The Word Agape describes the type of love that gives without expecting anything in return.
I (Joanna) am a social worker. I was born and raised in Poland so obviously my heart beats for the Polish children and youth. I want to share God’s love with as many as I am able…
Vic was born and raised in South Africa and is a retired chemist, but still the philosopher. He has worked most of his life with management in international companies. He studied psychology to better understand integrating and motivating a workforce. The same principles are valid in motivating and helping build self-esteem in emotionally vulnerable youth.
Since we moved to Poland in 2007, we have had regular contact with children in some orphanages and young adults who have grown up in the Polish orphanage system.
Our focus in the last decade has been on young unmarried mothers, who have left the orphanage system and are struggling to cope with life after an institutionalized childhood, which started often in dysfunctional families.
We have, over the last 30 years, experience in helping abused women to get out of their abusive relationships, and back on their feet. Some were successes, some ended with the young women going back to live with their abusers.
We have also been foster parents and tried a system that we found to be very successful. Instead of caring for the foster child alone without the parent, we tried letting the mother live with us and her child.
We believe that children need to grow up feeling really loved and appreciated. They need contact with adults who they can trust and who care and encourage them to develop feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. But very importantly, to teach them the social skills needed to navigate the complexities of this modern world. Then they can be stable and balanced adults.
The education system teaches important skills, but the experience of growing up in a traditional family is where children learn vital social and emotional skills as well as an understanding of how their society and culture function. The two complement each other.
Most foster parenting is for children who have been removed from their parental home due to neglect or abuse.
Mothers neglect children for three main reasons:
1) Pure neglect due to substance abuse, alcohol, drugs, etc.
2) Emotional breakdown, due to mental/emotional health.
3) Domestic abuse in the home, physical and emotional abuse.
In the first case, there is no other solution, except to remove the child from the parental home. In the second and third cases, if the mother is not the cause of the domestic problem, and can be in a safe place where she can recover, and at the same time be able to engage with her child, there is a good chance of a healthy mother-child bond developing.
Many of the young women we helped have been caught in a generational cycle, some stretching from the Second World War. A child raised in a pathological environment, raises her child in a similar environment, etc., until 3 or 4 generations later we are in the present, with a mother who through no fault of her own, is unable to cope with motherhood.
By helping the mothers we are saving their children from landing in the foster care system, and by so doing, breaking the generational cycle of pathological mother-child relationships.
Many young women today find themselves in abusive relationships because they got too deep into a relationship too fast. Old-fashioned dating would have given them time to realise their partner was not who they thought he was. When they cannot cope anymore their world becomes dangerous to their children. The authorities then place their children in foster care.
Unfortunately, the natural extended family of the young mother and child is often neither capable nor interested in taking care of the children, nor supporting the mother, since most of these families have a long history of alcohol, drugs, and/or abuse.
During our 15 years as foster parents, we have tried a few times, a method that unfortunately can only be tried on a case-to-case basis, and would be difficult to implement in an organized bureaucratic system. But they were successful.
As an example, we became foster parents to a child, whose parents had both been raised in an institutional environment. The child welfare authorities have, as a rule, to separate a child from the parents, which is traumatic and emotionally scarring for both mother and child.
The mother had not learned motherhood skills in the orphanage environment. We let the mother stay with us in our home. The young foster child was not separated from her mother and experienced no trauma. A healthy bonding environment meant that mother and child could develop their natural healthy bond, while the child remained blissfully unaware of the drama surrounding the situation. The father was the problem, not the mother, but the mother needed some coaching and security.
This is difficult for child welfare authorities to manage as they are unable to deal with case-by-case situations, so apply the same standard rules to all cases. Child welfare authorities are internationally underfunded and understaffed.
We do what we can, to the best of our abilities, and God will provide.
We are both now retired and live on a smallholding outside town, and decided to change the focus of this website. It is no longer about our project, helping young mothers and their children, but more generally about child development, especially the first years. Here we draw on our experience, the successes as well as the failures, and what we have learned in this field.
We hope that our articles can help and encourage you.
Jesus said: “Whoever receives one little child like this
in My name, receives Me.” Matthew 18:5
There is a systemic lack of resources for foster care, in Europe as well as North America. This is confirmed in the available research both on institutional as well as family foster care environments. Psychological therapeutic support is resource-intensive and time-consuming. From a bureaucratic management point of view, it is far more cost-effective and convenient to medicate children with powerful anti-psychotic drugs to make the child compliant, when the problem is emotional. The child needs therapy to overcome the effect of emotional abuse. This medication of powerful drugs amounts to institutional medical malpractice.
Pediatric malpractice is especially serious as children’s development can suffer lifelong problems from wrong diagnoses.
One example is cerebral palsy which may occur during fetal development, at birth or shortly after birth due to preventable medical malpractice.
The most significant consequence of separation and many years spent in an institution is attachment disorder caused by the lack of significant carer in the child’s life. Statistics show that this leads to tragedies caused by many unhappy/broken relationships throughout the person’s life. Most often their own children also end up attachment problems and in state childcare.
Such a situation is a compelling cause for taking action since it has been said that children are our future! We consider it our duty as well as a tremendous opportunity to influence the lives of both the young mothers as well as their children in the positive direction God would desire. After all investing in their lives and future benefits the whole of society.