My youngest daughter has just turned 13. She came to live with me when she was 31/2. I had been waiting a long time for a little girl. I had two big girls but I could see a little girl with dark hair and eyes. I knew she was coming 6 months before she arrived. I got her room ready and put a love-bug toy in it. Every morning I would open the curtains, give the love-bug a touch and say, She’s coming, as the sunshine streamed in.
She arrived in a landslide of energy. I was 42 and puffing to keep up. Everyday she’d have an activity and then we’d go to the park or the play centre to keep playing as she had so much bounce. The irony is she says how much hard work my grandson is. I laugh.
Fostering children is it’s own particular challenge but for this child I took another giant step and went to permanent care. This is when a child cannot be reunified with their birth parent or any family member and their permanent carer becomes their legal guardian and parent. It took four long hard years of investigation, ruling out kin and just hanging in there before it was granted.
It doesn’t take giving birth to a child to be their parent. We know that. There are so many parents who obviously missed the parenting classes and licence. Oh wait, we don’t have those. There are currently well over 3.000 children in the foster care system in our state alone. That is a lot of traumatised children. Make no mistake, any child who has been removed from their parent is traumatised. No matter how bad it was in their family, it was their family and being removed brings it’s own pain.
So, I had a 31/2 year old, full of energy and grieving and angry and very confused. It took nine months of being her rock before things began to improve. I quickly discovered that time out didn’t work and time in did, which was it’s own challenge. Baths worked. Sand worked. Running worked. We used to have running races in the back yard with the Invisible Nobody. I would call the race and on the odd occasion the Invisible Nobody would win. My little girl would be absolutely furious and enraged and insist that they run again so she could beat them. Very entertaining.
Dealing with birth parents is challenging, dealing with access more so, including said birth parents in family events brings it’s own problems, teaching birth parents how to parent sometimes works but mostly doesn’t. Challenges abound. The impact of all this one one small child is enormous. The impact on a family more so and when you have more than one child whose birth parents need support and you are dealing with their addictions and life dramas too, it is exhausting.
Sometimes this all breaks down and is not repairable. Sometimes extended family of the children becomes everyone’s family. My foster son’s Granddad is my permanent care daughter’s “Granddad” and my birth mother is her Grandma. There is no-one that you can talk with about the intricacies of all of this and yet it is as complicated and no more so than step family arrangements. Juggling adult issues is more exhausting than child ones more often than not.
Now my big little 13 year old has gone out running with her mentor and I have a moment to learn how my new bread maker works. She’ll be back soon and I’ll be running again.