I never want to give the impression that foster care is a salvation tool or that it is a happy situation for families. Foster care is the result of trauma, and it also causes trauma when children are removed from their families.
However… sometimes we’re forced to make the best of a bad situation, and foster care can give kids the opportunity to feel safe, families the opportunity to reunite, and parents the opportunity to become healthy.
For us, foster care has been all of those things, plus a lot more than we ever bargained for. We knew our first foster placement would come with trauma and negative behaviors, but we didn’t know exactly what part we would play in that child’s healing. After having our daughter for almost a year, we can kind of look back and see where we’ve helped shape her life and where she’s helped shape ours.
For example, she loves to know what I’m blogging about each week. She loves to talk about topics, listen to what I’m considering, and help me problem solve. This week, she found out I didn’t have a topic yet so she begged me to let her “do” a blog.
While she isn’t quite equipped to do the writing, she is very much equipped to talk about childhood behavior. She’s been through a roller coaster of behaviors throughout her short life, and she’s witnessed a wide variety of behaviors from her biological and foster siblings. I told her that she could say whatever she wanted to, and I’d see what I could do with the information.
What she told me was much more self-reflective than I knew an eleven-year-old kid could be. She really wants to share her story of overcoming with people because she feels so proud of how far she’s come. She’s not happy her family fell apart, but she is thankful for the good that has come out of it.
So here’s the story of her triumphs.
“My behavior has changed so much since I got to your house. When I very first came in [to foster care], I was disrespectful. I’d just gotten taken away from my parents so I was really angry. I didn’t know who I was angry at so I just took it out on everybody who seemed to be the problem. I thought people were trying to keep me from my parents, and I didn’t really understand why everyone thought I wasn’t safe there. Now, that I know a different way of life, I understand what was unsafe. I also know that I can still visit my parents when they’re being safe, so I’m not angry with everybody anymore.
I know now that, even if my parents never get me back, I’ll still be able to have a relationship with them. I know that they’ll always be in my heart, even if I love you guys too, and that makes things a lot easier.
Another thing that has changed in my behavior is that me and my brother aren’t hitting each other or cussing at each other anymore. We’re saying I love you instead of I hate you. I used to feel like he hated me, but now I feel like he loves me. He’s more fun to play with because we’re actually doing things together instead of just being mean and hurtful. I used to think he was really annoying, but now I don’t. He has learned a lot of manners from his foster mom. Plus, we’re not around each other all the time now so I can just enjoy my time with him instead of always feel overwhelmed by him. And I don’t have to feel like I’m trying to keep him safe all the time so I’m not stressed about that. I know he’s safe with [foster mom].
Hmm… what else?
My behavior at school has changed. I used to never go to school, but now I go every day. I think I had like 40 tardies one year, but I still went more than my brother or sister did. My sister NEVER went because she hated it. I went more than her, but I still missed a lot. My principal even told me once that if I didn’t start coming to school more often, I’d have to get a police officer to come to my house and wake me up everyday.
I’ve heard that some kids are angry about being in foster care, but I’m not. I’m happy I came into foster care because if I hadn’t, then my mom never would’ve had to get better. I wouldn’t have met you guys. I wouldn’t even be safe. I’d be with a stepdad who hurt me, I’d have cockroaches all around me, and I wouldn’t have any rules to keep me safe. I get mad when you guys give me rules—because, come on, that’s what kids do–but really I’m so thankful for the rules. Isn’t it amazing that I didn’t get kidnapped when I was allowed to walk around the neighborhood all day long by myself? I’d be terrified to do that now.
I don’t even like walking out to the car by myself if you’re not watching me through the window!
I’m glad I don’t get to see all of my family members like I used to because some of them weren’t safe for me. Now, I get to see the ones that are safe, but I don’t have to see the ones who aren’t safe. There are adults in my life who keep me away from unsafe people, and I like that. I think feeling safe, like there are so many people in my life who make sure I’m safe every day, has changed my behavior a lot. It’s hard to be good when you’re always scared of getting hurt.
Right now, even if you and Dad WERE mean foster parents, there are a lot of people in my life who would make sure I got moved out of your house. My counselor checks on me, my caseworker, my biological parents, my church teachers, my community support worker, and even that one lady who comes over every once in while [licensing worker]. Plus, you guys are great foster parents so you keep me safe, too.
Oh, and my therapists! That’s a lot of people who are watching me.
I think feeling safe, having rules, and being shown a nicer way to talk to people has been why my behavior has changed so much. I’m not glad that my parents had to get me taken away, but I’m glad that I’m nicer now and that I’m being taken care of. I’m glad that my mom is getting healthy and that my dad is learning how to take care of us better.
Foster care is really hard in the beginning, but it’s not bad.”