How constant moving through foster homes can really hurt a child.
Being 7 at the time, my foster son was very conscious of his life when he first came to live in our home. He had been in another foster home, where he had spent a full year. One of his first comments, once I introduced him to his very own bedroom was: “It smells here…” In reality, it didn’t. I explained, “I know it feels like it smells, but actually, it simply smells different.”
When I first entered the USA, everything was new to me. Not only the language sounded like nonsense, but the smell of the air was nothing familiar either. I remember when I was at the airport, with my friends, tired as we were, we sat on the floor. A cleaning lady approached and began talking to us. We didn’t understand what she was saying — I think, maybe, we were not supposed to sit there. We didn’t speak her language. We were travelers. It was scary when someone would talk to me and I couldn’t understand.
At another time, I remember being confused, also at the airport. After asking the flight attendant a question, she got really offended at me. I think I must have expressed myself the wrong way. I was an exchange student, missing home. I was just afraid I was going to miss my flight.
For a foster child, the experience of a new foster home is very similar to mine. The child is a foreigner in the new home.
A therapist, making the case to defend permanency for a child who had already spent years in foster care, stated: “With every move, a child goes through the same shock as someone does when moving to a new country.”
My son needed plenty of time to adjust to us. A world had been ripped from him and a completely new one was given him, all at the same time, without having any say.
If an adult can panic at the thought of being dropped off in a strange land… Imagine a child, who has to face all new things? How many traditions did he have to learn? How many different rules did she have to learn at the several schools she has had to attend? How many times did they feel alone and lost and needed someone to explain the directions?
These are heavy experiences!
A child needs stability, permanency. Her brain needs time to absorb and adjust. His heart needs a break…
Many foreigners fall into depression because of the overload of new information they must accept. And we are talking about adults, who have chosen to move from their home country into a new one. But a foster kid did not ask for the move. Still, we require full acceptance from them. So, we must give them space and time once they arrive… And permanency.
Understanding from us to them.
A never-letting-go attitude.
You know, when that flight attended got mad at me, what helped was when a kind soul stopped by and helped us understand each other. It is hard to forget the relief that I felt when her compassionate eyes met mine at a time when I was a tiny person in a very wide world.
Our little ones are travelers, worn down travelers, foreigners in need of those compassionate eyes.
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Gloria R. is a mother of two birth children, and fostering to adopt an older child. She is a licensed therapeutic foster parent with her husband. She continues to engage in research on traumatized children, foster care and adoption and hope to be a voice for kids, who often fall in between the cracks of society. She also loves writing and welcoming new readers to her blog, www.onemorewithus.com.