Do I believe in redemption?
If you asked me that four years ago, I would have had a different answer: People don’t change. People don’t grow.
But for the past four years I have worked in the challenging area of child welfare – what most people think of simply as “foster care.” What people don’t know is that it is so much more than that. It is where I have encountered redemption face to face through some of the most amazing people I have ever met. It’s also where I’ve been humbled by the power of persistence; the strength of will and the pure, incredible way people turn their lives around.
I have met people like La Toiya, a mother of seven, who succumbed to alcohol, surrendered to a violent relationship and lost custody of all of her children to the foster care system. Her youngest was only a few months old. La Toiya’s moment of redemption came after a final violent incident with her boyfriend. She had what people call an “epiphany.” La Toiya chose to call it a “swift kick.”
Working with a supportive social worker who never gave up on her, La Toiya got sober, got a job and over years, eventually re-gained custody of all of her children. She now counsels other women addicts. La Toiya told me that staring at a photo of her beaten face everyday in her tiny office is a constant reminder of her previous life. She will not return, she says. She has too much to lose.
I have also met people like Harmony, a young social worker who herself was a foster child. Raped as a teenager, Harmony thought she was worth no more than the bills she collected as a dancer in strip clubs. It took dozens of caring therapists, school counselors and social workers to show her otherwise. Eventually, she put herself through school and has now started a group to help other dancers realize their potential and worth.
I do believe in redemption. I am surrounded by it every day. The violent and disturbed teen who nobody thought would leave the system is now safely at home with loving relatives. The young woman who advocates on behalf of foster youth because she has been there herself. The man who ministers to children after he had his childhood robbed by abuse, homelessness and addiction.
I believe everyone, despite their past, has the opportunity to begin again. Not everyone I have come to know has chosen the path to redemption. Many will not. But I believe redemption is always there, waiting and hoping.
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