I’ve hemmed and hawed about what I wanted to include in this update because part of me wants to focus on the miracles that are happening in our house with these children—the everyday reminders that we can do hard things. The other part of me wants to rant and rave about the injustices that they face as foster kids. I guess I don’t have to choose.
Some might describe the fostering experience as a rollercoaster, but I think it’s more like a baby learning to walk. Rollercoasters have long windy parts that are just plain fun and slow inclines that build suspense before a fall. That’s not what this feels like. This feels like the herky jerky unsure steps of a one-year-old followed by repeated hard falls. And like a baby, we just keep getting back up again because there’s a shiny, colorful toy on the other end of the room.
I should probably start with the good parts because I need the good parts most.
E is almost nine months old. Our expectations for her developmentally are about a month behind because she was premature and drug-exposed at birth and spent the first three months of her life neglected and exposed to environments that included smoke, violence, and drug abuse by her caretakers.
I realize I started with some bad stuff, but here’s the good stuff. Despite the many obstacles she has already had to overcome in her very short life—she is thriving. In every way, she is meeting developmental milestones—she’s babbling, eating baby food, and psyching us out regularly by pretending she’s going to crawl. I think she knows exactly what she’s doing when all the adults in the room gather around with their cameras ready to catch her first crawl. Ridiculous. She’s also figured out that sister’s toys are WAY more interesting than hers and is showing the first real signs of temper tantrums, which by child #4 is more humorous than frustrating.
F is almost 22 months old. She’s showing more signs of attachment with our family, which is a really, really, really good thing. When she first came to us, she had no sense of place or security and would go to any adult who showed her interest. For obvious reasons, this isn’t the best case scenario for any toddler, but aside from the appropriate need for some level of “stranger danger” that any toddler needs developmentally, it’s especially important for kids who have been through trauma to create attachments.
Child psychologists will say again and again that kids are resilient—they can survive neglect and abuse in miraculous ways, but attachment disorders can cause a lifetime of trouble. Kids who cannot establish healthy attachments with caregivers are more likely to experience ongoing issues including: developmental delays (physical and learning), eating disorders or malnutrition, depression, anxiety, anger issues, addiction issues, inappropriate sexual behaviors, and homicidal and/or suicidal thoughts. (Man, this post is so uplifting.)
F is a baby, and I’m not saying that we’re dealing with any of those major issues right now, but what I am saying is that these are the things about which we must be hyper aware as she gets older. Knowledge really is power. I have all the confidence in the world that she has the potential to be a healthy, happy person as she gets older as long as we have the proper supports in place. She spent 18 months with people who did not have her best interest in mind. It’s somewhat haunting to not know what she experienced in that amount of time, but we can’t control that. We have to control what happens from here on out, and I believe we’re doing the best we can.
What the hell? I just read that back, and I said I was going to talk about the good stuff.
F is obsessed with animals right now. Her favorite foods are blueberries, yogurt, and cashews. She has started figuring out what letters and numbers mean and counts “two, four, five” regularly before jumping off whatever she’s climbed. She sleeps a solid 11-12 hours at night with a good nap when her visitation schedule allows it. There is no amount of sadness that cannot be cured by Elmo.
E has two teeth and is currently trying to cut a couple more. She sleeps well for about 7-8 hours at a time and then has to be convinced to stay asleep a little longer in my or Scott’s arms. (She sleeps a solid 10-11 hours when she’s not teething.) She naps when she can because her three older siblings’ schedules are no joke. She’s eating about 40 oz. of formula and two containers of baby food a day and holding fast at about the 90th percentile for her weight, which makes all of us insanely happy.
If all of that sounds mundane, that’s because it is. The point is that the miracles that are happening all look a lot like living life with “normal” toddlers and babies. They’re hitting milestones. They’re happy. They’re healthy.
On the logistics front—we’ve had E with us for a full six months now, and we’ve had F for four months. At the end of this month, we have a case review. In July we have a court date. Based on what we’ve been told, we don’t expect any big news of any kind at either of those events. More than likely, nothing will change regarding permanency until December, when a judge may or may not decide reunification or termination is possible. It’s a waiting game, and I have to look back at the last six months instead of looking forward at the next six months to stay sane.
Six months down.