... at my current position, I've found I have an issue. I have a little girl on my caseload who has no childhood.

Specifically, I have a little girl who, in her current foster home, has a shoebox of belongings, an envelope of letters and one drawer full of clothing.

That's it.

That is the totality of what she owns.

What she is missing is not just the material goods to call her own, however. She is missing a family. She is missing her future family, her past family and is blessed to have found a gem of a "right now" family ... but. But.

She knows This is not It.

It's not the lack of material goods that break my heart. It's seeing her lay all of what she owns side by side on her bed and listening to her tell the same story over and over again.

That's what breaks my heart. It's listening to her talk about her "real" family vs. the family she hopes one day will want her. It's having her remember her birth family and having nothing to hold, nothing to look at, nothing to validate that she has this entire history that was very Real, and she has a family she misses wholly.


So she compartmentalizes.

Don't we all?

This hurts, so I deal with This here, but I don't deal with It here, because when I'm there, I need to feel / think / focus / BE / somebody else. At a foster home, no fault of the foster home, she's part of the temporary, in and out, loved but not a birth child flow. Her items are in a shoebox under the bed. It is not her bed. Her clothes fill a drawer. It's a dresser shared by multiple children.

She can love her birth family once a week for two hours.

She can be at school and learn.

She can be a giggly part of her foster home.

They are all separate. Those worlds do not collide. She does not talk about the other parts of her life during the Other Parts of Her Life.

I understand this about her. I was very much like this right after my divorce. I talked about it with These people, but not Those people and Work was Work and Church was Church and I was fragmented and not connected and it helped.


For a season. But not that long. Truly ... honestly ... it was exhausting. And people are not straight lines. They are circles. We are connected to ourselves, every bit of ourselves; ourselves are connected to every part of our lives and we are so very connected with each other. Totality. {The heart of God.}

Today I dropped off several disposable cameras to many people in Little Girl's life. They will take pictures. She will take pictures. I will develop the film.

And when we are done, there will not be gaps. There will be pictures to hold. She chooses to compartmentalize or not ~ that decision is hers.

But in that shoebox under her bed will be mounds of pictures of the people she loves. And no matter what happens in the next few years, there will not be a missing gap of information (as is so often the case with foster children. They are ghosts in family pictures for the amount of time they spend in foster care). This is her reality, no matter how much we wish it could be different.

We need to help her choose to face it in love. In the end, we cannot give her her childhood back. But what we can give her is the sense that what this is, Is, and that what her life is, is what she chooses to make it. It's real. I'll give her the tools to help make it real. She can look at the pictures. Or not. She can live in her fragmented life. Or not. It is so entirely up to her.

I hope she chooses a gentle path for herself.


  1. Katelyn on August 5, 2009 at 7:51 PM

    I forgot how much I love reading your blogs! That is an amazing idea and gift to give her, I hope she loves it! Her story breaks my heart, let me know how it goes!

  2. Lisa on August 5, 2009 at 8:01 PM

    Katelyn, you're here!! And I didn't know! And I'm thinking maybe you've disabled user comments? Because I tried with no success? And if you did, that would be a completely wonderful decision ... but if you didn't, could you let me know so I can try again? Blogging world, this is my dear, in real life friend ... and she's coming to visit the 2nd week of September! Darcy and I are lucky girls!!

  3. Maria on August 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM


    What a thoughtfully well written post. If it doesn’t tug at one’s heart one hasn’t a heart, then. If I remember from one of your older posts I think you are going to grad school for Social Work? Am I wrong? You really have a gift that God gave you to reach and touch the many lives you will encounter and have. I spent time in industry and changed careers to be a Special Ed. Teacher. I will now go to grad school for Speech Therapy. I understand to a certain extent the gut wrenching effects of finding out a child’s hurt and dysfunctional environment. I know you see more of it w/your job. You are on the right path… My prayers will be with the little girl.

  4. Lisa on August 8, 2009 at 5:51 PM

    Maria, you are absolutely right - it's a Master of Social Work Program. But YOU definitely have MY admiration - special education, school policy, hurting kids - wow. Please keep me updated on how grad school goes!

  5. Leslie on August 11, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    I have chills.. totally.
    this post is so lovely, and heart wrenching
    and made this girl so real to me.
    I will guarrantee she will be in my prayers for quiet a while.

    What an incredible idea the photos are..to give her something tangible.

    Praying, and so great full there are people like you working with kids like this....

    so glad you commented so I could find this post.

  6. Paulette on August 12, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    Oh, my ... how I have missed you! I think of you often and send my prayers silently--or not, on their way. I'm still not "here" as in online. Ironically, my 16 (and a half!!!) year old granddaughter has the only computer in the house that didn't crash! It's just as well, fall is on it's way and I have so much more to do--outside. And inside.

    I was that child. Except their never was a box or bag of belongings ... each time I've left--throughout my life, I've left with no more than the clothes on my back. And there were no visits--not in all those years in Juvie, faster homes, CYA. Not a one. If someone HAD come, I would not have "visited" with them for the world. The thought of seeing or hearing the voice of anyone from the past pretty much scared me 'bout to death! I'll pray for "your" little girl. I know that when it all is said and done, her life will be ever so much richer because you will have made a real difference in her life ... like Betty and Jeanette did for me back in the 1960's. If you teach her no more than the fact is that we HAVE choices at all, you will have taught her more than most.

    I hope to have a 'puter by the time the autumn rains begin. And I have so much I want to share with you. Huggs till then.


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