Once again, I watched my wife reach out to our foster son, trying to give him a hug. Instead, he pulled away, yelling at her, and stormed down the stairs and into his bedroom. With a sad look in her eyes, my wife gave me a half hearted smile, and slowly sat down in the chair, exhausted from this daily battle with the child. The ten year old had been in our home for five months, now, and had resisted all attempts from both my wife and I to show any signs of love and compassion from him. I didn’t blame him; he had been abused physically, sexually, and mentally by so many other adults in his life, and was full of anger and mistrust. Indeed, why should he trust us? I saw no reason why he should, and my heart only went out to him all the more. We were both determined to not give up on him, and to keep trying to reach out to the child, who was simply hurting inside.When a child is suddenly taken from his home, and from his family, and placed in a home against his will, there are bound to be issues of trust. One way to combat this is to create a trusting and nurturing environment within your own home. Let your foster child know as early as possible that he is welcome in your house. Along with this, you will want to let your foster child know that your house is a safe one, and that he will not come to harm in your home. Not only do you want to let your foster child know this when he joins your family, it is just as important to remind him of this as often as possible. You want to show your foster child that you .your foster child needs to realize that all of these are important. For some children, this might be a new experience, as they have never been shown value before.
Trust can also be built by showing your foster child that you care for him. Building a trusting relationship means showing your foster child that you are concerned for his well being, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Showing compassion for your foster child is an important part of building a healthy relationship, as he needs to know and feel that you care for him. After all, close relationships between children and adults is a central part of avoiding further risky behavior. Trust, though, does take time, and for some foster children, it may take a very long period of time. Remember, you are planting seeds, here, that you may never see come to fruition.
After living with us for six months, our ten year old foster son left our home, moving to his grandparent’s house. During those six months with us, we tried several strategies with him, all designed to build trust and love with him. To both of us, it looked like we had failed; failed to make any headway into his heart, and it appeared that this door was simply not going to open on his behalf. Yet, on the day he was to leave, we were blessed with an amazing surprise; a gift from him to us, and perhaps one from us to him. For the last time, my wife gave him a hug, kissing him on the forehead, and telling him that she loved him. Instead of once again lashing out at her, like he had so many times before, he wrapped his arms around her tightly, and with tears in his own eyes, he said, “I love you, too.”
-Dr. John DeGarmo
Dr. John DeGarmo is a foster and adoptive father. He has been a foster parent for 12 years, with over 40 children coming through his home. He is the author of many books, includingThe Foster Parenting Manual, and the upcoming foster children’s book A Different Home.