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Stranger Danger

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You know that early morning rush, bags are packed, hair done, notes written to teachers, last-minute dashes back to the car for the homework satchel or hat forgotten on the backseat. As a Mum it’s so easy to be caught up in that rush, organising children, discussing afternoon pick up, afterschool extracurricular activities.

These moments are the moments that my foster daughter loves taking advantage to do what my hubby and I call ‘Mummy Shop’, look around for a better Mum, friendlier looking Mum, maybe one that packs a better lunch box or gives more lollies. Who knows what she looks like but it’s in this crowded rush that my gorgeous little girl with piggy tails runs up to another group of Mums, boldly approaches while they are chatting and says,

‘Hello!’

 ‘Hello’ they all reply, ‘don’t you look pretty with your hair in pigtails!’ effortlessly my foster daughter slides her hand into one of the Mum’s hand and leans into her waist cuddles into the stranger.

 ‘Oh! Isn’t she precious!’ Some of the ladies exclaim! Reaching out to touch her hair, stroke her cheek or pat her back.   

By this point I’ve noticed the missing child, I am cross because our stranger safety rules are not to talk, touch or cuddle strangers and she is currently breaking all these rules. I rush over, interrupt, apologise and attempt to remove the angelic looking child from the smitten group of women.

‘Oh, she’s no bother!’ The lady cuddling my child smiles up to me, ‘really, what a lovely young girl to be so affectionate’.

Removing my foster daughter from these situations is always tricky, as she then proceeds to ask the ladies for food, phones, money. I’m now running late, and I leave with a very sullen child who thinks I’ve just taken her away from her new best friends.

 

No matter what your official title is, foster carer, kinship carer, adoptive parent, biological parent of a child with trauma if you are one of those you have most likely had this experience. And usually, you look like an awkward Mum, shrug it off and try again to reinforce stranger safety to your child. But we all know actions speak louder than words.

The truth is all kids with attachment disorders often seek out the attachment in inappropriate ways. The reason that these children climb on strangers’ laps, kiss strangers and even ask to go home with the strangers is that these precious children have deep wounds understanding their worth. They are starving for the reassurance that they are wanted and loved. These children, however, seek out strangers to meet these needs, not their caregivers.

To the friendly stranger at the shops, sports fields or school, we are glad you won’t harm our child, but as a stranger, you are reinforcing the belief to my child that all strangers are safe to talk to, touch and cuddle. Strangers and safety is not the truth, the next stranger that my child runs to, may not have the best intention for them and this makes my child an easy target for abuse.

The best thing you can do when you see an overtly affectionate child, offers a hi-5 or shake their hand and then redirect them to their caregiver.  Phrases like, ‘cuddles are special and just for Mum’ ‘remember it’s not safe to cuddle strangers, cuddles are just for family.’ By redirecting the child to their caregiver, you are reaffirming them of their place of belonging, offering them security and encouraging them. When a child is reaffirmed in their place of belonging, this helps them to heal long term, not a short term attention fix but a deep anchoring of their self-identity.  And I know that this is what we all want. 

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Poet’s Love

Here is a poem from one of our carers.  A carer’s love for a child in their home whether temporary or long term. erica-marshall-flickr-creative-commons-family

 

3 Years ago you both landed softly on our lap

And It’s so special to fill this important gap

 

With lots of tears, sweat, joy and prayers

We embraced each day as much as we could bear

 

We’re happy to see you both excel in life

And taking all life challenges in your strife

 

As for now, we will still look up and embrace all

No matter what the size of challenges  – big or small

 

We will always be by your side

And one day, see you off with so much pride

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​When will you be ‘mine’?

The first rule of fostering is ‘don’t get too attached’ right?
I mean ‘they’re not yours’,

‘you’re just filling in for a bit’,

‘it’s like you’re a kindy teacher…just 24/7’.

Yeah right?!?!

We’re not talking about inanimate objects here!

We’re not talking about a nine to five job where you can clock off and go home at the end of the day.

And let’s face it, the very thing these kids need is a genuine attachment.

But is it what I need?  This hurts!!!

Our foster daughter loves the phrase ‘Fabulous Good’…so for the sake of anonymity, within these meandering thoughts, she can be called Miss Fabulous.

Initially, I thought we’d only have Miss Fabulous for a short time.

So I kept my distance…emotionally that is.

Physically she was HARD WORK

24/7 HARD WORK.

The problem with hard work, while you’re trying to keep your heart hidden away, is that it’s even harder…know what I mean?

After years and years and years of looking after Miss Fabulous and the aching process of bit by bit handing her my heart….I’m still asking the question:

When do I get to call her ‘mine’?

Technically I am her ‘carer’ not her ‘mummy’.

Technically she is my ‘foster child’ not my ‘daughter’.

Early on in our fostering journey I read an article about a fostering system …I think in England…where the biological parents have 2 years for reunification. After this period has passed, if reunification hasn’t been achieved, then the foster child can be adopted/permanent placement.

I’m not an expert in child psychology… but from my limited experience…

that sort of system seems to make sense to me.

Security, certainty, permanency…

If the child and carer have formed an attachment bond why keep tearing it apart?
Recently we experience a terrifying ‘incident’ which left our whole family shaken. As I held a sobbing, trembling Miss Fabulous in my arms the words that soothed her came from deep within me:

‘You’re ok,

You’re safe,

I’ve got you

Mummy’s got you…… and I’m never letting you go.

‘You’re MY daughter,

MY daughter,

you’re mine …..and I’m never letting go’.
I hope we don’t see a repeat of the melodramatic scene from the Titanic movie where Rose promises Jack, with great conviction, ‘I’ll never let go’ ….and seconds later does exactly that…physically let’s go of him.

I realise the point is that emotionally she never lets go….and I guess that’s the truth of this matter too.
One day we may have to physically let go, but I know with great conviction that I can never emotionally let go of this child…………. who really deep down is ‘mine’’.

 

This blog is written by an experienced, anonymous foster carer. Feel free to share your thoughts in the contents below. 

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Letter to the Editor

ros-batesThousands of abused children are languishing in care for years, with many facing multiple placements and no hope of ever being reunited with abusive drug-addicted parents.

Recent changes in New South Wales and Victoria have seen time limits placed on deadbeat parents to get their act together before alternate permanent placement orders are considered for abused children.
Latest child safety data in Queensland shows in the last 12 months more than 430 children who exited care had been there for 5 years or more with 85 of those having 10 or more carers in that time.
Abused children deserve better than languishing in care on a hope that someday their parents may get their act together or kick the drugs. 
Labor’s embattled Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman is happy to give kids back to drug addict parents so long as they submit to “mandatory” testing.
As a community we have to ask “When is enough, enough?” and give these vulnerable kids a loving, safe and stable home life in which to grow up.
Drugs and alcohol are the biggest issue affecting dysfunctional families and we shouldn’t be making excuses for useless parents at the expense of an innocent child.
It’s time we ensured the best interests of a child are upheld and not trampled on by a failed policy of reunifying broken families at all costs.
ROS BATES MP
Shadow Minister for Child Safety
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Removed

Hi All,

We can’t go past this great, realistic and emotive resource, Removed. Here is the clip we have featured before on our Facebook page, additionally the creators have made the second part, Remember My Story, which is just as important to watch. If you have not watched this before, please take the time to step into the life of a child that enters care. To often we look at a child’s story through adult eyes and agendas, here is a rare opportunity to watch the life of foster care through the eyes of a child.

Click on the link to watch,

Removed

Remember My Story