Food and the Foster Child

It was corn. A single kernel of corn.

“I won’t eat it! And you can’t make me!” the little boy screamed.

“Just a bite, buddy…whaddaya say?”

“I’M NEVER GONNA EAT IT! NEVER!”

Yikes!

I had never really dealt with an outburst like this before. Food is an issue for many families. I suspect that for many foster families, food is a major issue.

An Introduction to the Issue

One of the difficult aspects of parenting a system kid is that they look just like any other kid.

It’s not as if they carry a neon sign, “Trauma! Trauma!” It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand the level of trauma merely being removed from their home may have induced, much less the neglect and abuse that often accompany a kid from the system.

Not having lived it, I know I can never understand.

Lawrence arrived, age 5, the picture of the foster child, showing up on our doorstep in the middle of the night clinging to the caseworkers leg, clutching a dirty stuffed animal and a single Walmart bag with a toothbrush and a change of underwear. He looked like a typical boy, head full of blonde hair, fair skin. His appearance belied a deeper trauma, inevitably betrayed by his behavior.

The honeymoon period lasted for a few weeks but dinner first exposed the breach.

He absolutely and resolutely refused to eat anything even remotely healthy. Meals devolved into a diabolical battle of the wills. Corn brought it to a head. Corn.

“I’m not gonna eat and you can’t make me!” became his stance.

A Clash of Culture

Culture presents a distinct challenge in fostering.

They train you in the classes to respect cultural differences and to be ready for them. Be sensitive to them. Food provides great insight into a family’s culture. You can tell a lot about a family by what they eat.

I know that all kids would rather consume garbage. I’ve met very few, if any, who would willingly consume vegetables or salad. When fostering, you really have no idea of the biological family’s eating habits and how they might compare with your own.

We’ve seen this. We’ve lived this.

Take my 14-year-old son. Unless it comes from a fast food joint or a gas station, he’d just assume not eat it. 

Lawrence was just as picky and I don’t mean picky like, “I don’t like onions” or “I don’t like meatloaf”. I mean picky as in “I like bacon and I like eggs but I won’t eat my eggs if they are cooked in the same skillet as the bacon” picky. A new level of pickiness.

Does it stem from culture? Perhaps.

Perhaps there’s more.

Equality

I’ve noticed that many foster kids share eerily similar traits.

Many possess a tendency to not see past the next 5 minutes of their life, in any regard. Their minds seem to warp the very fabric of the space-time continuum. This is an actual conversation with my oldest son:

    Dad, can I go to the gym and shoot hoops?

    Son, we have to be at church in 20 minutes and the gym is 15 minutes away…

    Okay…so can I go?

They all seem to possess a distinct sense of justice or rather, injustice.

Any kid(s) will always be on the lookout for any situation whereby they might receive less of something than a sibling. This is amplified in the mind of the foster kid. My sons will go to extraordinary lengths to verify that one of the others is not receiving something more than them. Food provides an opportunity for a potential disparity.

As such, they maintain a constant vigil over allotments.

When confronted with a situation to select a portion, my sons will always, without hesitation, choose the largest possible, unless it’s something they truly don’t like. They will even select the largest of something even if they do not even know what it is.

    I want some! I want that piece!!!

    Do you even know what it is?

    Well…no, but I want it!

The thought that a brother or sister would receive more, or even worse, something that they did not receive, is excruciating to them. It induces agony. My 14-year-old, on the cusp of self-awareness, will smile guiltily when I notice him angling for the largest portion. If I remark about it, he’ll steadfastly deny it. Then he’ll do it anyway. He literally cannot help it!

Control

At some point it’s about control.

The foster child lives in a continual state of uncertainty and flux with very little/absolutely no control over their future. They did not choose to be born into an afflicted family, to be removed from what they know. Whether you or I would judge their family life as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is irrelevant at some point.

No matter the conditions, it’s what they know and is therefore good.

Then, without warning, they are ripped from their lives and thrust into the lives of another. Despite the assurances, they must wonder what is happening, if they’ll see their parents again. The case workers do the best they can, but many are overworked, handling multiple cases and at some point, placement supersedes suitability.

Just get the kid placed.

Adding even a newborn biological child to any family can completely upset the fraternal order, the group dynamics. Envision adding a child with an already developed sense of self and culture and righteousness, a child used to things a certain way. At some point, a clash occurs.

Food provides a platform for just such a clash. They have lost control of everything…but what they eat.

Priorities

I can tell, at any point, what my sons are thinking about. Perhaps this is normal to all sons, but for mine, from the system, they are always thinking about food.

Always.

    “When is lunch/dinner/breakfast tomorrow?”

    Even more importantly, “What’s for lunch/dinner/breakfast tomorrow?”

One of my sons will visibly squirm, I mean visibly writhe, at the uncertainty of an imminent meal. “I don’t know,” is not a satisfactory answer. They must know and they must know now and can they have pizza or cereal or chips or whatever.

As an example of this, during church, they sit in a constant awareness of the potential to go out to eat after church, an exquisite torture in the uncertainty. Immediately following the service, I am bombarded by queries and maybe some not-so-subtle manipulation to try and shape events to not just go out, but go to a desired location.

    “Hey Dad, the so-and-so family is going to the China King Buffet and want us to go!”

    “We haven’t been to Taco Bell in awhile,” one will casually remark.

    “Kids eat free at Dickie’s Barbecue,” another will inform me.

Again, as I see this from my biological children, I know it is not unique to my sons. It’s just amplified, taking on a heightened sense of urgency.

Perspective

We got through it.

I don’t remember exactly how or what we did. There’s no magic answer, no trick. We just got through it and so did Lawrence. His mother got clean, got a job, got well and after about six months, Lawrence went home.

His mother remains a family friend to this day.

Lawrence and his mother represent what is right with the system, how it’s supposed to work. For all of its flaws and absent the engagement of the Church, the system is what we have.

I have a few vivid memories of Lawrence’s time with us but most all, seared upon my conscience, is the image of a little boy pouring out his rage at a single kernel of corn. For him, that kernel of corn must’ve represented all that was wrong, things that he could never fathom, things he will never fathom. He unknowingly raged against injustice and the tyranny of affliction all while nursing a gaping wound to his soul.

I don’t recall if he ever ate the corn.

 

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Dear Brothers-in-Christ, Please Stop Yelling at the Gay People

Maybe we ought to quit yelling at the gay people.

Pride on Parade

I saw a video of a man at a gay pride rally in Texas. The man wielded a bullhorn, aggressively reprimanding the crowd.

      “This is sin…turn from it!”

      “You are under the judgement of God!”

     “You will burn in hell!”

     “This is perversion, turn from this perversion…turn to Jesus.”

Only one young woman chose to engage, questioning the reliability of the Bible to which the man responded even more aggressively, citing the logical fallacies of her counterclaims but not affording her an opportunity to respond. Every time she began to compose a statement, he cut her off and the fact that he was amplified made it no contest. She fled in frustration, his chastisement following her down the street.

Two observations. The majority of the people this man yelled at were young women and nearly all of them ducked their heads and moved as far away from him as quickly as possible to get back to their parade. Second, this video was edited, overdubbed with dramatic music, and widely distributed on social media.

Now, I’m quite sure this man saw himself as the defender of the faith, valiantly confronting the horde of evil homosexuals.

I thought he acted kind of like a douche.

I wondered if he would have taken any of these people to lunch.

LGBTQ Clarification

Okay, allow me to clarify. Homosexuality is a sin. Only a severely dishonest exegesis of Scripture will yield any other conclusion. It is a sexual sin, viewed identically by God as say…pornography use. Ouch.

Jesus’ words to the crowd determined to stone the young woman caught in adultery resonate. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

I wonder if this man would invade the homes of the majority of Christian men who indulge in pornography and yell at them from his bullhorn. Imagine the otherwise moral Christian man sitting down in the dark at his computer for a dabble with lust when…

     “This is sin…turn from it!”

     “This is perversion! You are under the judgment of God!”

I suspect not. Statistically speaking, though I do not know this man and it’s quite possible he is in the vast minority of men who do not view pornography, it’s likely he would have to direct his bullhorn back at himself. Why doesn’t this man feel led to go to the local Gold’s gym and castigate the men for subtly ogling the scantily clad women, lusting in their hearts, the exact same thing as adultery according to our Lord?

Sexual sin is sexual sin, no?

What is the thought process that motivates a man to single out a particular group of revelers for condemnation while neglecting other much larger groups?

The Tone of Jesus

Much defense is made of methods in citing Jesus.

Jesus flipped over the tables in the Temple and whipped people with a cord—I wish I could’ve been there! Jesus called people names, confronting them as fools, blind guides, hypocrites, vipers, whitewashed tombs, sons of the devil.

Trudat.

Yet, consider for whom He reserved His public rebuke…the religious, the Pharisee, the self-righteous religious authorities. Jesus spoke with the woman at the well as a person. (John 4) Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery. (John 8) He invited Himself to dinner with Zacchaeus the tax collector. (Luke 19)

Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Jesus saw the people as they were, as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion on them. (Matthew 9:36)

He wept because of their sin and rebellion. (John 11:35)

Instead of publicly berating these homosexuals for their sin, a more appropriate stance would be to mourn their betrayal and imminent judgement, to reach out to them, to love them, to tell them of another way…out of love.

Would this man have invited these people to his home for a meal?

A Common Thing

I’ve seen this before.

Years ago, B.C. (before Christ okay!) I spent a fair amount of time on Bourbon Street in New Orlean engaged in all manner of debauchery. I distinctly recall the wackos on the street corner with their signs, warning me of impending doom and judgement I suspect. Yet, as my brain was clouded by different things at the time, I truly didn’t hear a word they said.

Several years ago, a group of Christians led by ‘pastor’ Terry Jones appeared at a series of Muslim festivals in Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a sizeable Muslim population. This is the same Terry Jones who attained global notoriety by putting a Koran on trial and then burning it.

Muslims predictably rioted. People died.

To what end?

Needless to say, the protesters at the Muslim festivals were not greeted well…and why would they be? The Muslims, angered by their presence and their provocation, responded unkindly, pelting them with profanity, spit, and eventually stones and garbage.

From the aspect of civics, this is a horrid encounter, that men cannot even walk down the street in a city in America with religious signs, and not be harassed.

Yet, civics takes a back seat to the Gospel.

How should we expect Muslims to act? Or gay people? Or the lost in general?

Consider that many/most Muslims are raised into the religion, that it dominates every aspect of their existence. They are given no option to NOT be Muslim, it becomes their identity. Islam is a system that enslaves billions across the world, a perfect system of bondage that leverages the sin nature of men and declares it pious. It is powerful in the strength of its binding.

Can we not have compassion on those thus imprisoned?

Look How Righteous

At some point, it’s about attention.

Jesus berates the hypocrites who pray on the street corners, that they may be seen by others. (Matthew 6:5)

He tells the parable of the Pharisee who prays, telling God about all of the righteous things he does saying, “thank you that I am not like other men.” (Luke 18:11) Meanwhile, the lowly tax collector’s prays, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (v. 13)

The video produced of the man at the gay pride rally was obviously intended to produce an effect, to paint a certain picture, to portray him in a certain light. Why the need to distribute it so widely?

Stratification of Sin

The natural tendency amongst men is to compare sin, levels of wickedness.

The fact that this man chose to single out these young women at the homosexual rally is significant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Why is he not at the local Golden Corral lambasting the gluttonous? Can you imagine him confronting the overweight man at the buffet?

     “Sinner! Glutton!”

     “Do you really need two pieces of fried chicken?”

     “Didn’t you just have meatloaf?”

     “You are under the judgement of God!”

Why is he not at the local sports arena admonitioning the people for their idolatry?

     “Sinner!”

     “Take off that jersey!”

     “Tom Brady is just a man; worship only God!”

     “You are under the judgement of God!”

Not only that, but he made a monster presumption, that none of these young ladies were actually Christians. Is that valid?

What if there was a Christian in the crowd and perhaps she was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but had not yet responded? God sanctifies each of us in a different way, at different times. What if they were newly saved, and had not yet felt the weight of conviction for their homosexual sin?

Often, following salvation, the newly-minted believer is quick to shed surface-level sin. The deeper the sin is ingrained in the flesh, buried under layers of scar tissue and time, the longer it seems to take for it to come to the surface and be dealt with.

I am 12 years into my Christian walk and am just now, in the last year, addressing sin that goes back to my youth.

What if it is as this, with some of these young women?

Should we still shout condemnation at them?

A Final Admonition

Those who publicly berate those reveling in sin frequently turn to the words of Paul for ammunition. “Neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Three points on this:

     1. They leave out a whole slew of other sins listed by Paul to include idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, and swindlers. Again, why are these men not seeking out these sinners to publicly “call out”.

2. This letter is for the church. Paul is writing this letter to the church at Corinth admonitioning them for tolerating sexual sin…in the church! These are not words to confront the unregenerate.

3. They conveniently leave off the very next line, “And such were some of you.” (v. 11)

Such were some of them. Such were some of you. Such was I, but I was washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most offensive thing there has ever been. It certainly doesn’t need me wielding it in an offensive manner.

Maybe we should stop yelling at the gay people.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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