Imagine this was YOU!

For a brief moment, close your eyes; free your mind and imagine a baby, or a 2, 4, 6, or 10 year old and playing with their favorite toy.

All of a sudden, there’s a knock on the door. The foster parent opens the door and in walks a nicely dressed lady. The lady briefly speaks to them, then walks over to the child and says that they need to go with her. They don’t know where they’re going. As they are leaving, they notice the foster parents walking behind – carrying a partially packed brown paper grocery bag with all their worldly posessions. At this point, they don’t understand what’s happening; their heart starts to beat fast, they want to ask where they’re going but are afraid. Finally they take a deep breath and blurt out, “Where am I going?” The nicely dressed lady looks at them and replies, “You are going to a nice home.” The mind starts to travel, “What did I do wrong? Why can’t I stay here? Why don’t these people want me anymore?  Will I see my friends again? Will I go to the same school?”

At this moment, all that they have ever known has been taken from them; everything, except their name…though they aren’t sure if even that is real.

Now, imagine that child is YOU! Imagine also this has happened to you not once but two, four, eight…even twelve to fourteen times. Imagine finally that after all this you are left to age out of the system; upon your eighteenth birthday you are thrown out by a system that has been your “parent” all those years like a piece of garbage and told, “You are an adult now…make it on your own!”

This scenario is played over and over for the many children that are faced with foster care. Sometimes, we are given a second chance in life; the opportunity to come full circle. What we do with what is offered is totally up to us and no one else. Sometimes we go from bad to worse.

Being a foster child is not what we choose to be; but something that has been chosen for us. I often see us as “a product of the system”, viewing the world differently than others may view it. In our world, we often have seen pain, mistrust, abuse and even hatred. We are given a stigma that is hard to shake; if you ever can. Words are spoken to us that hurt tour very core.

We, in turn, create our own world where we hope to find that little piece of love, happiness or stability that was taken or absent in our lives. We use this as our defense mechanism.

Whether it benefits or harms us, this is the world we create; one which I created. My world was often in a remote area of the backyard of my various foster parents home; there I played with toy soldiers thinking for awhile I could rule the world.

As foster children we long to belong, to be loved and to have our very existence acknowledged. We want to belong in a world where we are like your own children, your own relatives. We wish to belong to a family that says we are theirs no matter what. We don’t want pity, we don’t need pity; we just want to be loved and cared permanently for without the presence of mistreatment, misrepresentation or dismissal.

As foster children, we experience special occasions such as holidays or birthdays and find them especially difficult and painful. We don’t really look forward to them but can’t stop them from coming. We see kids with their families, and wish that it were us. We lie in bed at night and ask “why not me?”
 
I have to wonder how many biological parents or children could endure the life many foster youth have had to endure…could you survive it and be whole?

I now find myself in a position to assist other foster children in ways that I was not assisted. God does things in His own time.

When I was young, I resented my bio-parents for what they had done and often my foster parents for what they didn’t do. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to accept the hand that I was dealt and now view the negative events in my life as things to make me a stronger person and as just stepping-stones to my future.

Every child will have a story to tell. Whatever story it is; Our Children will look to their teachers, social workers, clergy, and parents, as their guide through life. Will they tell the story of hate, sorrow, mistrust and pain? Or, will it be one of love, a story of someone that made a difference in his or her life.

Now reread the first paragraphs of this entry; imagine you lived this sort of childhood; What might your story be?

13 Responses

  1. All I can say is I cant imagine it. I can, surely but I cant imagine what it must be like and I try to remember this every time we have a new child come to our home and even with ones who have been here awhile. I look at them and just think to myself how much they overcome. They are truly stronger than I.

    Great entry.

  2. The destructive thing about foster care is that they don’t just move the kids one time. The average is 3 in a two year period of foster care. Imagine how frequently the kids are moved when they spend YEARS and YEARS in fc. Some spend their entire lives in fc and move 20+ times. THIS is what is even more destructive! Bonds are never able to be formed.

  3. Thank you Larry for once again reminding me why we do what we do. I can’t write more now as my 3 year old is coloring on our cat. -Melissa

  4. Okay, well since this is one of your “shorter” blogs…..(lol)
    I have tried to imagine this. In our Mapp classes, we did this exercise. It does seem so horrible. Thats why I totally wonder when fp’s post that their new foster child is totally bonded, blahblahblah. It just can’t be. There is hurt and trauma there. Some day it will appear and it won’t be pretty.

    It think it should be required for CW’s, GALs, CASA’s and FP’s to do this exercise each and EVERY time they have to make a decision to move a child. Maybe if they could just try to see what it does, they wouldn’t be so quick to move children around.

    I often think that just being in foster care does as much or more damage than they had with their bio family–not in every case, of course, but many times, I think they cause a lot of problems.

    JMHO

  5. I am currently writing something similar to this. I was supposed to take a class last sat. on moves in foster care but the instructor was sick. I told my worker I would write a report on the topic for the credit hours. I don’t know if I will get the hours or not, but it’s my opportunity to have the director of my agency (the instructor) read MY thoughts on the topic he was supposed to teach.

    I’ve already taken the class twice…but I’ve LIVED it more than twice and I think moving a child is THE cruelest thing a person can do to that child. FAR worst than physical abuse or neglect in MOST cases. The psychological damage done to these children by ripping them from their families…over and over again leaves deeper lasting scars than does a belt. CPS doesn’t care or doesn’t acknowledge this…either way their blind eye is harmful to these children.

  6. I remember doing this exercise in our foster parent training classes. The thought of losing my loved ones, leaving my house and most of my stuff, nearly brought tears to my eyes. Constant moves are damaging to children especially when they are unnecessary. When will the system get a clue?

  7. The sheer number of moves a child makes in care is absurd. My FS was moved for no reason other than someone he had known years ago found out he was in care and decided to become foster parents for him. That lasted a month. I had to fight to get him placed back with us and that meant he spent a week in ANOTHER home for respite. Including his time at the “safe home” where he was abused and moved to another building, that is 6 moves in less than a year. It is totally insane.

  8. I think about this all the time, and especially whenever I get another child. I don’t know how kids are able to go from one family to another — or even just back and forth between their biological families and their foster families — and maintain any sanity at all. I’m always in awe of foster kids — children as well as adults who’ve aged out — who are able to have some semblance of a “normal” life, whose dreams aren’t just completely crushed because of what they’ve been through.

    To me, foster kids are heroes, of a sort, the same way that people who’ve survived natural disasters or who live in war-torn countries are. I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for them.

  9. I just can’t imagine it. It’s simply too sad. Changes need to be made, that’s for sure.

  10. Thank you for writing on this topic. I have experienced great losses in my life yet still I don’t think I can compare it to what these kids experience.

    When I was 17 and a senior in high school I was ex-communicated from the church that I grew up in. I moved out, found a room to rent and was alone, alone, alone. Everyone and everything I had ever leaned on, trusted, believed in was gone overnight. My family wouldn’t speak to me, my friends wouldn’t speak to me. I found a job and scraped by. God put amazing people in my life and I made it. I was one of the lucky ones.

    I wasn’t moved with out people asking me. I was 17 not 7. I had at least been given 17 years of stability before my life turned upside down. While I think that my experience helps me sympathize with these kids I sure know that even on my worst day I didn’t have it as bad as some of these precious children.

    It is such a good reminder to all of us.

  11. This pulls my heart strings…

    We have foster children and have had them for more than a year and half… we will notl et anyone teach them this word “foster”… to them they are our children, our birth children are their siblings… we have fought moves that the birth mom sought because she feelt that “we” (never minding her neglect, endangerment, and abuse of them) are the reason she is not getting them back… we have treatened to spend what little life savings we have to fight for them to stay in our home when the mere threst even seemed a sthough it was raising its ugly head, second mortgage our house, what ever it takes… I have lost a many nights of sleep and now can not sleep more than 5 hours or I wake up with a migrain… for worries of their futures.

    we love “our” kids and refuse to let them paticipate in events for “foster” children… we provide those joyful life events for them… we do not want them “branded” …

    DCS does not always understand but I boldy state “our” kids rather they agree, like or not… we must feel this way even if they are only here till reunification (if there is to be one) because any child who comes to our home will be welcome to stay as long as it takes… even if that time is forever…

    I do not want my praises sang or this… I only want that you all should know… that Not all foster parents give up… some of us fight… loosing things we care about in that fight a long the way… for me it was a well paying career of over 5 years… for others it ias more…

    But rest assured when “our” children wake up tomorrow… it will be a Very Merry Christmas for them… and when and if they go home-if their mom will permit we will still do weekends so that they always know that it was Not because we did not want them… we will always be there for them…

    As sad as it is for some It is not the same for all… I have other friends as well that are FP’s and they have actually adopted their FC…

    Just tought I’d put a happy story to the end of this Christmas Eve on this blog post…

    God Bless and Merry Christmas my fellow bloggers!

  12. Well this is me! I am 16 years old and i have been in the system since i was 12 years old. I didnt get abused until i actually entered the system!!! I was taken away from my family for “neglegt”. My grandma failed to transport us to family therapy…i was better off at home than where i have been in the past few years. Believe it or not i have been moved around from foster home to group homes 26 different times, Yes 26! Of course i was a little rebelious but not anything out of the ordinary. I’m just a kid who is searching for love and has a hard time with relationships. As of right now i am very stable and i am doing good. I plan to do everything any other “normal” child plans to do.

  13. This is such a harsh reality and even as fairly new foster parents we’re seeing it first hand.

    Our 14 month old foster daughter has been in 3 homes since she was placed in foster care last July. So, three moves in less than a year’s time! That is absolutely ridiculous.

    I’m praying that the move to our home will be her last. We’d like to adopt her but it’s uncertain as to whether or not we’ll be allowed to do so.

    If the courts tell us we’re not able to adopt her, we at least hope to keep her in our home until she is returned to her mother, however long that may take. We don’t want her moved around any more.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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