She is wild, my girl, and does wild things.

I have been thinking a lot about how I could have been different as a parent. This is a torture unique to parents, that even when we know that we have done our best, however flawed, we scrutinise.

Youngest Daughter has returned to care. This has been an agonising journey. I have had to recognise that the damage done to her in her first three years of life and subsequently by her birth mother, has had cumulative impact over time, exacerbated by the dreaded hormones. I will always be here for her and love her no matter what. At 15 and a half, she has decided that she can do whatever the bleep she wants and bleep everyone. She loves me and protects me from her excesses by choosing not to live with me.

My heart breaks over and over again. Living with the grief of watching a loved one struggle and be the cause of their own suffering is deeply sorrowful. It has taken me some time to unravel the tangled threads of thought and trace back to what is mine and acknowledge the grief. I share this here as I understand there are many parents who are perplexed and shattered by their children’s choices. Whether or not I agree with hers, I still love every molecule of her.

I have had substantial practice over the last ten years of letting go. It is agonising to do so when you know they do not yet have the skills, knowledge or ability to understand the world, or only from their own limited perspective. Letting go is so very hard when all you want to do is keep the loved one safe, even from themselves.

Trusting that she can keep herself safe is a constant practice. I have to pep talk myself through moment by moment. When she is missing for days and the agency that has care of her is ringing me to make contact. When I coach her back to them and they don’t let me know she is home. When no-one tells me she is missing and she and I have been chatting so I have no idea. It is bizarre and strange and cuts through to your centre as a parent.

My challenge is to keep her alive long enough for her to want to be alive. Let her know that I believe in her until she believes in herself. Tell her she is my shining girl until she sees it for herself. Keep the faith until she finds it. Love her always and hope she discovers she loves herself.

Hold her in the Light with me, for all those children for whom we wish a future, a life they love and are proud of.

In the photo, Me in the background, Youngest Daughter, Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter.

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Storytelling 101

I have been a storyteller for over forty years.

From the age of six I can remember asking my mum for stories and repeating them to myself and others. In my teens, I became the holder of family stories. In my twenties, I began to keep the stories and tell them for the young people I worked with.

As I journeyed through life, I held and told the stories of my workplaces, my family, myself, my children, my life. That is what storytellers do, we hold and tell the stories of our world. Does this make us all storytellers?

Why, yes it does. We use stories to make sense of our lives, to learn and to share. We share our experiences through stories and share stories to capitalise on our experiences.

So what makes a Storyteller different to a storyteller? It depends how far you want to take it.

By the time I was in my twenties, I found that friends were asking me to tell stories of shared experiences. By the time I was in my thirties, my colleagues were giving me stories so I could share them with new staff. As I built my storytelling business, I worked at a large chain warehouse for a few years. Staff from other sections would share incidents that occurred then ask me to re-tell those stories. I worked in the nursery and two of our favourite stories concerned customers who had come asking for unusual plants. A woman came in with her husband and child and explained that she needed a plant that would grow above a metre and half tall and would climb up the fence over a shrub she already had planted there. The plant she wanted had large white flowers and big leaves that it lost in winter and she racked her brain to think of the name. As she spoke I began mentally flicking through the climbers in our stock, when she exclaimed, “Oh! It’s a clitorus!” Surprised silence. “Oh no! That’s exactly what I didn’t want to say!” she was horrified. I laughed, “You mean Clematis?” “Yes, that’s it, a clematis!”, she agreed, red with embarrassment. She bought three. Then there was the man who came to examine olives, insisting that he wanted the one with orange centres. We didn’t laugh then and there, just explained that the one he wanted were pickled and stuffed olives that you could only buy from the supermarket.

From Paint there was the story of the hospital that called wanting to know what was in Cabot’s decking oil as someone had used it for fake tan; and the Hardware story of the irate customer who explained she had laid out the nails from the liquid nail tube but they would not harden to nail in; and on it went. Why me? I remembered the stories and told them with such relish that even those who knew them well, enjoyed hearing them again.

I worked as a travelling Storyteller for ten years, growing my business and developing it into a Storytelling agency. I sold it when life moved me in other directions. Once a Storyteller however, always a Storyteller.

I hold the stories for my children and begin to hold the stories for their children. I hold stories I have been gifted, stories I’ve read, stories I’ve heard, stories I’ve created. Many, many stories live inside my head. My developed storytelling mind lends itself to interesting connections which serves my current employment well.

How do you make the shift from storyteller to Storyteller. I’ll tell you next time.

Straight-talk parenting

There’s benefit to being a straight talker. People know you mean what you say and say what you mean. Even Youngest Daughter, whose behaviour has been off the charts for nearly three years.

Saturday she went to stay with a friend. I spoke to the mother to make sure it was okay. Then there was some story about the power bill not being paid and no longer able to stay there. Then, gosh, all the phones in the town were flat so she couldn’t call me to come and pick them up, so they slept on the street. Oh yes, you read that right. I was also supposed to believe that story.

I was so glad to have them safe at home, that I focussed on that. Now that some semblance of sanity has returned to YD, I have let her know how nonsensical her story was. She at least had the grace to appear embarrassed and guilty. Good grief. Sleeping on the street! Splutter!

Do you know, if you met me, you would not expect me to have a ‘wayward’ daughter. As a heroin baby, who went into foster care at 5 months for ‘failure to thrive’, then to carer after carer, until coming to me at 3 1/2, she was so angry, so mad at the world, and so full of grief that it was bare survival for both of us for the first nine months. She had thought the previous carers were her family and was absolutely broken that they had given her away. She was convinced for a long time that I must have seen a photo of her and demanded to have her. Her birth mother made it worse, so much worse.

Poor sad baby. What she does know, except when she is crazy and convinced I am exaggerating (her own favourite pass time), is that I am truthful and while she might wish that I would be less honest at times, she knows that she can trust what I say. That’s something isn’t it?

Of course, quite often this means that she tells me more than I want to know. I often feel like putting fingers in my ears and singing lalala loudly. At least she tells me. Right?

So I told her straight up that she was not going to be able to complete Year 8. Year 8, dear God. I gave her the options the meeting at school came up with and she actually chose the one best for her. Oh my goodness, thank you God for great and small mercies. We still have to apply for all the programs and cross our fingers and our toes (our eyes and our noses) that she gets in. She is happy to try to get her life back on track and get some more education (she’s at grade 5 level).

Through all the traumas and events that have happened in my life, YD is the cause of so much angst and concern, so much pain, so many tears, so much upset. I know that how she is a reflection of how she feels about herself. Whenever she is in trouble or upset, she runs straight to me. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

It is so sad that she feels so bad about herself. I understand how all that has come about, all the abandonment, manipulations and abuse that has occurred to trigger that in her. What I don’t have is any way to fix it.

There is no fixing. I have to have faith. Faith in her resilience. Faith in how much I love her. Faith in her own light within.

I wish for her only happiness. To live a life she loves and is proud of.

Keep the faith.

Parenting Teens and Education…Sigh

How do I tell my daughter that she needs to move schools, again?

When starting Year 7 she dropped as a very tiny fish into a very big pond and was simply overwhelmed. Her response was anger. When confronted or felt she was being made wrong, she attacked. She has always been good with her words, they are useful lashes. Now she adds swearing and name calling to her verbal violence.

Otherwise, she simply walks out of class or refuses to attend. Usually she takes someone with her. She is one of those students you’d rather yours didn’t associate with. Yet and yet, she is the most gorgeous girl, who can just shine when her world is right.
Her world is not often right and I feel so sad for her. With foster care, abusive birth mother, challenges of permanent care, she has a well-developed lack of self-esteem. She hears everyone as making her wrong, or hating her or deliberately trying to sabotage her. It has taken extreme effort to get her to agree to go to counselling.

How do I tell my girl, who perceives rejection everywhere, that people actually do have her best interests at heart? They are actually thinking of her and wanting the best for her.

I don’t think I can ever convince her of that, so where to start? If I say that she is disrupting classes, disrespecting teachers and leading other students astray, that will confirm her every belief. I cannot say that. If I say that she is in year 8 with the education level of a grade 5, she will shrug and say she doesn’t care.

I don’t care what other people think. I don’t care that they point the finger at me and say how she turned out must be my fault. There is no fault here. There is a child who is suffering. My concern is for her happiness, that she is living a life she loves and is proud of. My concern is that she learns to love herself. That seems to be a tall order at the moment. Her conflict with everyone is evidence of the conflict within herself.

What is wonderful about her is how much she cares for her friends. She wants to bring home every person who is in trouble. What is wonderful about her is how in the moment she can be, enjoying life as it is happening. What is wonderful about her is just how tough and resilient she is considering all she has been through. What is wonderful about her is how compassionate she can be for others.

Perhaps that is somehow the key. You can only be of assistance to others if you take care of yourself and have something to offer. This is something wonderful about her. How could she ongoingly have something to offer those that need her support? What would she need to have to support others? How would she get that? They are big questions and I do not know how else to have her consider them.

If she does not see a future for herself and a need to provide for that future, how can I convince her? What if she tells me all the bad stuff and I tell her all the good stuff about this year? Where will that take us? How will that get us to the conversation about moving schools again? Obviously this requires much more thought, heartache and creativity. I do not have an easy solution.
Do you?
4 Nov 2015

Poor little lost girl: Parenting a teen

There are times when the mountains in life seem insurmountable, don’t they? Problems seem to pile up and up and it just seems that you will never get to the top of the pile and down the other side. I am watching my teenage daughter go though this at the moment. Feeling helpless as a parent is probably the absolutely worst feeling. Watching your child suffer and not be able to fix anything for them.

My Youngest Daughter is 13 and a half. An awful age. You’re not a child any longer and far from an adult. You are desperate to do what you see older teens doing but your damn parent won’t let you. You are beyond desperate to just get out and “live your life” and beyond frustrated that you cannot. Coupled to that is early childhood trauma for my baby. She is my permanent care child, having been removed from a drug-addicted mother at three months and alcoholic grandmother at 5 months.

A baby of a drug-addicted pregnancy she was born with rage she struggles to control. Anger is her main fuel and she can easily flash to rage. This spirals in endless circling between extreme highs and lows, self-hatred and loathing, cutting and abusive behaviour. She was passed from carer to carer until she came to me when she was three and a half.

For the last ten years I have cheered her on and despaired at her destructiveness. Once when I made her clean her room when she was seven, she was so enraged that she stole all my treasured rings from my jewellery box and threw them into the dog yard, then denied knowing what happened to them. I was so heartbroken that someone we knew had come into our house and taken my rings that I sobbed. She watched and said nothing. I finally twigged that it was likely to be her. I insisted and she went and ‘found’ a ring. I walked down to her room and by chance noticed a flash of gold in the mud and straw out her bedroom window. I recovered them all. We went to the police station for the Sergeant to speak with her about the seriousness of it all. She never admitted taking them.

This little baby was never cherished until she came to me. She never had anyone to croon her preciousness to her until I came along. We played the Baby Game, where she got to be the baby, for many months during her fourth year. She still opens her big brown eyes wide when we talk about it. It helped but mostly too late. Those bonds and attachments have to form before the age of three for children to be able to function fully and make future attachments. She has Disorganised Attachment Disorder, which can look like Oppositional Defiance Disorder, a little like Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and ADD. It’s none of those. It’s just that no-one loved this baby as she should have been loved, at the right time to wire her brain successfully. Consequently she has extreme difficulty in managing her friendships, has rages and impulse control issues and faced with all of that it is no wonder she had difficulty learning.

What to do? There are times I am truly stumped. There was the day she did not go to school because an older girl threatened to “bash” her and she was too scared. I had people looking for her everywhere. Thank goodness we live in a small town and she is recognisable and people care. She was home when I finally got home. I couldn’t hug her hard enough, I had been that worried. She’s going to school tomorrow though so I guess she is not scared anymore. I really don’t know what happened.

Teen years are cruel enough, when every emotion is so intense. Add trauma and disconnection to that, in addition to being the only visibly Aboriginal child at her school, you start to get the picture of how tough things can be. We had to get an intervention order on her birth mother last year as she lost the plot and got really scary. Poor baby. How is a girl, still really a child, to assimilate all of that? The answer is, she cannot.

One of her teachers wrote to me, to say she had to be removed from class as she defied him. He shamed her, in front of the whole class. For a girl like her, she had no alternative but to defy him. My response to him was to say that his reaction to her was not in her best interest. Oh, I understand that teachers are over-worked, I understand that the school is doing it’s best with the resources and knowledge they have. I understand all that. They don’t understand my child. She is intrinsically Aboriginal. She feels keenly being singled out and shamed in front of a class. Any child would. My child, who appears to be the only obviously Aboriginal child at the school, feels it intensely. I know shaming her was not his intention and it is what happened. She left. Then he wrote to me and told on her. This is just one of many times this has happened.

What to do then, what to do? We hang on. There are times that I feel that I am hanging on by my fingernails. I am not someone who likes to argue or do battle. She is. She feels that all the world is against her and tries to pick fights constantly. She is so determined to be right all the time that she hears people making her wrong, whether they are or not.

The worst thing? I can’t fix it for her. I can only remind her that she is likeable, she is loveable. She can choose to like herself and practise it. That is what makes the difference. Not what you look like, not what you have, not how long your hair is or how perfect your make up. Not who you are friends with, or who you are not friends with. None of that makes any difference. Choosing to like yourself and practising that, is what makes the difference. If we like ourselves and we practise treating ourselves better, we stand half a chance of being happy.

She is my fourth teen. The most challenging. It’s like being on a scary ride and wanting to get off and knowing that if I jump, the pain will be worse.

The hardest thing in the world is seeing your child unhappy and knowing that they make themselves that way and not being able to fix it. The hardest thing in the world is to see your child hurting and in pain. The only thing to do is to hang on. Keep loving her. Keep seeing her adorableness in the face of her fury. Keep her as safe as I possibly can. Stand firm and be her rock. This is all I can do.

Child Protection: Who are we protecting? – Community Conversation

I have been a foster carer for over fourteen years. In that time I have given much thought to the system we have for protecting our children.

I began fostering because I desperately wanted to care for children and could not have my own. Apparently I said to my ex, we foster together or I foster alone. I’ve been on my own with the kids now for ten years. Says it all really.

I wanted to be of help to families who were unable to stay together. I realised it would be difficult and as I had been a youth worker and housing worker, I had some idea of how difficult. What I didn’t know people have written books about.

Fostering has been the most challenging and affirming thing I have done in my life. I am done now. I simply cannot continue in a system where children are treated as possessions and parents have to measure up to an invisible standard. All parents know about the invisible standards, those we don’t know we’ve crossed until we’ve crossed them. All parents feel at some time that they don’t make the grade, they don’t know what to do and they are not going to make it. As a carer, add to that dealing with a government department, a community-based foster agency, the natural birth parents, access and a child traumatised by removal (at least) and you need to be a self-assured, self-confident, self-certain human being.

Human beings just aren’t like that. There are accusations and investigations, there are accreditations and ongoing training. There is dealing day in and out with a child who is most likely exhibiting traumatised behaviour. There is never being considered a professional in the care of that child. There is financial reimbursement that somehow never makes up the cost of having said child not to mention the toll physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.

I did say that it was also the most affirming thing I have done too, didn’t I? It has been. I can raise children. I raise strong happy children. When the conditions are right, I can foster natural parents’ relationships with those children and include them in my family. I have done really well in getting fostered children through school, which is not common, and have them complete successfully. I have gone onto have adult relationships with those children. I have done well.

It just about broke me, in every way. The thing I question here though is why do we do it? I have worked in family support and community development most of my working life. I have seen this from more than one side. I have seen parents, whose children have been removed for whatever infraction, be allocated family support and with that support meet all the obligations and hoops the government demands and get their children back! Most parents however do not receive family support to assist them through the terrible process of proving they are adequate parents (and let’s face it most of us are just adequate) and become demoralised and defeated. They give up. I don’t blame them. There are a myriad complexities that got them into the situation in the first place. There is double that to get them out.

I agree that if a child is in danger (like Youngest Daughter who was failing to thrive with her addict mother) they need to be removed to a place of safety. However why is the natural parent not allocated a worker to assist them? How does someone already struggling, navigate the tangled web of the courts? Would our children be better off staying with their family with appropriate support to ensure their health and wellbeing? Would this help develop resilient children?

I was not removed from my adoptive family. They were violent and found pedophiles for everyone. I did tell someone when I was seven and got branded a liar. It was a nightmare growing up with them but you know what? I survived it. I more than survived it. Despite it all I am resilient and determined to have my life be as I choose. Yes, it would have been wonderful to have a support worker calling my parents to account and working alongside them to do better. How much better could life have been? No-one came and I had to rescue myself. And I did.

The investment required to support parents and travel with them on their journey to be a family again is worthwhile making. No matter how bad it was at home, most children would rather be there. So, why don’t we do that? Why don’t we become the villages our children need?

What makes a Mother? An Introspective

I spent over ten years of my life caring for and loving a boy that wasn’t mine. He was fostered and very challenging.

Aidan’s mum had been a severe alcoholic who failed in her care of him when his primary carer, his Grandma, died. As a five and six year old he would ride around the street on his bike, knocking on doors asking for food as he couldn’t wake his mother. The Department stepped in and Aidan was placed in foster care.

Profoundly deaf with a cochlear implant, Aidan had other disabilities that were difficult to define and made it hard to find the right placement for him. Two years of moving in and out of the foster care system left him with little function. Some children explode, some implode. I was asked if I would make a long term commitment to him. We had a trial week.

I had been told by his worker that he was saving all his hugs for his mum. In two years that child had received and given few. On his first night with us I told him that the rule was that everyone received good night hugs. He could not get into my arms fast enough. He came to live with us.

When he realised he was safe, he released. I had no idea that so many things could get broken. I had no idea I was attached to so many of the things that got broken. He was mystified by my distress and it became apparent that there was a lot more going on with him that was previously expected. He was eventually diagnosed with a lower than average IQ, memory disorder, language disorder and Autism.

It was so challenging to get him to understand appropriate reactions and to take him step by step to comprehend other’s responses. We made it though. There were times where I thought we would not but I persevered with support from the foster agency. We even made it through the period where he would shove his fist in my face to get what he wanted. Finally he got through school. It felt like a real achievement.

This was my boy and I was so proud of him. He had been calling me “Mum” for years, long before his birth mum died of her alcoholism. Then he met a girl online, a whirlwind romance later he was gone. I have not heard from him for months and the last time I did, he told me that I wasn’t his mum, just his ex foster carer.

You know what, that’s true, and yet it isn’t. I have loved that boy, looked after him, been there for him morning and night and all the hours in between. He cried on my shoulder, I mopped up his tears,taken care of him when he was ill. I explained things to him and helped him work out his rages. I coached him through his confusion and talked with him about girls. Toughest of all, I let him go. To live his life and explore.

I sent  him a Christmas card that hoped he was happy and dared to ask him to let me know he was safe. Today I received a message that read: “Thanks for the card. BTW DON’T ever say that you are my mother. You are my FOSTER MOTHER.”

I ask you, what’s the difference?

Liking, Loving and Looking After Yourself – A Musing

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The weeks go by and the weeks go by. You know the year is flying by when your youngest says, that went quickly. Nothing makes time seem more fleeting than your youngest child getting older.

We measure our lives by achievements in the physical and only when we have had a physical loss do we become aware of other forms of achievements. I feel one of my greatest achievements has been learning to like, love and look after myself. Not that long ago I asked my son how would he know when he had high self esteem. His answer? Well, I’ll have a car and a bike and a house and a boat… (We live in the bush). I answered that they were things and things can be easily lost. Figuring that ‘self esteem’ may be the wrong question, I asked, how do you love yourself?

This turned into a considerable family discussion. How do you like yourself? How do you love yourself? How do you look after yourself? The general consensus by those under 18 was how much good stuff could you buy. I was momentarily speechless. These were the children who had grown up in my care, the children who had decided with me that family outings were preferable to buying new furniture. I am the mother who forewent all manner of things to take my children on a secret holiday, the topic of many trips down memory lane. I am the mean mother who refused to buy electronic games for a son whose obsession with them caused him to discuss characters as though they were friends. (I was the mother who was horribly confused for quite some time.) I am the mother who still sends her children to play outside. I am the mother who kindly says “only boring people get bored.”

How then did these children of mine learn that liking or loving yourself depended on what you could buy yourself? These are the same children, mind you, who would rather go without than put in extra effort to earn money. (I am also the mother who enjoyed ‘going on strike’ on the odd occasion their laxness got too much.) I asked them how they would buy themselves these things if they didn’t want to work? That appeared to be unanswerable. “We’ll get jobs” from them was met by rapture from me. I am the mother, after all, who has worked most of their lives.

Where did my children pick these ideas up and how come they had more sway than what I taught them? Only now in my 26 year old Daughter am I seeing a foregoing of brands and must-haves for a simpler life. Only now am I seeing a young woman determined to like, love and look after herself. She acknowledges the lessons she learnt from me and is closer to appreciating a simpler life than she has ever been. I hold out hope for the others. I have to say that moving through the stages of parenthood are very challenging.

When they are tiny, you are wonderful and to be obeyed because if Mum’s happy, everyone’s happy. Then they get a little attitude and you have to shift from loved and adored parent to the negotiator. You just get a handle on that and you get the I don’t care, nothing matters. Here you have a choice. You can either be firm and emphatic or gentle and encouraging. I switched between them to keep everyone on their toes. I am, after all, the mother who ran out of shops while my children were engaged, cackling like a chicken, leaving them behind. At least it made them keep an eye on me and caused me much amusement.

I discovered that if I made things work for me, then they had choices within boundaries. My boundaries but then I’m not superwoman. My grandson throws wobblies, banging his little head on the ground. I regard him calmly while people around cast me looks and say “ you can do that or Grandma can carry you or you could walk and we will…” (add in enticement). He will get up and walk with me. Unfortunately teens are heavier.

By the time you are used to being a teen parent, they are out off into the world and don’t need you for awhile (until something goes wrong). That’s all fine. Challenging, heart-rending at times but fine. What I do hope is that I have led by example and they know how to like, love and look after themselves without being self-indulgent and self-obsessed (Youngest Daughter fills my ipad with selfies. I have hundreds of them. Heh heh heh. I find uses.). So, what did I do when I discovered that buying stuff was their answer to liking, loving and looking after themselves?

We kept talking. I kept asking. I knocked all the ‘stuff’ off as things that come and go. Exhibit A, barbie dolls. Youngest Daughter had dozens of the damn creepy things and those ones whose feet came off. Ugh. I’d find bits all over the house with either child or dog or both teeth marks in them. She’d take off their clothes, then their arms, then their legs and then their heads. After all, their feet came off. Then she’d want me to put them back together. Couldn’t do it. Don’t know how they went together in the first place but damned if I could get those creepy things back in shape. The dog loved them. Those dolls are like self esteem, once taken apart, it never fits back together in the same way. You have to start again and build anew.

By the time our discussion had pared all their ideas down to just having yourself and how do you like, love and look after yourself, they really did not seem to know. I asked them if I liked myself and they said yes. I asked them did I love me and they said yes. I asked them did I look after myself and they said yes, albeit a little uncertainly. Then I asked them how was it that I liked, loved and looked after myself? I am a large woman of happy features. I have never been beautiful. Conundrum.

Then I told them the secret. I decided. Then I practiced. I get better at it as time goes by.

That is a much better way to measure my life.
(c) CLHHarper 17/10/2014

Parenting 401

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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.