We have had many different foster children come into our home. Each child comes from a different background with different reactions. For a little one who does not understand, imagine taking everything away; their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, whatever offers them comfort and putting them in a home with strangers. These strangers don't know what they like to eat, how they go to sleep, what their routine is, how they are comforted. Foster parents will try to understand, try to comfort but often you are just guessing based on your experiences and the child's reactions.
One of the children who came into our home this last week is 2 1/2 years old. Her language is delayed, actually most of it consists of swear words. She was taken from her home, put in a blanket sleeper, driven for several hours and dropped off at our house very late in the evening. We were told that she needed a bath and that nothing could be taken from the home. Her reaction...pure terror. She didn't want us to touch her. Didn't want us to comfort her in any way. I tried to lure her into a bath but was told, "no bitch". She didn't want me to touch her to change her diaper. Didn't want to go to bed, the bed seemed to terrify her. In this case her older sister was with her and was able to tell us that they didn't have beds, that they wandered around the family room until they fell asleep wherever they wanted to.
That first night was rough, she cried and cried. She didn't want me to touch her or the blanket I gave her. She refused to get on the bed so sat on the floor crying. I sat next to her, close but not touching her blanket. I sat watching her wipe away her own tears, staring at me in fear yet she didn't want me to go away either. Slowly as the night went on she slowed down the crying and stared at me for a while. Finally around 2 am she laid down on the floor, pulled the blanket up to her chin and went to sleep.
I feel so helpless at those times yet I know that I can't force myself on her. I can't force her to take comfort from me. I can only be there for when she decides that I am safe. That was our first night.
The second day she still didn't want us to touch her. Diaper changes were full of screaming but had to be done. As I walked past her I would gently touch her, she would pull away. I fed her, I gave her sippy cups, I showed her toys, I talked gently to her. Still she screamed and lashed out if I tried to touch her. Most of her language is swearing which Benjamin is picking up. After she fell asleep on the couch I took her up to bed. She woke up at some point in the night and was sleeping beside my bed in the morning.
The third day she really started watching me. She watched as Benjamin came to me for some candy, she came to me for candy as well. She isn't swearing as much and I am starting to hear some other words. Diaper changes are somewhat easier. She will allow herself to be touched a little. She allows some comforting. When she sees me in the kitchen she comes in and shows me that she wants an orange, I promptly peel it for her and hand it to her, I finally get a smile from her. I give her the quickest and not most efficient bath because she really needs one, she screams the entire time. However, after getting out she wants to play with the water from the side of the tub with Benjamin. By the evening she is so tired but still won't sleep in the bed. She falls asleep on my lap watching cartoons. I just let her sleep on the couch.
Today, she goes to church where she doesn't want to be dropped off. I play with her for a while until she gets involved with the kids and I can slip out, She did great. When I picked her and Benjamin up she came running. She walked through the church ahead of me but looking back to make sure I was there. She allowed me to hold her, comfort her and play with her. Diaper changes are no longer a struggle. The kids went out and played in the mud, she loves mud and then they got hosed off and went into the pool. She willingly went with Larissa into the pool. Water is not her problem, the tub is. Is swimming counted as a bath? Today it was. At bed time I knew she was wore out so I carried her to the bedroom where I sat with her in my lap and sang to her. My singing is awful, it puts kids to sleep and I believe it is so I will stop! She fell asleep on my lap and I laid her in bed. She woke and whimpered so I patted her back and continued to sing until she was in a deep sleep.
I feel that if we had her for 6 months that we could catch her up. However, I don't think that she will be with us that long because they are from a county 2 hours away. That is crazy far for visitations. Yet I hate for her to move, that would mean a new foster mom, new routines, new foods, activities, everything. So we are working on getting her some favorite things, doll, blanket and such that she can take with her to the next home. Perhaps even home. We will also have an opportunity to write to the next home telling them about her and what we have learned about her. It would be nice if they gave the parents an opportunity to write some things down. Perhaps they wouldn't want to do that in the heat of everything but it sure seems like it would help the child.