Little Birds

by Nikki Ernst, Licensing Specialist, Heartland for Children

Photo: Nikki's Girls with a Local Snake Friend

A Normal Sunday Afternoon

“Mom, are you coming?!” my youngest daughter wailed, “Come on! We’re ready to FREE it!” In order to understand what is taking place, let me rewind to about eight weeks ago.

It was a normal Sunday afternoon and the family was outside working in the yard like we do twice a month. As we were weeding the flower beds, our cat, Rasputin, appeared from around the corner, carrying something that was moving in his mouth.  My daughters, knowing that the little creature was facing an untimely death, started to scream at Rasputin.  Rasputin immediately dropped the creature from his mouth and ran the opposite direction. My youngest daughter had made it to the wiggling animal first and exclaimed “Oh Mama, it’s a baby bird!”  As I approached, I could tell that the bird appeared to be in very bad shape. “Mama, you have to help the little guy!”

Looking first at the little shivering mess of feathers, then at the two pleading faces before me, I caught myself saying ”Go get a towel and a box. We’ll take it to the ER vet down the road.”

At the clinic, the Vet pulled me to the side. “It has a broken wing, some deep puncture wounds, and some surface abrasions.  We can set the wing and give it doses of antibiotics, but to be frank, I don’t think it’s going to last throughout the night.” My eyes drifted over to my daughters, as they stood before the baby bird petting it and trying to comfort it. “Quick, before I change my mind, do you take MasterCard or Visa?”

Bonding with a Turtle Friend

Fostering Love

For the next eight weeks, my daughters took turns caring for the bird. They did it all, from early morning antibiotic dosages to mincing up worms for mealtime. During this time, not once did they complain about the lack of sleep or the bites they endured when the tiny bird would lash out due to being scared. Around the sixth week, I sat the girls down. “You do know that eventually you will have to release it out to the wild right?” My oldest chimed, ”We know that mama, but we will worry about that when the time comes.”

The time had come and I make my way out to the front driveway where the girls are holding the box. Teary-eyed, my youngest tells the bird how proud of it she is that it has grown so big. She pets it on the head and says, “We love you, you will always be a part of us, but now it’s time for you to go and experience the world on your own.”  

As though the bird knew that this was its que, it rose out of the box and into the air. I saw both my girls standing, with tears streaming down their little faces, watching the bird fly away. “It’s OK to be sad.” I stammered. My oldest turned around with a smile on her face and stated, “We are not crying because we are sad, Mommy. We are crying because we are happy that we were able to help that baby bird.  Someday, a new baby bird will come our way and we will help that one too. Because that’s just what we do.” And with that, she turned back to watch the sky.

Dress Up with the Whole Family!

Helping Foster Children Spread Their Wings

As I raised my eyes to the sky, I couldn’t help but to compare our children who come into care with that of the baby bird. Hurt, scared, and traumatized; they are left solely in the hands of strangers. And just like my girls, our foster parents take these scared little souls and they nourish them both physically and mentally. They stay up with them late into the night to make sure that their needs are cared for. These parents take the brunt of the child’s fear and anger, but do not complain or give up on them. And just like that baby bird, the time will come when that child will leave the foster parents house.  There will be tears and words of encouragement given before the child, like the tiny bird, leaves the security of its home and ventures out in the great outdoors. As those children "soar into the sky" to make their impact on the world, our foster parents stand proud with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces knowing that another baby bird is only a late night call away.

Interested in fostering, adoption, or becoming a Foster Friend volunteer with Heartland for Children?  Call (863) 519-8900 x 289 or email to get started!