By Kathryn Jean Lopez
Andrews McMeel Syndication
“The world would be a better place if all the mothers were like you,” Kelly Rosati’s 16-year-old daughter wrote in her card for Mother’s Day. There was a time when Rosati didn’t think such sentiments were possible. Let’s just say she’s been called things less endearing than “mom.” There have been suicide attempts. Probation. Cutting. Bulimia. Even right now, their adopted daughter isn’t at home, but temporarily living in a residential program.
“It sounds like a failure,” Rosati said recently in Sierra Madre, at the California Catholic Conference’s annual meeting of pro-life and family leaders from across the state. “It isn’t. It’s about being healthy. Our kids have come to understand that.”
Her four foster children all encouraged their mother to talk about their lives and struggles “as long as it might help other people.”
That there were hundreds of “modern-day orphans” in her own community was news to Rosati and her husband, John, almost 20 years ago. Living in Hawaii at the time, Rosati had been asking questions about adoption advocacy. She was a lobbyist and she was ready to change laws and remove obstacles. But quickly it became clear there was something more powerful than policymaking to be done. “We are a family and we have a house, and we have love to give.” The next move seemed clear.
“Talking and praying abstractly about the things that break God’s heart is one thing,” Rosati writes in her book, “Wait No More,” named for the program she started at Focus on the Family to connect families with children who would otherwise languish in foster care. “Seeing and hearing needs up close and personal – in your face, literally – is clarifying. There was no way we could see what we were seeing ... and go back to our comfortable life unchanged.”
Rosati was one of the speakers this year in January at the March for Life, where the theme was “Love Saves Lives.” There, she emphasized that “The love that saves lives is not soft sentimentality. It can often be a very difficult journey.” It will be frustrating, it requires perseverance and there will be many regulatory “headaches.” Part of this is for the purpose of vetting. If you can’t handle the process, you’re not going to be able to handle what’s about to hit you once you have a foster child or a child adopted out of foster care, in your home.
So, she sugarcoats nothing: This is hard work, but the most important work. She also doesn’t have to say, “they are so worth it,” as she does, because her love for her children overflows in every word.
Forget adult need
If you get yourself involved in fostering and adopting out of foster care, you can’t be looking to fulfill an adult need. “Because these kids come to you empty,” Rosati stresses.
“Trauma changes the brain. It takes a different kind of parenting to help them heal and become everything God intended them to be,” she says talking about the myriad mental-health issues that children, even young ones, face. She knows this intimately, as her son Daniel was born addicted to crystal meth. “Two of my kids’ birth mothers have schizophrenia,” she says. Mental illness, she explains, “is one of life’s toughest challenges. But God is there.” Yet another of the Rosatis’ children had been homeless – theirs was the sixth home he was placed in. He was 4 years old and he wasn’t potty-trained, and once they met him, the Rosatis were determined that he was not going to another home.
Adoption and foster care must be the priority of anyone who considers themselves pro-life. And when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently realized there were 34,000 foster children in their city, it didn’t start a new department but quickly started to tap into models and networks already in existence, many of them successful in evangelical churches, to connect families with foster children and wraparound services.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online.