When your only weapon to fight trauma and stigma is love, you fight hard and become a pretty intuitive warrior. We experienced this love at The Grandma Home House Retreat on Saturday, May 14, 2022, at our annual fellowship for National Foster Care Month. Love is the weapon that makes each foster parent, or Professional Family Teacher (PFT) as we call them, unique. It is the entity they use to fight the pains of trauma and stigma for youth in foster care. They are trained and given ongoing strategies for a healthy toolbox of methods to care for children and keep them focused according to their treatment goals, but it is their love that strikes the mightiest blows.
Their love is so mighty that, on this perfect day full of love, you could feel more with each arrival. The “Mobile, Alabama Crew” of PFTs arrived early and fresh for the day, optimistic about the grilled treats! They came with baby strollers and changes of clothes for the water slides. They brought family, friends, loved ones, and even family pets.
Reunited As One –
Then there was the faithful “Oxford, Alabama Crew” loaded on their van with their day bags ready for paddle boats, sandpiles, and good music. They had tips they’d learned from the last visit to share with first-timers and divvied out shared responsibilities for keeping up with the kiddos during this busy day.
We had other small carpools arrive from Birmingham, Alabama full of mothers, daughters, and granddaughters—all of whom were foster parents or soon-to-be. We call these our “legacy families.” They came by droves. Everyone was ready to have a great time. The excitement as they greeted each other was electric.
They got reacquainted with one another and told all the stories about grade levels, achievements, and setbacks. The PFTs gathered and clustered like relatives on the first night of a family reunion meet-and-greet. There was love, the smell of jasmine flowers, and every shade of pink rose you could imagine under date palm trees in the middle of rural Alabama. The Grandma Home House Retreat came alive and engulfed every child, parent, and loved one there in tranquility.
All About Our PFTs –
During the day’s event, the PFTs had the chance to relax, enjoy fishing in the lake, and the great food and musical entertainment of “DJ Meek.” SFH staff distributed gifts to every PFT and gave a special presentation for PFTs who had taken their first placements or had/would have birthdays and anniversaries during May. There was a table set aside for birthday celebrations for everyone with take-home arts-and-crafts, goodie bags and cupcakes, and free books for every youth!
After the gifts had been awarded and the water slides had done their job of exhausting the little ones, and the paddle boats had run many laps around the lake, the basketball courts were full of teens gathered to make the next celebratory shot in front of the crowd. It was time for everyone to bid their farewells, until the next time we will all gather to fellowship in love and honor their journeys as foster parents.
The chatter wasn’t of heavy goodbyes and sadness, rather it was a constant urge to meet again soon. Then I heard the weapon of choice unleashed, as I’d never heard it before: It was a song of “I love you’s” shared amongst the crowd. It casually leaked across every conversation. I heard “I love you!” more times in one day than I can remember, and it was real.
Until We Meet Again –
There’s something special about being at “grandma’s” and feeling the love that heals the woes of life. Every person that joined in these festivities honoring our foster parents shared in this unique love. You could see it in the genuine smiles, you could feel it in the hugs and hear it in the laughter. The more people that came, the more these foster parents unleashed this love into the crowd, covering all hearts, as they normally do.
I realized what they have is what people ask us, recruiters, constantly: “What does it take to be a foster parent?” Well, it takes love—genuine love. They use training tools for backup, but love is their weapon of choice. They are changing the lives of children in need of it, one at a time.