Hello, my name is Mark.
I am a parent, grandparent, and I have been a foster parent. Because of these roles that I play within my own family, I actively advocate for family values. I speak out on prevalent issues such as child abuse and child prostitution. Most importantly, my wife and I are the founding Ministers of the ”For the Love of Kids” Ministry at St. Patrick Catholic Community.
As the youngest of eight children, I have never been overly fond of little kids. Don’t get me wrong I loved spending time with my own children – watching them grow, coaching their sports teams, teaching them their sacraments – but my patience for other children was always a bit thin. However, my outlook on life changed in 2012 when my wife and I joined our first JustFaith class. JustFaith slowly changed the way I view not only the world but also others as human beings, God’s Creations.
I tell you this because as a minister of “For the Love of Kids” Ministry we touch the lives of children on a very personal level. We learn their life story, we build faith in each other, we share in their joy, and painfully we share in their sorrows. It always amazes me on how indifferent and detached these children become when sharing their stories with me. They know no other way. This is the way it is. Pain is part of life and a part of their reality. This kind of pain has never been a part of my reality, not like theirs. Yes, I grew up in a broken home, single mom working two jobs to feed and house all of us. BUT there was always love, kindness, and most importantly, I never felt unwanted or abandoned.
Not all of the children in the foster care group homes feel unwanted or abandoned. Yes, some of their parents have problems but the children know that they are loved. Some of the children yearn to go home to mom and dad even if they don’t have the same comforts that they are provided in group home.
For the children living in group homes, the group home is a place to live: eat three times a day, a bed, friends, comfort, but no freedom or parental love. The children have people who care for them, love them on a certain level, but these people still go home after their shift. Some of the children stay in the group homes for a short period of time, six months or so, others spend years in group homes. Sometimes the children get frustrated with their lives and take off for a while, some come back on their own and some are brought back by the police. Teen years are tough enough. I cannot imagine the frustration they must feel, the lack of “me” time, unable to grow and explore life like the other kids at school, experiencing life and learning about life only from the other troubled souls within their four walls. That is where the For Love of Kids Ministry comes in. Our goal is to bring some love and compassion to the everyday lives of the children growing up in these group homes.
I have to share one of the girls life story with you…
She is 15, smart, beautiful, but has a troubled soul. Her story begins in Ukraine where she spent the first 5 years of her life in an orphanage, so no one loved her for the first 5 years. She was to be adopted by an American couple from Arizona! Hooray! A family to love her! But as she grows she has nightmares and bouts of depression. There are days when she doesn’t want to talk, to be “normal”. By the age of 10 her “parents” have had enough of her and decide to drop her off at the mental hospital (her words). She then bounced around from institution to institution for about a year and a half before landing in the foster care system. She was 11 and abandoned again. Eventually when she was 13, the state convinced her adopted parents that she was all better and they should take her back, which they did for a short time. “They didn’t even tell me it was for me, they said dad had a doctor’s appointment, then they left me there again”…She was 14. Today she is 15, in a group home and would like to graduate high school early and go to college to be a forensic pathologist.
This story hurts every bit of my heart and soul. I cannot imagine the feeling of abandonment this poor girl feels every day. Seeking a life alone… I hope we can help make a difference in her life. Day by day.. This young girl is now paired up with one of our ministers were they spend time together working on life skills. They filled out job applications together, she was coached and supported in finding a job, we helped her with funding for a bicycle to go back and forth to work. Parent and family responsibilities are now being demonstrated by our ministers. Making a difference in her life, with small acts of kindness, Love.
We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.
That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about, helping with love in any way we can.