Halo Blog

THE LOVE THAT FOSTERS TRUE IDENTITY

Cindy Lee - Sunday, October 11, 2015

KRISTEN HATTON

When my kindergarten-aged son asked to invite a girl over after school I was intrigued.  He typically played with only his older brother and the bunch of boys on our street, not girls!  But this girl, he told me, could run faster than any boy, which I guess for him translated into her making a good playmate. Six years later these two are still great buddies. The start of their little friendship was the beginning of something bigger though – it served as my first introduction to a bi-racial family and what opened my eyes to the world of foster care and adoption.

 

This is because in addition to his friend being a girl, she is also black, rescued out of foster care and adopted into her white family. Her mother, who serves as the founder and executive director of Angels Foster Family Network in Oklahoma, is now one of my dear friends. Through she and her family I was given a face to foster care and adoption.

 

Although foster care is much more discussed now, before meeting this family I had no real knowledge of the foster care crises. I had no idea how many children were in the system or the statistical odds for those children’s future. Realizing the stark reality for children growing up having never attached to a parental figure or having experienced love awoken me to the necessity and importance of foster families.

 

I am now well aware of the challenges a foster family faces when accepting a child into their home. It comes at a great expense to their own comfort and ease, but a sacrifice that brings with it the life-altering gift of identity for the child.

 

God created each of us with the innate desire to be loved, affirmed and accepted. We all want to know we matter and have purpose. Ultimately only God perfectly meets these deepest longings of our heart.  But even when we know his love as his adopted children, we turn to countless other things looking to be satisfied in a way only he can fill. So we remain insecure and restless in our unfulfilled desires, struggling to know our infinite value and worth.

 

If this is the natural condition of our human heart, regardless of a relationship with God, or regardless of having an intact family unit and loving parents, imagine how much greater the struggle for a child who does not know the love and security of anyone.

 

When children have not had anyone reflect the image of God to them, the insatiable longing to be known and accepted leads them to act according to the only identity they know.  An identity declaring them to be neglected, unwanted, unloved, rejected, losers and outcasts.  And the more they believe this to be who they are, the more they will live according to those labels.

 

For those of you who are foster and adoptive parents, you know personally the heartache in seeing a child marred by their former identity and still rejecting the love you so desperately want them to embrace.  So day in and day out you work hard to reorient your child’s heart and mind so they will be able to bond with you and accept your love.  Through this process you are literally reshaping their identity and instilling purpose and significance into the hole in their soul.

What a beautiful pointer to Christ. The One who left his heavenly home to enter into our fallen, sinful world in order to make all things right again.  By accepting us in our brokenness and adopting us as his children he gave us a new identity and views us as his heirs - Sons and Daughters of the King.  

 

It doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from, none of us did anything to deserve such an inheritance from God. But he gave it anyway because of his great love and abundance of mercy.  As parents, whether to foster, adopted or biological children, we have the opportunity everyday to mirror the unconditional love of Christ as we sacrificially pour out ourselves for our children. By God’s grace they will rest in the security of our love and find their true identity firmly rooted in the bigger story of Christ. 

 

Kristen Hatton resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her pastor husband and their three teenagers. Through leading a small group teen Bible study, she discovered her passion for teaching and writing about God’s grace. Her first book Get Your Story Straight, a teen devotional, is being released this month. To learn more visit www.kristenhatton.com

 

In What Direction are you Heading?

Cindy Lee - Sunday, June 28, 2015

 

In a recent conversation with a missionary, the subject matter of “Why don’t people do more to help?” consumed the dialogue.   This missionary had recently returned from a country in which children were starving and women and children were being abused.  The missionary first thought, “Surely people don’t know.  If they knew, they would not turn away food or support.”  Ah, if only that were true.  Ask anybody if there are starving people in XYZ country and they will astoundingly tell you “yes!”  People know.  Not only are they able to imagine the worst of acts but they are also aware that there are indeed people and organizations actively working to help.  

 

So if action is not a reflection of knowing, then what is it dependent upon?   Often, the ability to engage in the kindest of actions and the purest of evils, is a condition of the heart.  It is not a condition of knowledge.  At HALO we see this in all forms.  We see a child, hurt lashing out transform into a child engaged in acts of love and empathy when his needs are met.  We see families filled with chaos transform frustration into beautiful communication when somebody meets their needs.   We see donors and volunteers who are so full of love they are compelled to give of their time and talents again and again.  And, we see “grown up” children from hard places desperate to be reunited with their children but are unable to overcome addiction, abuse or guilt.   It is important to remember, the condition of the heart for these parents is not that of evil, it is one of brokenness.  In EVERY SINGLE case in which we have worked with a parent whose children were removed, they themselves did not have their needs met as a child.  EVERY. SINGLE. CASE. 

We are all moving in a direction.  The direction in which we are moving is a condition of our hearts.   In which direction are you moving?  Are all your needs met? Do you feel loved? Unconditionally loved?  Or, is something missing in your heart and you are searching for it in all the wrong places? 

 

Perhaps the “selfie” culture of today reflects this idea more outwardly that anything else.   The American culture is often described these days as filled with selfishness.  It’s even been said that we are living in “the ME culture of today.”   If this idea of a “ME" culture is meshed with the idea that we are a living out the condition of the heart, then let it be said that we are NOT AT ALL living in a selfish culture, we are living in a broken culture.  This cultural selfishness does NOT reflect a condition of self-love as much as it reflects a condition of lack of love.  

At HALO we teach parents to ask their children, “What do you need?” when they are experiencing heightened emotional distress.   Wanna know what the most common response is?  They don’t ask for ice cream or a new toy or to show something they have done off to the world.  The most common response is a thoughtful pause, followed by arms slowly reaching for a hug.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Respectfully,

Cindy R. Lee, LCSW, LADC

HALO Project Executive Director

 

 

 

 

Another BLOG - Seriously??????

Cindy Lee - Thursday, April 23, 2015

 

Does the world really need another blog?  Probably not, but HALO is not in the business of knowing what the world needs.  We are however 100% committed to deciphering, detecting and understanding what our hundreds of thousands of children in foster care need.  That, my friends, is the HALO agenda.  As the founders of HALO realized, there are two fundamental approaches to how to parent children in foster care.  One approach, that sends the message of “you didn’t learn so I am going to teach you by assuming dominance over you and control over you so that you can be obedient” and the other that says “something terrible happened to you and you did not learn, so I am going to teach you by showing you I am trustworthy.  I will show you trust by sharing power with you and coming along side you to help you as you struggle.  ”HALO is committed to sending the latter message.  We recognize that every precious child is a unique creation with tremendous value and worth and our world ON OUR WATCH let them down.  HALO desires to come alongside them and show them the beauty that lies in the love one human can have for another.  This is what they have never seen and it is IMPOSSIBLE to show this love through punishment, lectures and harsh consequences.  Traditional discipline only works for children who have an established relationship of trust with their parent.  Even now, after all we have seen, we would venture to say that the way in which we should parent our foster and adopt children is so exceptional to traditional discipline that those who understand it utilize it with their biological children as well.

 

So what is the BLOG for?  The blog, is to share information so that you are no longer in the dark.  So you can replace what you don’t know with something new, something BETTER, something so filled with love and grace that you feel good inside when you parent.  A central theme with the parents and families that have completed the HALO program is, “Why doesn’t everybody have this information?  ”In a few years they will.  All the people who have access to the information are working tirelessly day and night to spread the word.  This includes researchers, advocates, social workers, counselors, foundations, churches and most importantly the foster and adopt parents.  These insults happened ON OUR WATCH and it is our responsibility to combat what has been done.  We are doing it.  You are doing it.  Together, we can bring peace and healing and understanding to these children.  We finally found a solution that works.  No more describing the problem and spending hours and a multitude of resources trying to figure out what to do about it.  We now KNOW what to do about it.  The Institute of Child Development, led by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross, at Texas Christian University has spent the last 20 years researching the solution and THEY FOUND IT!  Now they teach it.  Many of you were able to attend the Empowered-to-Connect simulcast last month.  Did you know this message of hope and healing went out to over 30,000 people?  People are yearning for solutions because the foster and adopt families are in tremendous pain.  They long to love their children but are so tired and so weary because nothing they seem to be doing is working.

 

HALO hosted the Empowered-to-Connect conference as well.  We had 194 people register.  Throughout the conference the HALO team kept telling me to tell the audience what HALO is and what HALO does.  I was hesitant to tell everyone.  I waited and waited and waited until I could wait no longer.  At the last break of the conference, I shared the bare minimum of what we do.  One of our HALO families graciously shared their life changing story.  Then it happened, there was a line of people telling us their stories of heartache and pain and asking for help.  The emails and calls followed.  That night, I went home and wept.  I wept because there are just so many and HALO does not have the infrastructure to help them all.  Then I looked back over what HALO has accomplished over the last year and half.  I remembered how far we have come and the number of families we have helped.  I remember how Amy Gray, the McLaughlins and Jennifer Abney gave of their resources openly because they believed in our mission.  I remember how Dr. Purvis and her team welcomed HALO with open arms.  I remembered all the volunteer buddies who showed up every Monday night to love a child.  I remembered all the voice mails and emails with messages of hope and I remember our clinical director, Brooke’s voice in my ear telling me to calm down and put one foot in front of the other.  I remember the tears on the mother’s faces as they let go of their pain and guilt and I remember the “you want me to do what” faces of the dads who think we are telling them to let their kids get away with something.  Most of all I remember the darkness in the eyes of a child with trauma being replaced by a shining light of joy.  HALO is pure treasure because of all the people that make it so.  Yes, there are too many, but our world is filled with treasure, people just waiting for us to walk through the door and show them what they can do.  We have found these loving people and will be expanding from one HALO program to four in the coming months.  This is just the beginning of our part in this story.  We fall in line behind the visionaries at Empowered-to-Connect, Show Hope, and the Institute of Child Development.  We are armed and ready to fight for the peace that our children and families deserve.

 

So, the purpose of the HALO blog will be to share information and encouragement for all the foster and adopt warriors out there.  It will serve as a reminder to our HALO alumni families of what they already know and provide information to those starting this new parenting journey.  We will inform you of learning opportunities and uplifting stories of healing.  We desire to restore HOPE by focusing on all that is GOOD.

From our team to yours, it is an honor and privilege to serve.

Respectfully,
Cindy R. Lee
HALO Executive Director

 

HALO Project is a non-profit 501(c)3.