Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)
- TITLE: The USA: Land of Opportunities
By Emily Nelson
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513,000 children currently live in homes that are not their own, homes that they have been placed in through the United States foster care system. Are these children frolicking around, dreaming about all the possibilities that may be theirs in this wonderful land of opportunities? I doubt it. Instead, they represent part of this country that not many people know about, or the alternative: know about, but choose to ignore. Here is the story of one such child, a child that does not and will not have many opportunities, unless given an alternate hope.
“If my daughter goes and tells one more lie, I’m leaving her with you. Call it child abandonment. She’s yours!” The mother exclaimed this statement along with several others. Her voice gave a clear picture of the attitude she held towards her 14 year-old daughter, who sat motionless in the other room. The girl has been brought in to be questioned, because there was beyond reasonable doubt that she has been sexually abused; it just so happens that the abuser lives in her home, and is married to her mom. He is her step-father, the only man she’s ever known as a father. Clearly mom’s priorities are decided: her husband over her daughter. If she speaks, mom is gone. No more daughter, and no more mothering for her. She actually seems excited about this prospect, which is sickening.
So here’s the dilemma of this young, 14 year-old girl: choose to seek her own safety and forfeit any chance at a relationship with her mother, or the alternative, tell the truth and face never seeing another family member again for the rest of her life. She had made her decision when entering the interview room. She was going to lie. Although she held her lie for the majority of the interview, she eventually broke. The pain was too severe, and as the tears welled in her eyes, she finally admitted, “I’m so scared to tell. My mom told me if I tell anything I will go to foster care, and I don’t want to leave home. I want to be home with my mom!” Sadly, her biggest fear came true: she would not be going home following the interview.
When her mother is informed, the coldness on her face does not have words to describe it. With not even a blink of the eye, her mother laughs and walks out of the room, probably never to see her own flesh and blood daughter ever again. She doesn’t say goodbye, doesn’t hesitate to leave, and doesn’t even consider looking back. Her eyes are forward, directed toward the object of her affection, her sick and twisted husband.
The girl will enter into the foster care system, along with so many others whose parents are not fit to take care of them, or who like this child’s mother, walk out on their lives. This girl will stay with families, who may or may not treat her well, will likely see many different homes in her final four years as a “child of the state.” She will live a life of pain and heartache, and will be lucky to walk out of these next several years with any semblance of emotional stability. When this girl is informed that she will enter into foster care, her reaction stands in complete opposition to her mothers. Devastation splashes across her face, as thick wet tears trickle down her puffy cheeks. Her land of opportunities has just become a land of struggle, heartache, and abandonment.
This is the story of one foster child. There are 513,000 others. Unlike many fairy-tale stories, there is no happy ending to this one, which is purposeful. Many of the 513,000 children do not live in fairy-tale endings. Their reality is one of heartache, just like the girl in this story. So what can change this? As Christians, we are called to love the oppressed, and to “visit orphans and widows in their distress” (Holy Bible, ESV). These children may have no hope, but as Christians, we can be bearers of good news. We can bring hope; we can explain redemption; we can love. So, instead of thinking of the USA as the land of opportunities, we can think of it as a place to create opportunity. To create opportunity for those who otherwise would have none, because Jesus wants us to.
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