I am extremely grateful I was given the luxury of taking my parents for granted.

They weren’t perfect, I know, in spite of the efforts of nostalgia, fondness and love to make them so. No, they were just a man and a woman much like any other man and woman who were trying their best to do the most with what they were given. Were my parents always right? There was a time when I thought so. Were they always wrong? Again, there was a time when I thought so. The best answer is somewhere in between, calculated with the knowledge that I am probably no more right or wrong than they were. 

But there were a lot of things my parents were not. They were not absentee parents; no, they were there every day whether I wanted them to be or not. My father was not the man who came home drunk and beat me or my siblings. My mother was not the woman who was so chemically dependent that she never cooked a meal for her children, or even knew whether or not her children came home to look for those meals. And neither of them were the adults who left their children to fend for themselves. They might not have always had the best to give, but they gave the best of what they had.

Too many children did not and do not share the luxury I enjoyed. There are more than 8,000 children, according to KVC Kentucky, who are in foster care, with more than 32% as a direct result of their parents’ substance abuse. That factor makes up the largest percentage of children being removed from their homes, and many suffer through it and are not reported — 70,000 children aren’t living with their parents, and 26% of children are reported as being homeless. No, they did not enjoy the luxury I or anyone else did. 

It makes me wonder how any of these children would have reacted to me as a child. What would they have thought upon hearing me complain about having to go to bed early when I obviously had a bed upon which to sleep? What would they have said to me when I was upset that I couldn’t have a certain type of shoes I might have wanted when my feet were obviously covered? And would they perhaps have reminded me that no matter how I might embellish getting a “whippin’,” it really was nothing compared to an actual beating? And would they have I added that I probably deserved what I got, and that they just had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Children need a quiet, stable place to grow. They need a family who loves and supports them, a family that cares for them and treats them as though they matter. But far too many children across the country and the world have nothing resembling what most of us would consider even a tolerable home life. Bad circumstances compounded by bad choices they did not make leave far too many children the victims of neglect, abuse and worse. And, more often than not, it becomes a cycle repeated in subsequent generations. 

But we have the ability to change the statistics, to make life better for those who cannot make the changes themselves. The need for people willing to become foster parents has never been greater than it is now. Some children in the foster care system only need help for a short period of time while the bad situations in their homes are corrected through counseling and rehabilitation. Others require longer terms of care, and still others might need help to carry them through to adulthood. But every one of these children need help, and most of them needed that help yesterday.

May is National Foster Care Month, and everyone should be willing to do what they are able for a part of society that needs that help the most. We can choose to become foster parents ourselves or help those who are foster parents by volunteering or donating. There are organizations in our own community, throughout the country and around the world that would be grateful for any help we give them. Each one of us doesn’t have to do everything but think how much we could change those statistics if we all just did a little.

I was rich growing up, and I lived a life of luxury I never dreamed I was living. And now it is my sincerest wish that all children will someday share that luxury with me.

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