It has been nearly a year since my wife and I received our first foster child into our home. Since that day, we have had a total of six foster children come into our care. Currently we have a three-year-old girl and a 12-month-old boy.
One of the things I do not think my wife and I were fully prepared for is the level of psychological trauma young children deal with. I am not running the full Eugene Marathon because of the trauma level of two former foster kids… which resulted in me getting physically injured.
On television and the movies, children are not always accurately portrayed as dealing with trauma. Sometimes they are shown as being quiet, or that they don’t trust strangers… but I have not seen kids who express trauma on television the way that children in our home have expressed trauma. Real life is certainly not the Disney version of child trauma.
- Have you ever had a two-year-old in your home who won’t stop talking? Sure, maybe. But have you ever had a two-year-old in your home who won’t stop talking because the noise of words helps distract the kid from how shitty his/her life is?? Whenever that two-year-old stops talking, the kid gets sad or angry.
- Or… have you ever had a three-year-old talking about suicide and drowning himself in the river?
- What about a three-year-old who is obsessed with fire and talks about burning the house down?
- Have you ever known a three-year-old who is not afraid of strangers… because strangers are the only people that provide food?
- Have you ever not slept at night because you were afraid the four-year-old might stab you in your sleep?
- Have you ever known a child with eyes that changed color when angry?
Our twelve-month-old foster kid seems okay enough, considering he is in foster care… but he was so dehydrated when he came into foster care that the doctors could not take a blood sample (not enough blood).
Television shows are short… and movies generally do not have time to fully develop characters. But child trauma is a lot more than just a quiet kid who doesn’t like strangers.
Every child in foster care is different… but the last three kids we have received who were older than twenty-four months have all been diagnosed with psychological issues. You might think–“They’re just kids… they can’t be diagnosed with psychological issues!” But you would be wrong.
Kids (toddlers) in our home have already dealt with lots of trauma… and by the time they have reached our home, they have the angst of teenagers who hate life.
High school kids, sure… maybe a high school kid can be aware that his/her life is shit… life is unfair… and that life with his/her parents has not been equal to other kids because of the drug or alcohol problems the parents have/had. But by the age of three or four … to hate the world because life has fucked you over… it’s still hard for my brain to fully comprehend even though I myself was in foster care.