What it is like for a child to go into foster care….my feelings
This is not something I read from a medical journal. I didn’t see another post and plagiarize it. I have never been in foster care. I have, however, have a daughter that was in 3 foster homes, as well as, 4 other non-registered foster homes.
As we were sitting in therapy, yesterday, my first thought was “I am not in the mood to set in silence with her and the therapist for the next 2 hrs. I would rather pluck my eyelashes out one by one. One. By. One.” Probably not the greatest attitude to have, but I have had a busy week and this was certainly not on my #1 fun things to do. I don’t like the drive, I don’t like sitting, I don’t like watching her stare blankly at the therapist.
You know, when you dread something the most…is usually when God chooses to show up BIG.
That is what He did. My daughter’s therapist is a believer. She doesn’t announce it, wear a t-shirt, have crosses all over her room or where a crucifix around her neck. She is understated, friendly and she goes to the bathroom to pray before she goes into our session 🙂 That makes me happy.
We talk, for about an hour…trying to get a game plan together and work through what had happened the previous week. Then Gigi comes in the room. She has forgotten a lot of her past and that is just simply a protection mechanism. I get that. Her past is now lollipops and rainbows, when in reality, it is quite the opposite. It is a sad tale of generational sin, heartbreak and abuse.
We didn’t know where to even begin and she started talking about one of her “less lollipop like memories”. It was the memory of when she was taken away, at the age of 5. What started out as a fun day, ended up in complete and utter horror for a little girl. She was yanked from people she felt safe with (one of the unregistered “foster” homes) and plopped in a strange home with strange people.
She relieved that memory and where she normally doesn’t show much emotion, you could see the pain of that day written on her face. She had tears in her eyes, yet she pushed them back. She was almost staring through the therapist…not really seeing her, but it was like she had gone back in time, to that day and she was watching that little girl….listening to her screams….seeing her tears…watching as she was ripped out of her friends arms. She loved this friend, though she struggles to remember what they look like or their names. She found comfort and safety with them. She was safe from the harm that awaited her at her biological mother’s home.
We are trying to get her to identify emotions and feelings. As we watched the pain swoosh across her face…she was able to identify the feelings that matched what she saw. Anger, Fear and Sadness.
We asked her what it was like to go to that foster home, that was registered by the state. She said it was strange and scary. You are told all your life to run from strangers and not talk to strangers, yet now she was told that she couldn’t stay with her trusted friends and she had to learn to love and trust these strangers.
She went from eating TONS of candy, junk food, powdered macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, coffee…the foods she knew and loved. She went from being able to watch WWF, rated R movies to having cable that was monitored. She went from no discipline and no rules to tight rules and threats of being “spanked with the belt” if she broke a rule. She went from sleeping on the sofa, in the living room…where she was safe to sleeping in a room, alone. People wonder why kids don’t just “fit” into a family.
This is my take…my opinion. I live in a nice home that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I eat fresh fruits and vegetables. My meat is cooked thoroughly, I enjoy bread, sweets, coke and water that is safe to drink. I have 2 ply toilet paper, dogs and cats, a washer and dryer. I have love and familiarity.
Then, I was “plucked” from my home and “plopped” in Africa. A developing country. I was standing in a sea of beautiful black faces, smells of fog, sounds of people chattering in a language that I couldn’t understand. There was busyness all around. There wasn’t green grass, outside…there was lots of sand, dirt and pavement. The meal that is served to guests is boiled baby potatoes, boiled eggs, a pita type bread and soda. Certainly not what I would normally eat. They enjoy raw meat, injera, doro wat and other local foods. You can’t eat the fruit unless you peel and wash it…not something you can do when you are stuck in a vehicle. There were beggars, pick pockets, tons of little shops with people wanting you to buy their items. There toothbrushes were little wooden picks. The water could not be used to drink or even put in your mouth for rinsing after you brush. Toilet paper isn’t a necessity. Everything around me was different. There was nothing familiar to me. Yet, I had to adapt. I had to follow the rules, eat what was given to me, learn to pee in a hole in the ground….it was an ENTIRELY different world.
When you come from a home where abuse and neglect is the norm and then you are placed in a home that has rules, different foods and different ways of doing things, it is like going to another country. I can’t even imagine the fear that my kids felt when the left their people and then were given up by the “strangers” they were supposed to trust. Then, they came to me.
I was stupid. I expected them to “fall into the pack of kids” and just “know” the rules. They didn’t. They didn’t know that we don’t drink soda. That we don’t watch tv, that we don’t dance like a stripper at church, that we shut the bathroom door when we use it….I expected them to know. They didn’t. They had to learn. It took one day at a time.
I had a sense of sympathy for Gigi….the pain that I took for granted because I thought she should “know” was evident. That state foster home scarred her. She was not loved, she was not welcomed, she did not follow their rules and they clearly preferred my son over my daughter. So, I not only had to help her overcome that trauma, but the trauma and pain of her biological home. She has been in our home longer than she has ever been anywhere else. It will be 7 years.
It has been 7 years of hurt, pain, dysregulation, confusion and love. She is doing so much better now because we are getting out all of these toxins that plague her and replacing them with the Truth of the Lord.
Give these children grace, give them time, give them love and stay consistent.
Prayers are needed for her continued healing.