Contact with birth family for looked after children can be extremely scary and exciting all rolled into one. For me it was a big shock to see how my mum looked, after not seeing her for so many years.
She’d lost a huge amount of weight and had had another child. All of this was hard for me to process, but my brother didn’t seem to mind and lapped up her attention. I felt like I didn’t belong anymore and this was difficult to accept. If a child doesn’t feel like they belong with their birth family, and feels different within a foster family, then where is their place in the world?
For years I felt this way and no one asked me how I really felt about contact, or explained what had happened to my mum, which I believe may have helped me in understanding her journey. The professionals felt they needed to protect me from the truth, which was strange to me, bearing in mind all the years I had witnessed abuse - I felt more than capable of understanding what was going on, and at 14 years old, had lived several long lives already.
On the surface I was a ‘looked after child’ growing into a relatively 'normal' teenager, due to a loving foster family and sheer determination on my part. However, I still struggled with a sense of belonging. The possibility of rejection was too scary to bear, so I pushed those fears to the back of my mind - until I met my husband. Only then did I feel truly safe and emotionally able to deal with me. He gave me the strength and acceptance to face my feelings head on and believe me, that was tough for both of us, for many years.
As a child in care you just want to get through life without any more drama, upset and especially no more moves. A stable platform is required, I believe, before the process of acceptance can begin. Seeing my family just made that journey tougher and longer. I personally feel that for some children the idea of contact needs to be thought about more carefully. Would you encourage a victim to have contact with their rapist six times a year? Or advise a victim of domestic violence that their partner should complete an anger management course as they’ll be a changed person afterwards? Should we put children through more upset?
I packed my bags and was ready to leave and never return. However I do understand that some children want and need to see their families. It’s who they are and is a part of their identity. But we need to talk about contact in more depth, ensuring that children have a voice and this be part of all court rulings.
Being in care is confusing for children on so many levels. They love and want to be with their families, just like their friends are. But for me, wanting to be safe and happy is why I chose to remain in foster care. I urge all foster parents not to take bad behaviour after contact personally. It’s really not about you, it’s about children dealing with their past over and over again, feeling torn, feeling that they are different. Remember you can be their happiness and please forgive their behaviour as children only show this when they trust you and the process of acceptance has begun.
Thank you to all the foster families bringing love, safety and stability to millions of children. This is a tough job and you all are truly amazing people.
Last modified on Friday, 02 November 2018 13:54