His birth mother had been unable to even take care of herself -- and unwilling to release him to be adopted, so he bounced from one foster home to another, never staying more than a year or so in each one. He wasn't the easiest child, but he was usually pleasant and polite to adults, concerned about his friends and at least an average student. He had just graduated from high school and his 18th birthday was rapidly approaching.
I was a chaperone on a church youth retreat. I overheard a casual remark that struck a nerve. He sounded hopeless - possibly suicidal. I didn't know his history yet, so I had no idea why, but I took my concerns to the pastor who was leading the retreat. He assured me he would follow up on it.
Early that evening, they passed out the letters parents had written to their children prior to the retreat. When the young man opened his, a tear trickled down his cheek. He stood and fled from the room before his friends could see him cry. The pastor followed.
He was seriously considering suicide. All he could remember was being a foster child and he knew that once he was 18, the state would no longer issue a check for his board and care. He simply could not imagine that anyone would love him for himself. He had no place to go and no plans for his future.
The letter changed all that. He gave permission for the pastor to share it with the chaperones. I don't remember the exact words, but here is the essence.
My dear son,
You have shared our lives for nearly 2 years. If the state would have permitted it, we would have adopted you, but that was not possible. Soon you will be 18 and the state will no longer have that control. You are our child of the heart and we want to be your family forever.