what I want you to know: the hard realities of foster care

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. (In case you noticed – this series has been switched to Tuesdays). If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Sherific.


There are things I wish I never had to know. 

When I went into foster care I learned all sorts of things.  We learned about the kid's possible histories, abusive homes and biological family visits.  We learned about putting away our medicines, our chemicals and our jewelry.  We learned about restraints and rages.  We learned about "the honeymoon period".  We learned about triangulation.  We thought we were shocked at the things we heard, we had no idea what shocking was.  The problem is that no matter what you are told and what you learn, you are sorely unprepared for children who have attachment issues to be in your home.  It is on the job training. It is baptism by fire.

When a child comes into your home who has early trauma, in our case it was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, schizophrenia, and severe physical abuse, you have no idea what you are getting.  I had no idea that we would be locking up not only our medicine but our snack foods.  I did not know that I would be the target of his rages at home and in public. I did not know I would have to physically restrain him in McDonald's parking lot when he was 6.  I did not know that certain places, sounds and even smells would trigger his abuse and cause violent flashbacks.  I had no idea that he would place the person he was with at the present time in those flashbacks playing in his head and make accusations.  I had no idea I would be the subject of CPS investigations because he truly thought I had hurt him.  I had no idea that he could come across as so truthful and so charming to others.  I had no idea that at such a young age he would know how to manipulate people to get what he wanted.


So many things that I wish I had never known.  I wish I had never known that my child was capable of not only hurting, but wishing to kill animals.  I wish I had never known that my child would attempt to steal other, younger children's innocence.  I wish I never had to explain to him that his penis is not meant to go certain places. I wish I never had known the fear of seeing your 12 year old child standing behind you with a knife raised in the air and a scary smile saying, "What I was just putting it away."  I wish I had never ever had the feeling that I had done the wrong thing in welcoming him into my "forever family".  I wish I had never had teach my younger children how to get away from him if he tried to hurt them. 

I long for the days when locks, door alarms and video surveillance was not a part of my daily routine.  I long for days when I don't have to be on constant high alert.  I long for the time that I didn't have to be constantly supervising my child. 

Most of all I wish I didn't hate the mother who did this to child.  I wish I didn't hate myself or feel guilty for wishing my life was different.  I wish I could go to bed at night and feel like a loving, successful mother.  That will never happen.

I hear people clamoring all the time about  families being unprepared to parent children like mine.  They fault the agencies and the foster care system for not providing enough training.   I don't think there is anything you can do to prepare them short of throwing them in the situation.  No amount of words can prepare you for what you have to do and how you will feel with a child like this.  There is nothing that will make you understand what the hourly struggles will be like with a child like this.  There is nothing that you can do to prepare for what you will endure.   Let's face it, even our extended families don't get it.  They have us telling them, explaining, teaching, offering information and they still don't get it.  They don't live with it . 

Blogging has saved my life and the life of my child. Without women who understand where we have been, where we are, and where we will go from here I would not have survived.  Some healing has taken place, it is not as bad as it once was.  I think I have healed more than he has.  Women who have been willing to share and be completely open about their journey have taught me more than anything thus far.  We are not alone.  I want you to know YOU are not alone.  Those of us who have been there understand.  We understand the deepest, darkest, ugliest thoughts you have had.  The feelings of dread at the thought of your child waking, we've been there.  The fear that your child will harm you or your other children, we get it.  The shame that you feel when your child's hug turns your stomach, unfortunately we understand.  I want you to know that it's okay.  It is not shameful, it is healthy to recognize it and embrace  it and move forward.  It's okay to fake it until you make it. 

Healing will come when you both face your demons and get past them together. 

Healing will come when you realize you are not alone.

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