Monday, March 22, 2021


 Foster children who come into your home, into your life, they're all unique. Their uniqueness unfolds in the first days and weeks as you spot quirks and traits and oddities about them.

There are also several key things the poor dears have in common, one of which is a neverending surprise to me, despite all the years I've been at it.

They all care immensely about the adults who have let them down. They care about them more than those adults seem to care about the child. There's a powerful bond that flows from the child to the parent, but is scarcely returned.

Sometimes the phrase 'let them down' doesn't truly cover the awfulness of the parenting they were subjected to. They might have experienced chronic neglect where the child, however young and helpless, is simply left to fend for themselves. They have to find food, find somewhere safe to sleep in a turbulent house, find ways of keeping warm. On top of that they have to deal with the feeling they are worthless. They sometimes have to suffer the most unthinkable physical abuse, so unthinkable I'm not going to give examples of horrors I've come across. Then there's the other form of abuse; emotional. The child might have been ridiculed, made the butt of endless derogotary remarks, verbally threatened and made to live a solitary life in fear of everything about them.

Phew. It does me good to remember what they've been through, especially when they're being difficult.

But at the same time it pains.

I've heard of victims of crime meeting their perpetrators and becoming sympathetic towards them, surely human nature at it's very very best.

But in foster children the way they love their persecutors is beyond an admirable human trait, it's almost beyond understanding. My wonderful Blue Sky Social Worker and I are often in awe of the child's concern that their parents are okay. 

We rationalise it;

"Maybe they are worried that if their parents are sick or worse the child will one day have nowehere to go."

"Perhaps the chaos and awfulness of their lives at the hands of those adults is all they know and they experience a sort of comfort in the familiarity of the toxic home."

Whatever lies behind it it's one of the wonders of the world.

I mention it right now, in the middle of the Covid pandemic, because it's a hightened issue in fostering. Children in care have concerns for the wellbeing of their 'significant others' which are well grounded. Often the parent or parents have abused their own health and would be vulnerable if they went down with the virus. Contact between child and parent is difficult, sometimes impossible, and often all the child wants from contact is to see for themselves their parents are alive and well - or at least as well as they've ever been..

The last time I did a virtual contact between one of my lot and their significant other, the child wouldn't come to the laptop, they were satisfied from the sound of the adult's voice that things were ok.

I got to wondering if sometimes the children themselves are surprised and confused about the strength of the bond they feel for the other party. 

And surely they must sometimes grieve privately that the bond doesn't seem to be returned.


  1. “Why do you have to love your parents?" This one hits home. One of ours has a Dad who was just too wrapped up with is own life to really give a fig about the kids, but they love him anyway. After one particularly difficult contact the youngest was in tears and asked that question. I didn't have answer, would you?

    With reflection I was able to offer hope - there is the mercy of time and with it, the fading of feelings. At a some point in the future you will realise that it doesn’t hurt so much, or feel overwhelming any more. You might still call it love, but it will be a warmth and affection not an all-consuming pain. You might still miss them sometimes, but it will not be the persistent ache of heartbreak.

    And 6 years later that is where are. I’m sure there are bunch of buried issues and trauma that might come out later, but for now, day to day, the kiddo is fine with the current situation. No sobbing over forgotten birthdays no expectations of a Christmas phone call or visit. They kids still care about Dad and like the odd assurance he is still alive and well but that is all they need and expect.

  2. Everything you say is so true and so profound, not to mention inspiring. Love is such a determined beast it's often deaf to reason. I've been to training sessions where they tell us about the vagaries of early attachment a phenomenon that happens regardless of the future benefits or otherwise. They showed a film of a mountain guy in America who incubated a nest of duck eggs and when the ducks hatched they assumed he was their mother, following him everywhere in line. The story ended there but I've wondered if the guy had maybe shot the real mother for food and was maybe rearing the ducklings to eat them; they'd have followed him quacking their love all the way to the chopping block. That woud make him the utimate bad parent.
    Can I add; great news about the kiddo. You're doing a truly wonderful job, please accept the respect of the whole fostering community.
    Take care, SFC