Imagine starting with a typical day and suddenly strangers knock on the door. They look very official and inform you that they have the legal right to remove you from your home. They give you minutes to pack up a few things to put into a bag before you are taken to a stranger’s house to live. As adults, we would be confused, humiliated, and angry. Now, imagine that you are 7 years old and your life as you knew it has changed – perhaps forever.
While I was in foster care, I really never gave returning to my biological family much hope at all. I was very realistic to be so young but still longed to be with family. When you grow up in a toxic, abusive, selfish, narcissistic, drug and alcohol polluted environment you no longer really understand anything else. Or, you convince yourself that the environment was truly not “that bad.” I thought my family were people who loved me for me. Later, I found out that they claimed to love me but really only loved me like you love an object. I knew that returning to my home situation was not going to happen. I only got a glimpse of hope for a short period of time when my grandma wanted to take me in. I had no idea how it was going to happen, but I wanted nothing more than to live happily ever after with her. I loved her more than even my own mother.
I have never really understood why people are so confused as to why a child or teen would want to return to such a bad environment. It’s quite simple. The house you lived in wasn’t the biggest but it was comfortable enough. The bed you slept in wasn’t the best but it was yours. The kitchen was dirty, but you would get to it later. Regardless of how it appears to others, everything is known to you. You didn’t have the perfect relationship with your family, but you ache to see them again. The place you are taken may be nice, but you are a stranger in someone’s house, now following the rules of everyone but yourself. You have no identity anymore and you can only imagine what the case file says. This is exactly how it feels to be taken from everything that you once knew. Children want to go back to what they knew and what was familiar to them. I know sometimes it makes no logical sense to those on the outside because of the safety risks involved, but to a child there is security in what is known.
When I was younger, I couldn’t understand all of the emotions I was feeling. I just knew I wanted to be with the people I loved. In my mind I knew that I couldn’t be because of the living situation and the drugs. I also knew that me being removed from my home gave my mother all the freedom that she wanted. My heart wondered how someone wouldn’t want their own child, and now, as a mother myself, it blows my mind. My own mother didn’t put up one single ounce of fight to get me back. She could finally live the life she wanted without having to worry about me getting in her way. I didn’t understand that at the time because all I wanted was to have my family back. This damaged me in more ways than I could have ever imagined at that moment. I really didn’t understand how much and was constantly confused as to why every relationship I had was toxic and never lasted. I didn’t have the communication skills that I needed to function in a healthy relationship and I was so angry because my whole life had been so hurtful. I wondered how I would ever avoid being a terrible parent. All I wanted was to be able to provide for my kids and give them everything that I had missed out on. This desperation led me to cling to a toxic past relationship and not be the best parent to my children because I was so stuck in what I thought I deserved. I would sit and think about how people ever got to the “white picket fence life.”
It took a while for the healing to begin. The first step was when I met my husband who showed me more love and support than I had ever received in my life. I had only been loved unconditionally by my adoptive mom, but he showed me and my children unconditional love from the moment we got together. And now we are going through a step-parent adoption for my 3 older boys. I came to the conclusion that everyone involved and even other family members will be touched and feel different ways about this decision. Personally, I felt ecstatic that we were finally all going to have the same last name and that, I, once a single a mother in a very toxic relationship, am finally able to give my boys the stability that they deserve.
Although it is puzzling that biological parents sign over their rights, I am content in the fact that I made the best and strongest choice for my boys, because as a mother, I have to do the hard things. Initially, I was crushed to think that in the future my boys may come to me and ask all about their biological dad. I don’t look forward to having to explain everything, but most of all, I am hopeful because of the stability they can now enjoy. I know in the future my boys may be confused and even angry at me for the choice I made, but I will always know that I made the best decision that I could for them. Most importantly, it is the opportunity to break the cycle from my birth family.
Now that I look back, I realize that my foster family had not let me be openly frustrated about my birth family’s inability to protect and care for me. They seemed to think that their environment would be enough for me to forget my hurtful past and just move forward. I have found that just putting the hurt aside doesn’t work. It just comes out in other ways. Children need to express themselves and should be allowed to feel every single emotion; even if it comes out in anger at first. They are going through one of the most painful chapters of their lives and it may be the last time they will be home with their parents. For some it may be the last time they will be comfortable in their surroundings and even in their own skin. New schools, homes, guardians, siblings, pets and daily routines can be completely overwhelming and tiring for many. Please be patient with them and understand that most the time they won’t tell you what is going on simply because they don’t understand it themselves. Most children won’t know until years later. I was adopted as a teenager 12 years ago and I am still learning how to navigate daily life, conflict, and relationships. I encourage you to give these kids some time, space, and understanding as they are trying to find their place in their new world.
We received this story from a young lady, adopted from foster care, with a desire and heart for helping foster families better understand the children we all serve. Help her help children and families by sharing this. If one child is better understood by each “share” we can make a tremendous impact on children in care everywhere.