A couple of years ago my husband and I got hooked on a survivalist reality show. The feature setting this show apart from other survivor type shows is that the contestants were entirely alone. They were responsible for everything (including filming). Dropped off unaccompanied in a remote area, the participants hunted and foraged for food, built shelters, and risked their lives for the grand prize. The only margin between remaining in the game and going home was voluntarily sending a call from a satellite phone, in which they were immediately removed. Faced with wild boars, wolves, and poisonous berries…and yet the most common call on that satellite phone was made because competitors were feeling alone. Desperately missing their families, many grown men and women pressed the button on the phone to get home.
Something these contestants quickly learned is the innate human need to not be alone. Some hit the button after 40 days and some after only 24 hours, but a majority hit it in despair to see family, hug family, feel the safety of family. The most prepared and capable people of being alone, simply cannot.
Imagine now, a toddler boy. Bright eyes, long lashes. Chubby hands and smooth skin. He is not a wilderness survivalist, but he too has no familiar shelter. He is suddenly in the home of strangers. He too wonders about food. The afternoon eases into evening. When the lights go out, fear grips this little boy in the scariest moment of his life. In tears, he turns over his shoulder looking for the one consistent person in his life, his little sister. The home he does not know, the adults he does not know, but his sister, his sister is like a thread of his own fabric that cannot be unraveled from him.
There is no stress-free way for a child to be placed in foster care. Abuse or neglect leads up to the removal and the removal itself can be very distressing. Just like the contestants in a contrived TV show, these kids long for reliable food, safety, and most of all to not feel alone. In many cases, every effort should be made to keep sibling groups together. As you can envision, not all foster families have the ability to accept multiple children at a time. How sad for the toddler boy who looks over his shoulder and doesn’t see his sister. He reaches for the hand he knows, and it is not there. That satellite phone seems like a luxury in life’s true survival situations.
Psalm 68:6 tells us, “God sets the lonely in families.” We think the foster family must be where God is setting them, but truly, if children have siblings, then in some regards they already have part of the family to not feel lonely. Nightlight’s Homes for Hope house is making an effort to ensure that siblings stay together during those initial nights, when fear grips as if wild animals lurked outside. Having a home devoted to emergency sibling placements is a safeguard against the fear and loneliness throughout the transition. If adult survivalists use the satellite phone to get to their family, how much more do children need family in their reality?
Nightlight and Adams County Social Services have opened two homes designed to provide safety, comfort, and security to children in foster care at a time when they are most vulnerable: immediately after being removed from their family. This new model of foster care, called Homes for Hope, is designed to provide temporary foster care for children in emergency situations. A large focus of the program will be keeping sibling sets together. To learn more about Homes for Hope or the process to become a foster family contact Meaghan Nally at [email protected], call (970)663-6799 or visit https://nightlight.org/colorado-homes-for-hope-program/.