Love is Not Defined by Our Genes: A Look at Foster Care
May is National Foster Care Month. This month we focus on the effects of childhood trauma, separation from primary care givers, and issues of abandonment and neglect that can continue to plague those with traumatic histories well into adulthood.
Foster Care Month Hits Close to Home
A few years ago, before I transitioned into working as a full-time therapist, I was the Director of Foster Care for a local nonprofit faith-based agency. We recruited, trained, and licensed foster parents to meet the growing demands of children placed in Florida's child welfare system because of neglect, abandonment, and abuse. According to Childnet - Broward and Palm Beach county's lead agency - there are more than 4, 500 children in foster care, statewide.
With May being National Foster Care Month, I wanted to share some of my experience in working within the foster care system.
On this particular night, I answered a mayday call from the shelter where children are temporarily placed while waiting for an open foster bed. They were experiencing an influx of children and needed all hands on deck. When I arrived at the shelter and rolled up my sleeve, ready to work well into the evening, I was faced with a chaotic scene as if almost from a movie. I saw a sea of children from ages 0 to 17 in various stages of grief and trauma. But among them, one little girl, around four years old, caught my eye. I will refer to her as Sally.
She looked like a stoic little soldier, seemingly holding it all together. She marched about in total compliance to all the workers who were giving her orders to go there or sit here. She replied to all their orders with a gentle, 'yes ma'am.'
Later that night after I had finished bathing babies, changing children who had not been placed in a home that evening into pajamas for their overnight stay at the shelter, I once again encountered Sally, who was preparing to stay the night. I offered to give her a bath and help her change into her pj's.
As I prepared to tuck her in for the night, I asked her if she was okay or needed anything. It seemed that something in her finally broke in response to my question and everything that she had been holding in finally started to spill out of her.
She recounted the day's events, the tale how her mommy had been 'taken away' by the police, how she and her sister had been brought to the shelter. She ended by expressing her fears that she now had no one to take care of her, and finally lamented "and no one has given me my milk."
Foster Care Children All Grown Up
Maybe you're like Sally and have been walking around stoically event after event, trauma after trauma. Maybe you are just waiting for just the right someone to ask you if you're okay. Maybe you're not. Maybe you are one out of the every three (futureswithoutviolence.org) children that have faced childhood trauma, putting you at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
If your traumatic childhood is holding you back from enjoying your present and future, we at Team SoulSpring are ready to go back there with you, clean out those cobwebs and help you move forward in a healthy manner.
Thank you so much to #teamsoulspring counselor Marie Labranche for her contributions to the content of this article.