This Week's Story

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Officially, Susan was a foster child. How she hated that title!

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Her title was foster child!

I don’t know if Susan’s name will be recorded in a history book, but she sure survived a broken system in American history. Officially, she was in the foster care system, a foster child. How she hated that title!

Currently, every two minutes another child enters the American foster care system. It is 24-hour substitute care for children outside their own home. What child wants people to know that his or her parent is a substitute? Susan didn’t!

Sometimes there is the beautiful possibility that a foster child might become a member of a family, not someone people introduce as “a foster daughter.” Susan became a member of our family, but not in one day.

One afternoon a Washington State foster care worker phoned me. “Barbara, the Department of Social and Health Services would like to place a girl in your home. She is in the seventh grade and probably will never return to her home. Her step-father has been sent to prison for abusing her. Her mother does not accept her. Instead she frequently calls the police, accuses Susan of being incorrigible, and wants the

police to remove her. We have no proof that Susan is incorrigible. For her protection, we have removed her from her home. She now is a ward of the court and in foster care.”

Soon my husband and I agreed that we would like Susan to live with us. We prepared a bedroom for her. It was painted sky blue. Dainty curtains were made and hung at windows. The furniture was adjusted to provide comfortable room for her.

I remember waiting at a juvenile detention center to get Susan. A door opened and a young teenager stood looking at me. What a lovely girl and smile! I took Susan home.

That evening as she prepared for sleep, I asked, “May I pray with you?”

“Yes.”

Afterwards I asked, “Do you want me to turn your lamp off?”

“No, I’d like it on.”

“Would you like some music?”

“Yes.”

I chose an orchestra playing Strauss waltzes. Maybe their happy lilt would help her to feel at peace.

I started to leave. “Susan, do you want your door open or shut?”

“Open.”

Lamp on, music, an open door, and prayer became our evening pattern. Weeks passed. If I stepped lightly through Susan’s open door to set down freshly washed clothes for her, her body would jerk with tension. The time came when she slept soundly, even if I turned off her light.

For several years Susan had lived with abuse and her mother’s temper tantrums. She had been shuffled between institutional interim homes, group homes, and her biological home.

Every school year she attended two or more schools. She never knew when she went home from school, if she would find her mother getting ready to move again. Fortunately, Susan was a survivor with a quick mind. She learned to be friendly, but not to trust.

I wanted her trust and I needed more understanding. I attended a lecture where a child psychiatrist said, “It is almost impossible for a maternally deprived child to bond with a new mother. Usually it will occur only with trauma.” Susan certainly had been maternally deprived. With God’s direction could love, nurturing structure, and opportunities replace trauma?

In the following days, months, and years Susan began a new journey.

This is Barbara Steiner, privileged to be Susan’s mother. Part two will continue Susan’s story.

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