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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Focus on Fostering: Revelations

One of the sad realities of raising foster children is the revelations that sometimes happen.  They can give you a frightening glimpse into the childhoods [or not-so-childhoods] they experienced. I remember the time we were driving in the car and heard a nearby firetruck, sirens blaring.  The three year old in the back seat matter-of-factly said, "Oh-oh... somebody got mad and kicked their their television!"  You have to wonder when a child's first association with a firetruck is anger and violence.  Or when a six-year-old calmly explains that the reason policemen have guns is so they can kill you if they want.

Sometimes it doesn't start as an outright revelation.  Sometimes it is just a reaction that lets you know there is a memory, a story, a fear.  Like the time I was pounding an old metal ice cube tray to loosen some stubborn cubes. My new foster daughter came running from two rooms away, ears covered tightly, yelling, "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" and crying.  She may not have said anything about what those sounds meant to her, but it was a revelation none the less.  Needless to say, I switched to easy out plastic trays the next day. I also put her in charge of helping me empty the ice trays each day.

All we can do as foster parents is keep our ears and eyes open for windows into the pasts of our children. We can carefully not react with shock or horror that can make them feel even more isolated. Then we must work to give them a more "normal" set of expectations of the world around them. We may never be able to erase the memories or fears they arrive with, but at least we can be sympathetic and supportive while we try to help them heal and gain a happier, safer view of the world.

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