Is it any wonder that I got behind on my blogging?
The meetings last week were the roughest ones to attend.
Foster care class 3 was about Trauma and Its Effects and Sexual Abuse.
The teacher showed us some pictures of abused children and their injuries. He started off simple (fingerprint bruises) and went all the way to 3rd degree burns on the feet and legs from being held into boiling water. Even as we discussed how children react to trauma, the instructor continued to remind us that we needed to keep reunification in our minds, no matter what state the children came to us in. Sometimes, the parents would only act this way when they were on drugs or drunk, and so the solution for reunification would be to get the parents off of their drugs.
If the parents are willing to do that, then reunification is possible.
I also took some notes. I wrote the following:
- Before we assume there is a learning disability, remember the circumstances. Kids in survival mode don't care about education,
- Whatever you experience as a baby will impact you for the rest of your life.
- Show kids how relationships can be.
- If a child initiates a conversation about trauma, listen. Don't ask questions, let them guide the conversation. Then, afterward, write down everything you can remember that they told you and call the case worker.
- Validate children's feelings.
- If you burn all of your energy hating the peretrator, you won't have any energy left to help the child.
- Don't talk badly about a child's parents.
We also watched a short video called "Removed." It was really sad and taken from the child in foster care's perspective. I learned some pretty important things from the video. I learned that you never give up on a child. They might be just about to open up to you. If you turn away from them then, it will be difficult to for them to ever trust anyone again.
I also learned that keeping siblings together is so important. Sometimes, older siblings become the parents to the younger ones, and when you separate them, it is another form of trauma that they have to endure.
We also talked about children who are sexually abused. That was a pretty rough segment of class too. The teacher told us that children who are sexually abused will not be returning to their abuser. Their abuser will be going to prison. However, they may be returned to the remaining parent or caregiver if the situation is deemed safe.
No matter what, if the situation can become safe and the parents can show enough improvement, children will always do better with their biological parents.
At the end of the class, the teacher had us pair up with someone we didn't know in the class. Once we had done that, he instructed us to decide who was going to talk first. The other person was just going to listen. Once we had decided who was speaking, he said, "Now I'm going to give you your topic...Describe the last intimate moment you had in detail."
Everyone stared at each other, and a lot of nervous giggles broke out. No one spoke. When he asked us why we were hesitating, people explained that they felt uncomfortable, they were embarrassed, or they felt that intimacy was meant to be private.
After everyone had expressed their feelings, the teacher said, "Now, understand, that is exactly what you are asking these children to do who have been sexually abused. The judge and the courts will ask them to describe something that they have been taught is an expression of love to a group of strangers. Try to put yourself in their place."
He talked a bit about sexual predators and how they knew how to groom these kids into doing what they wanted them to do. They didn't usually threaten, instead they became friends and slowly as the relationship progressed, they will teach them how they want them to show their love.
The instructor also told us that removal from these predators can be traumatic for the child, and if we were to ask them if they wanted to live with us, complete strangers, or the sexual predator whom they knew and trusted, they would pick the predator.
It was a difficult class, but we learned a lot of important things.
Foster class number 4 was about Minimizing the Trauma of Placement.
For this class, we started off with the lights off and we were asked to imagine a scenario with our eyes closed. He told us to imagine that class had been cancelled, so we went home and sat in our favorite spot. Then, as we were relaxing in this area, someone knocked on the door. When we answer it, he was standing there and he told us that we needed to go pack our things and come with him. He was going to take us to a better home with a really nice family.
As I listened, I began to get really annoyed and frustrated. Basically, in my mind, I was saying, "Make me. The heck I'm going with you."
Then, he described loading us into his car and having us watch our homes disappear. Then he talked about driving for a while and coming to a new house with a bunch of smiling people and having him tell us that this was our new family. I imagined a rundown home and a bunch of maniacally smiling people. The irritation I felt began to become frustration as a sense of helplessness flowed through me. It sent tingles up my arms.
Afterward, he asked us how we felt and our reactions. After listening, he told us that we really needed to understand how the children were feeling. No matter their home situation, their house was a familiar place. No one wants to be taken from their home and placed at a stranger's home. Was it any wonder that they may not like us at first?
Here are some things I wrote down from this meeting:
- Allow children to eat what they're familiar with. Gradually, as they learn to trust you, they will try new things.
- Explain to Kevin that the other children may need special allowances.
- Don't tell, show. Model proper behavior. Teach through our actions.
- Before you can help a child go somewhere else, go to where they are, and then you can move together.
- "I'm sorry you're upset."
- Confidentiality is a BIG deal.
- To deal with a sexually responsive child, prevention and observation are the most important thing.
- Don't give up on children. They may be coming around just as you abandon them.
- "This is a safe place and I won't let anyone ____ you, so I can't let you ____ anyone because this is a safe place."
- Create lifebook using child's entire life, not just with you.
- Give choices, allow the child to feel control over some aspect of their lives.
- Ideas for transitions: Allow child to pick one wall color or bedding. Just do normal things. Establish rules before children come. Adapt to child when they come.
- Keep rules as basic as possible. Address issues as they arrive. Family book.
- Ask what makes child feel safe. (Watch, observe)
- Give opportunities to express themselves freely.
- Be mindful of transitions and other emotional "hot spots" (meals, food, bedtime, physical boundaries.)
- Be honest and open in regards to their future.
We also finished watching the second part of "Removed."
The most important thing he kept stressing was ask "Why?" Don't get upset by the child's actions. Simply ask, "Why are they acting that way?" Once you are able to understand where they're coming from and why they are reacting the way they are, you will have more patience with their behaviors and you will be able to help them where they are.
This meeting wasn't quite as difficult, but it was still sad. It was hard to realize that there is no easy solution for these poor children in foster care. It's traumatic to be taken from your home, no matter how awful your home is. You still have bonds and connections there, and everything is familiar.
It's really good to understand why children might be acting out. I'm really grateful that we have been taking these classes. It's helped us to talk about things that we may never have discussed, and it's brought us closer as a couple. We've learned a lot about child psychology, and it's helped us to be better parents for Kevin.