The Burden of Lost Hope

It was spring break, and I decided to play a game with a group of our guys. I asked them, "if you could be on vacation ANYWHERE in the world this week, where would you go?" A few of them gave general answers like the beach or a sporting event. One young man looked at me and, in a flat, matter-of-fact voice stated, "At home with my brother and mom." This young man was 17.

I laughed and said, "of course you want to be there, but I'm talking about a vacation!" "No," he replied, "I don't want to be anywhere else in the world but with my brother and mom."

This young man's family was fractured when he was very, very young. Neither he nor his brother had lived with their mother for over 10 years.

Later I asked this same young man what career he wanted to pursue. He said he didn't know. "You could do so many things!" I exclaimed. "You are very intelligent, and you are very gifted."

"I'm not going to do anything," he stated. "Haven't you seen my file? I've had too much happen to me for anything good to come of my life."

This was true. His file was littered with heartbreaking abuse. Yet, so were the files of every other young man who was living at Goshen Valley. This young man had given up home. He allowed his ability to dream to be taken from him which resulted in poor school performance, poor behavior and very little progress in his social and emotional health. So many young people follow in his path. They allow their circumstances to steal their hope.

The Burden of Broken Relationships

Our entire world is built on relationships.  This is how our minds and bodies develop and grow.  It is no secret that the nurturing and intentional love of a caretaker is vital to the survival of a newborn.  Trauma, lack of stimulus and relationship as an infant can affect the overall development of a child’s entire being.Trik Android

The reality is that all young people in foster care suffer from broken relationships.  Whether these relationships were fractured willingly, unwillingly or even through the circumstance of illness or death, all young people carry a deep sense of loss and mistrust with them.

In addition, many young people in foster care live at several different placements within the course of a few years.  Young men have difficulty making real friendships at school or in the homes where they live for fear they will be moved as soon as they get to know someone.

Often times, the burden of broken relationships affects young men spiritually as well.  The question of “why me” or “why didn’t you help me” is an obvious one to ask God.  Though many young men cling to God all the more, they still wrestle with this relationship.

The Burden of Setbacks

For a young person who has experienced significant trauma, abuse or neglect, setbacks are created. Here is one basic example:

A young man is not read to as a child because there is substance abuse in his home.

This child does not do well in school because he carries the trauma from his home life, as well as his lack of preparation, with him each day.

The child's parents are unable to attend to his increasing difficulties in school and might see them as unimportant if they did not finish school.

As poor school performance continues, the child believes that he is not smart and he is incapable of doing his work. He continues to perform at low levels and slides behind.

The child is now testing well below grade level. He sees himself as stupid and thinks that an education isn't necessary anyhow.

This is one example of a setback that a young person might carry into the world of foster care. Other setbacks include those that are emotional, physical, psychological and relational. Most of the time, young people have a combination of setbacks.


The Burden of False Identity

Abuse and neglect can happen in a number of different ways. No one ever plans to abuse or neglect their own children, but generational cycles of abuse and neglect can create a foreign understanding of "normal."

Trauma, Abuse and Neglect can happen from the combination of any of the following: poverty, death of primary caretaker, lack of parenting skills, untreated mental illness, physical illness, substance abuse

When young men are removed from their homes because they have experienced trauma with abuse or neglect, many of them leave thinking...

"This was my fault."

"I deserved this."

"This is who I am."

The burden that these young men carry is the IDENTITY they find in their circumstances. Young men do not create these circumstances for themselves, but the circumstances still shape their identity.

This is why it can be the tendency for many young people to perpetuate the cycle of abuse and neglect if it is not stopped. They see this cycle as a part of who they are, because it is a part of their family.