A few weeks ago, I was in Inner Mongolia checking on our formula project kids. I met a foster family who -- while I was there -- found out that their foster child was going to be adopted within a few weeks. Right before my eyes, they both broke down and started crying.
The foster parents are really foster grandparents, like so many of the Chinese foster families. Taking care of the children not only brings in a few extra yuan a month (on average they are given about $40 USD each month to care for, feed, and clothe a child), but it also brings laughter and joy into their lives. While I'm sure you could find families who do it for the money, the majority of the families I've met have been deeply concerned for their kids, and pour an enormous amount of love and affection into their lives. And, when the kids leave to go to their "forever families," they take part of their heart with them.
Shortly after he found out another one of his kids would be leaving soon, the grandpa walked to a corner of their small, one-room house and took a framed picture off the wall... the only hanging on the wall. It was a collage of photographs of all the children they'd ever fostered. And he had a small chalkboard with the children's names that hung beside the frame. On it he had written their names and the dates of their arrival and departure. With watery eyes, he told us, "I just want to know that they are OK and happy."
When I got home, I tracked down one of the families who had adopted one of their foster children. (Long story about how that happened.) The family was kind enough to write a beautiful letter and send updated pictures on the child... and now the pictures and letter are on the way to Inner Mongolia, where hopefully they will be delivered within a couple of days. It is my prayer that it will give this loving couple the encouragement they need to keep going; to open their home and their hearts to another child. In their simple home with their old-fashioned ways, they have saved lives. Literally. They've brought kids back from the brink of starvation; they've uncovered smiles and relit the spark in eyes; they've celebrated first steps and got up late with teething babies. In short, they've loved. And all along, they've braced themselves for painful goodbyes.
For those of you who have adopted children who had the opportunity to live in foster care, say an extra prayer of thanks for that family tonight... wherever they are and whoever they are, they loved a child they knew they would lose, and that's more than most of us can do.