After a short break from blogging, I'm finally back to let you know that I haven't actually gone missing in action. I'm still writing - at least trying hard to finish the first draft of my new novel, a suspense/thriller set in Minneapolis.
These months of close family celebrations have made me really appreciate how fortunate I am to be part of a stable, loving family network. That isn't the case for many children.
The main character in this story is a survivor of the foster care system, and while I must say that many children who go into foster care enjoy the warmth and security of some very good homes, there are far too many who endure years of abuse, neglect and impermanence which leaves them deeply traumatized and unable to form lasting relationships later on in their lives.
While doing the research for this novel I read many disturbing reports, both from Canada and the US. One quote really stood out to me, from a survivor of multiple foster homes:
Even though sometimes on the outside I wouldn’t show it, I was always looking for time to spend with foster parents or someone that would give me time and show me comfort. I felt like a lost wolf that strayed from the pack - a dog that couldn’t speak about his pain. I needed someone - even though I may have rejected hugs, and laughed at heartfelt sentimental moments - but I was a kid, and I didn’t know how to ask for love and comfort let alone handle the feelings of guilt and humiliation of doing so.
Former youth in care (As quoted in Brady, n.d.)
An important study from the Office of the Children's Advocate (Manitoba 2016) entitled Don't Call Me Resilient: What Loss and Grief Look Like for Children in Care outlines very vividly how well-meaning adults can misinterpret a child's behaviour and ultimately fail to treat the deep-seated emotional trauma that results when a child is taken from their home. Here are some of the important points made:
- When a child is taken from his/her home - even an abusive home - he/she experiences grief and loss.
- With every placement change, losses mount and grief multiplies. This sense of loss is unaddressed in the current system
- Loss and grief can cause anger, confusion and fear
- A child who appears depressed and delinquent may actually be expressing sorrow
- Constantly changing placements cause instability and fear. The child experiences a loss of personal history, identity, belonging and control. The child may withdraw from emotional commitment or put barriers around his/her emotional state of being
Here are some very revealing comments from children who have been in care:
I couldn't talk to anybody, couldn't trust anybody, I wanted to end everything.
Adults said about us, They'll be fine, they're young, they'll get over it. they won't remember. They just need to toughen up.
One day the new foster parent just picked us up from school. (My worker) was too busy to introduce us to our new placement.
Our few belongings were just tossed in garbage bags.
One child actually endured 105 changes of placement in one year. It's no wonder that chronic sorrow and unresolved grief are the consequences of an overstressed system.
My research shows many similarities between the systems in Manitoba and Minnesota. I'll be touching on more of these issues in later blogs. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, go to the CONTACT section on my website HERE since the comments section on this blog doesn't seem to be working. I'd love to hear from you.