Dear Concerned Citizen . . .
John Wondergem | Contributor
Dear Concerned Citizen,
Many times you read stories or watch the news and see the devastating state of children who are abused and neglected, bounced from foster home to foster home, seemingly hopeless, and you wonder what you can do to make a difference. I can honestly say that fourteen years ago I too watched the same things unfold in front of my eyes and felt the task far too daunting for one man and his wife to tackle. Where would we start? What could we do? How could we make any kind of difference when the numbers are so catastrophic?
I was nominated to post a picture that makes me feel proud to be a father (only one picture).
The truth to the story is this: There are approximately 430,000 children in our nation’s foster care system, 112,000 of which have been permanently removed from their biological families and waiting to become a member of a loving forever family. Children of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstances who have found themselves feeling unwanted and unloved, abandoned by those who were supposed to care for and protect them.
Little did I know fourteen years ago where this journey would take my wife and I, or what God would do with our simple response to serve children in foster care. We simply applied to become foster parents in a small Illinois town named Charleston, where I was attending Eastern Illinois University. Within a couple of months, we were fostering a 2-year-old girl, then a newborn. Next came, three teenage siblings, then a move to my home state of Louisiana led to new placements of several sibling groups, and a young boy with Aspergers Syndrome. With each placement, there were emotional roller coasters, the joys of parenting and the frustrations of parenting a child that was not biologically (or legally for that matter) yours. Why would I subject myself and my wife to this? It was bad enough that doctors had told us we would never have our own children biologically, but why foster children? Why deal with the uncertainty of if or how long they would stay?
You can do something amazing because you are awesome!
At this point, you may be able to relate to the struggle. You want to get involved and help these children. You are a person with great compassion and what you see breaks your heart, but fear is gripping you and your sense of security is advising you to not get involved. I get it, I really do, in fact, I totally agree with you except for one question I asked myself many years ago that has guided my decision-making ever since. Is this life about me? Was I created to simply please myself? Keep myself safe? Or am I capable of something more? The answer led me to foster, then adopt four of the children we cared for. It also led me to an awkward situation. A foster son went to school one day and threatened to burn it down. I found myself sitting in a principal office and soon I learned of an organization called Royal Family KIDS that serves children in care ages 6-12 years old. They provide week-long summer camps across the United States and a mentoring program that replaces hurt with hope for kids in foster care.
My journey is not for everyone. Not everyone can open their home and foster, but everyone can get involved. Whether it’s providing respite for a foster family, or volunteering for a weekend event serving kids (we call ours, Parents Day Out), or becoming a mentor to a child who has no personal connections that remind them they are valuable and have a purpose. Royal Family KIDS creates a great avenue for us simple folks, who feel we don’t have anything to offer, to get involved in as big or small a way as we can.
So what now? You want to do something and make a difference. Become a Hope Dealer. Simply be available to remind kids they are not forgotten. Give up a little of your time to show hurting kids that they are valuable, and they do have a great purpose in this life. You never know what might happen and how you might be used to change not just one life, but generations of lives impacted because you simply got involved. To find out more about Royal Family KIDS visit rfk.org or connect with me on Facebook at Royal Family KIDS Louisiana. We are always looking to reach out to new places and see more of the 430,000 kids in care impacted and reminded they have hope.
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Director of Royal Family KIDS SELAYou can spend your whole life trying to get people to like and accept you, but the truth is you’ve already received the one ‘Like’ that truly makes a difference. You’ve already been approved and given value, and God continues to remind you of that every day if you’ll listen.
You can do something amazing because you are awesome!
John Wondergem (A simple guy on a really cool journey)
P.S. When you follow the plans God has for you, He does pretty amazing things with your simple willingness. Our story is far from over, but God has since blessed our family with two biological children (remember the part about never having biological children?) Also in 2007 I had the opportunity to come across a young man in foster care who was in my church youth group and needed a kidney. After a battery of test, I was able to donate one of my kidneys to him. I’ve never done much fundraising and the task of raising $25,000 each year to run our local camp seemed overwhelming, to say the least, but we have met our budget and sometimes exceeded it every year and been able to expand our services to more families. Never doubt what you are capable of when you follow the passion God gives you!