A child of the state too.

A child of the state too.

Lemn Sissay, an award-winning poet and playwright, shares at TEDx his painful and powerful story. From growing up as a child of the state to searching for his birth family. His insights and challenges are striking. Calling us all to care for the state’s children.

“The responsibility for a child in care starts and ends with us. We are her legal parents. On the doors of the legal care system it should read: it stops here. From here on in, you are safe. You are secure. You are respected. You are loved. And you are the most important part of this process. And with the trauma you have been through, you may explode. You may bite and kick and fight and swear and steal and scream. And we will be there for you. And we will not blame you because you will come through the other side. And we will be there.”

He closes with a challenge that stuck with me. “If a series of disastrous events happened, your child’s child could end up in care too. Make it ok for them.”

I need to hear these challenges. These stories. Not just the fictional Hairy Potters or Pips, but the Lemn Sissays.


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  1. Pam H.

    I watched the video – so powerful! Thank you Liz for finding it and sharing it with me/us. Here in WV, the foster parenting classes we go through are so incredibly scary. They point out no hopeful outcome. They tell us all the bad to expect and then we are given stories of horror and harrowing experiences. I suppose they must in some sense do this to protect themselves against the “you didn’t tell us this would happen…” However, I have raised children who are fire starters, liars who threaten the cops on me for something I’d never done, and the worst is hiding the kitchen knives and scissors. But guess what, you don’t give up on them, they “belong” to you and as long as you give them unwavering unconditional love and a safe home, and food and clothing and meeting their basic needs, you will get through the tough times. And as in one case for me, it wasn’t until the child was in her 30s that she came back and said she really does love me and thanked me. We can’t do it for that reason, we have to show unconditional love – God’s love for them – because in the end it is never about us, it is about bringing them to a fulfillment of God’s plan for their lives. These are not throw-away children. These are children who have endured more than they were born to endure, BUT can be over-comers. They can have successful lives and it is all about giving them the love and support they need for the rest of their lives. We are their forever family if not in person, than in heart – don’t lose hope because our hope is all they have to nourish their own hope.

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