describe the experience foster families have.
The news, movies and books always talk about the horror stories and the cases gone wrong. They paint an extremely negative picture of a system that is set up to help children, and it honestly makes the whole thing daunting.
I’ve always considered myself someone who is loving, open-minded and flexible, and yet, when my parents told me they would be opening our home to foster children, I was apprehensive.
How would this affect my family? What kind of children would come through our home? How would life as I know it change? Is the reward worth the risk? Questions and concerns plagued my mind and my world flipped upside down.
I was still trying to decide if the change was good or bad, and then I received the call I had been waiting for: a FaceTime with my mom in which she was joined with two brand new faces. The faces were of two little boys who would come to mean more to me than I will ever be able to articulate.
I didn’t know it was possible to fall in love with someone before you even met him or her in person, but from the first moment I virtually laid eyes on my two new baby brothers, I knew it was real.
I could hear the love in my mom’s voice as she introduced me to the older one of the boys, and I could see the admiration in her eyes as she watched him wave to me through the phone. Within seconds, I had tears in my eyes; I knew becoming a foster family was the best thing that could have ever happened to us.
Since that call in July, I have met my two brothers in person, and fallen more and more in love with them every day.
My family has also taken in another little boy recently, and I can truthfully say I love him just as much as I love the other two. Being a foster sister has opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed.
I can now hear the adjectives like "broken," "damaged" and "lost," and laugh or roll my eyes because some people are so ignorant. I would never even dream of considering one of my brothers any of these things.
When I look at my three tiny humans, all I can feel is awe. At 6 and 7 years old, my brothers are strong and courageous. They have been through things I never knew happened outside of "Law and Order" episodes, and yet, they wake up every morning with a smile.
They have been given every reason to doubt adults and cower in fear of life, and yet, they embrace our family with hugs, laughter and unconditional love.
The system may be difficult to navigate, but the reward is beyond worth the risk. The risk is menial and inconsequential when you look at the rewards.
My life has been given a new light, enormous amounts of love and smiles that don't seem to fade even on the worst days. To say there is beauty underneath the negativity that surrounds the foster care system would be an understatement.
Life as a foster sister is more than beautiful; it is life-altering.
My new brothers have opened my mind, changed my outlook on life and fed my soul. They have completed my family and filled the emptiness I didn’t even know existed.
They are far from broken or difficult, and I would challenge anyone who says they are to stand just a day in their shoes.