Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Being Sick with Foster Kids in the House

Want to hear something totally obvious about kids in the foster care system?

They tend to be nervous that you won't keep them.

It's funny how we forget that, especially after they have been around for a while. They settle into our homes, our lives, and our hearts and it doesn't occur to us to give them away. Well, okay, sometimes the thought does go through our heads, but I'm thinking about all the times when it doesn't. The thing is, they NEVER forget that you might give them away. NEVER. Even when things are good, even if they have been adopted, the thought is still there. They may reassure themselves, but it is there.

Kids have different ways of dealing with the anxiety. Some of them go back to behaviors that look voluntary but aren't really, quite. Think about biting your finger nails. If you are a biter, it isn't as easy as stopping. Food hoarding, peeing (especially in bed), having melt-downs, lying compulsively, searching out new adults to care for them, and more are, or often are, the same. The kids can't just decide not to do them.

Now the part that REALLY bites is that when your life is stressful, they get more anxious. Of course their their acting out behaviors are likely to get to you (and how could they not), then your anxiety level goes up and so their anxiety goes up which makes their behaviors go up.

Anyone say "vicious cycle?"

If you are thinking that I am about to tell you that Gary's is showing escalating behaviors I'm here to tell you "not yet, anyway." I'm reminding myself what I need to watch for: excessive cleaning, not eating if I am looking, trying hard not to be a burden. None of these things would be difficult for me to deal with, but they are indicators of his anxiety all the same.

Though when I told the boys together that I was having trouble with my girl parts they both insisted that they did not want any information, later Gary asked me via text messaging how my testing went. With the distance the medium afforded, he actually wanted to ask quite a few questions. He was sympathetic and supportive.

I talked to him for a little bit a week or so ago. I told him that I was anticipating having surgery and that I was going to try not to tell the social workers until I had some actual information about when it was going to happen. That way I could make it clear that we had thought it out and meant it when we said we wanted him to stay.

I may have imagined it, but I think he relaxed a little. I told him that if he didn't want to be here he was allowed to call them and tell them. He said that he didn't think he would get along with other foster parents and then asked why I thought he might want to go away. I explained that I was planning on a long recuperation and that everyone was going to have to wait on me hand and foot. He grinned and said maybe he would leave then.

So I tried to inoculate him from the stress a little. Hopefully it will be enough.

Of course if he freaks out and starts cleaning compulsively I might not get too worried.


  1. wishing there was more foster parents like you :)

  2. Yup, my Rob gets decidedly anxious if we are ill. When he was in his first family the kids had issues of food neglect and I remember once having a 24 hour bug but somehow standing there and cooking (blech!) because it was totally terrifying to him that I would not be able to prepare a meal for him. I think he is better about things now. Partly from having been our son for 7 yrs, partly from having more life skills and perhaps not feeling like every little part of his life is controlled by adults. But I do still see the anxiety if someone is ill.

  3. When you have always had roots, I guess we forget what it must be like to have none. Bless his heart, because he is breaking mine.


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