Two empty bedrooms led us to think we had the space to give kids in need a safe place. We googled “foster care” and began the process.
After 30 hours of STARS (the Specialized Training, Assessment, Resources and Support program required for all foster parents), a dozen books, and 17 nieces and nephews, we knew more than ever how unprepared we were.
We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We just knew there was a lot of it.
The rules of parenting felt contradictory and overwhelming enough. Now add trauma. One book explained that trauma and neglect literally change the way a child’s brain grows. Connections are made. Synapses fire. But not the way one hopes, even expects. They learn food to be scarce. Adults, unreliable. Trust, dangerous.
Chronic trauma or neglect lead straight to complex trauma. The term used when the caretaker is also the cause. One can only imagine the painful connections and triggers learned by a child when her intended protector is instead the perpetrator.
One study found PTSD more common in children in foster care than in veterans returning from war. War.
A brilliant and enormously helpful child therapist recounted that in all her years, she has never met a foster child who didn’t have complex trauma. Yet, with the next breath, she reminded us with hope that she witnesses kids recover and relearn.
As naive “dinks,” our eyes were opening. Wide. This wasn’t going to be about eating enough broccoli.