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No Behaviors

We see the request go out:

A sibling group of three requires placement. It is their second time entering care: three-year-old male twins and female teen sibling.

No behaviors.

First of all, this is not a dig at our agencies who are sending out these requests. Because the weight they carry from what they see and hear is far too heavy for most anyone to bear. By all means, they should do whatever it takes to find the right home.

"No behaviors."

Every time I see it, I shake my head. These children have every right to have strong feelings and emotions about their situation. They have lost their home, some for a second time or more. They don't know when they will see their parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, friends, or relatives again.

As a car pulls up for the younger children, the final loss occurs as they pry the siblings apart.

Trauma with a capital T.

Should they be mad or angry about this event? Would you want to scream at everyone?

I would.

As they are human, they are going to have behaviors. Healthy three-year-olds have meltdowns and tantrums, so we will assume that those living in survival mode will exhibit them on the regular.

Those behaviors helped them meet their needs. We may not like what they look like, but they served a much higher purpose. They kept them alive. They don't care how we look as parents when others see us struggle. That is not their job.

The good news is, it isn't going to matter to you that much longer either.

People, grown-ups, those who should have laid it down for them, for whatever reason, never were able to put these children first. So our kids that come into care know one thing for sure: they cannot believe you.

And why should they? We learn how to trust people by people proving to be trustworthy. It is going to take time: months, maybe years to build trust with them.

We can't ever genuinely appreciate parenting a child from a hard place until we are in it, but I know one thing for sure: it does not come with a cape. A ten-year-old may dress you down like a marine corps drill sergeant. But, with realistic expectations, a good mentor, education in trauma-informed care, and a lot of prayers, you may be able to see a child who has only focused on surviving slowly shift from that mode.

During a youth football game, my young daughter witnessed a verbal exchange between some friends. One of them happened to be a child in the foster care system. On the way home, I asked what she did as she watched it all go down, and she said, "I told them that we needed to get a parent."

I told her she was correct. Then she said something that caught me off guard. "Do they even know?"

She continued to look out the window as tears began to fill her eyes. "Do they know what she is going through? Can they imagine what it must be like not to be able to see their mama when they need her?" Her words caught in her chest, and she couldn't continue.

Sometimes as a parent, we can add depth and expound on a situation, but we both sat in silence for the rest of the ride home.

My ten-year-old was trauma-informed.

Do they even know?

For most of us, the answer is no. We don't know, nor can we understand what survival looks like for a child.

So, when we enter the role of a foster parent, we can be sure of our assumptions: This will be harder than we can imagine.

Will there be behaviors? Absolutely.

Will it all be worth it? For that child who desperately needs one person to believe in him, it does—every single time.

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