When you start in fostering you half expect them to arrive at your house with a black eye and torn clothes, crying and underfed. But 99% of any damage is often internal, hidden from the naked eye.
Many times they arrive at your house looking like the friends of your children arriving for a sleepover; no different from any other child.
I often wonder what they would look like if they had the awfulness of their history and emotions on the outside so we could see them.
'FREEDOM' CAN BE A TYPE OF NEGLECT
We had a child come to us whose parenting, if you could call it that, triggered terrors and traumas you would never guess were going on inside her.
It wasn't so much that the parents did terrible things, more that they did nothing; as if their 8 year-old daughter was a 30 year-old lodger.
They were so ignorant of a child's world they treated her as if she was an annoying adult. We had a Blue Sky training session that touched on this syndrome it's called Homunculus (or something like that). One example of it is when parents punish children for bedwetting because the child has been told it's wrong, so the child is simply breaking the rules.
The child had a bad record at school, so the school passed on her. So she had no school to go to, and no home. A house, yes. A home, no.
Sometimes the adults would leave her alone all night.
It may not sound too bad; being left to your own devices, but left her deep scars. Coming home from school to an empty house that might stay empty for the next few days. Going to the fridge to feed yourself, remembering that you once opened the fridge without asking and got knocked about. That sort of memory never goes away, and is scary in itself without discovering there's nothing in the fridge except half a bottle of Rose and some rancid sausages.
SHUTTING CHILDREN OUT
One evening after she came to us she was upstairs in bed and we were watching a TV drama that had a lot of shouting. We quietly closed the living room door so she wouldn't hear. A bit later when the adverts came on I went to make a cup of tea and there she was curled up on the floor outside the living room door. It turned out she had been barred from the living room if the adults were at home. The door was ALWAYS closed to her. Her ears were so attuned to the muffled noise of a TV when the living room door is shut that when we did it she got scared and crept down to be as close to us as she could without getting into trouble.
Most nights the adults would go out, either to the pub or to friends houses or up to the common and either come home very late the worse for wear, or not come back at all. She was alone in the house which was spooky enough without all the memories and triggers.
So she'd go walkabout. Go and hang around the High Street takeaways.
If either of us went out for the evening, leaving the other one to look after her, obviously, she would be a nervous wreck until they returned.
Of course, we knew something about this when she came to us because the information you get about a placement is pretty comprehensive. The information doesn' t tell you what to do about it; you have to work things out with your social worker. Then it's over to you.
We worked out never to shut the living room door if we were inside it. We learned to always have a full fridge.
For a time, we stopped going out. Both of us stayed in, until she had the confidence we weren't going to leave her by herself.
All our close friends and relatives who we trusted with aspects of her story said the same thing;
"You wouldn't think any of it; to look at her".
Some people are dishevelled on the outside and sparkling on the inside. Foster children are so often the other way round.
image kindly provided by Jenny Drew Something: https://www.facebook.com/jennydrewsomething?fref=ts