on refugee kids

8 Dec
          Ever since I was a kid (because I can actually remember being a kid and seeing the news and being upset), every time images of refugees have come out, every time there are foreign wars, people dying, children suffering…every time, I cry. Watching the news on TV, reading about it online.  I can’t help myself.  I cry.  I cannot imagine that life, but as I’ve written before, it’s not terribly far removed from my family–my Oma is a refugee.  She actually pointed this out at Thanksgiving this year–I’d never actually heard that name used prior.  We’d always just said she was an immigrant, but the truth is that my family came here as refugees from Hungary after WWII.  And I guess maybe in some way that speaks to the stigma attached to refugees.  Better to come as an immigrant than a refugee.
          My family needed so much help when they first came.  They didn’t speak English, didn’t know how to do basic things here like grocery shop or get a drivers license.  They struggled, I’m sure, but they also had an amazing family who helped them along their way.  The Locker family took Oma to the grocery store and opened packages and boxes, having her repeat names of things and teaching her what food in the US looked like (because it was certainly different from growing your own on the farm).  They made sure my aunt was registered and attended school (“Have her meet our son on the corner and he will make sure she gets on the bus”–and they just had to trust that she would get there.).  They helped my grandpa get a driver’s license so that my family could drive to visit friends from back home.  They helped my grandparents to save their money, slowly, and eventually move to Buffalo, where my grandpa started his own business (which my dad owns today), then buy a house, then get snowmobiles to explore in the winter, and even buy a cottage on Lime Lake for weekend relaxation over the summer.  My grandparents were some of the hardest working people ever–I’m sure they’d have done well for themselves without the help.  But the Lockers certainly did make their transition smoother.
          So when the Syrian refugee crisis started making news and the controversial topic of resettling refugees here in Rochester started going around, we immediately knew we wanted to open our home up to a family.  We could be “the Lockers” for another family–a kind of pay-it-forward type of a deal. We are so lucky–we have way too much.  We bought a house (and a 4-door instead of 2-door pickup truck and I chose to leave what we both felt was an unsafe workplace for what was allegedly going to be a better place) thinking we’d be having a family sooner rather than later.  How long could it possibly take us to get pregnant, we naively thought?  A few months?  A year at the most?  Everything we did the year before and the year after we got married was done with the thought of “when we have kids.”  And obviously that hasn’t really panned out the way we’d planned.  The empty rooms in the house are a reminder of what we don’t have, and more importantly a reason to feel guilty–there are people who have nothing, and we have multiple rooms that sit unused.  So offering them up to a family in need seemed like a no-brainer.   Eric reached out and heard back that normally families get placed in their own housing, but sometimes kids who have been separated from their families or lost them come and need a foster home.  Would we be interested?
          We had never even considered the possibility of fostering refugee kids when we reached out about housing a family.  Our only thought had been helping an entire family.  We don’t have any information about refugee fostering at all.  We don’t know where the kids would be coming from, we don’t know how old they are, we don’t know what kinds of supports we would need/have (because refugee kids can have serious PTSD and emotional issues from having seen and experienced horrific things back home), etc.  Basically we know nothing except that we have extra space and a whole lot of love that we could give to a kid (or two?).  I am curious, cautiously excited. Refugee fostering is not adoption, and from what I’ve read the goal with refugee kids is always that when things settle down, family will be located and kids will be reunited with biological families.  So adoption never really becomes a “thing” and the potential for bonding and becoming a family, then having the child taken away would always be present.  And while it would be so exciting for the child and we’d be so happy to have supported in a time of need, it would be pretty depressing for us, too.  Then again, I mean, that is the point of all of this, right?  To do something completely selflessly–expecting nothing in return–loving for as long as necessary, but then letting go whenever needed.  But are we strong enough to do that?  Really, though, all of these are just pointless what-ifs, because we still don’t have any actual information.  We went to a meeting tonight, but the meeting never happened–we were where we were supposed to be, but the person we were supposed to meet with never showed up.  We left frustrated and disappointed, but also feeling more committed–there may be kids in this broken, over-used, under-staffed system who we could potentially help.  There may be something we could do.
          I’ve learned, over and over again in the past 5 years, that getting your hopes up too much can leave you pretty crushed.  So for now we are waiting for a call from the person we were supposed to meet with tonight.  We weren’t going to share any of this until we actually knew more, but Eric asked to put it out there, and the response from all of you has been overwhelming.  Thank you all for the well-wishes and good thoughts.  Fingers crossed that we will be able to eventually help some kids out, at the very least until they can be reunited with their families.  As I’ve said so many times before, we are surrounded by some amazing, caring friends…our kids, whether biological, adopted or foster, would be some lucky little ones to get embraced into the amazing community that we are surrounded by.

One Response to “on refugee kids”


  1. The foster care system…. wow | Trails2Brews - February 17, 2016

    […] and I have been pretty public about our decision to serve as foster parents to refugee children. It’s not entirely related to our fertility problems but they do cross lines from time to […]

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