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I know that by the age of 12, it was already to late for me to be helped at least as a child. Too much damage had already been done: too many beatings, too many dark closets without food or water. Anything that could have been done to help me at that age would have needed to be structured as if you were now helping a full-grown adult male.
I remember very well being a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10-year-old child. What I do not remember is feeling like a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or a 10-year-old child. I was already my own lawyer, doctor and protector by the age of eight.
By the time foster parents receive a young child into their home, the damage done to that child is so extensive that it takes years to turn things around. Most foster parents do not and cannot understand why a child will not behave when all they are trying to do is love and care for them. They (the foster parent/s) become frustrated and are ready to give up generally within the first three months, unless things go exactly the way they thought they would. However, they rarely ever do.
Dealing with foster children is like dealing with an animal that has been brought in from the wild. It is generally scared, tired, hungry and lonely, and it trusts absolutely no one.
My best advise to any foster parent is to remember this. If you foster a small baby then the process might be somewhat normal. However, if you take a young child, male or female, into your home your job is to protect, house, feed and care for that child the best that you can. The process and mindset for you to remember is that what you want to end up with in the end is a ‘good adult,’ not a ‘good child.’
Most young children already totally distrust adults and they (unknowingly) already know that unconditional love does not exist for them. If it did, then their own parents would be there for them at that very moment. These children do not know who or what they are. Their thought processes race around their little brains in a never-ending circle of silent fear. Every day, they sit and wonder if and when they will be returned to the authorities as the ‘damaged goods’ that people have always made them feel they were.
Self-esteem is something they have never felt. In fact, in most cases they do not even have the slightest idea what the word means. If someone were to tell them that they were smart or pretty, they would not believe them. The child would feel that the person telling them that is only saying so in order to be kind and what the hell good is 'one moment of kind consideration' to a child who feels worthless?
Most children caught up in the foster care system feel scared, think scared, eat scared, walk scared, sleep scared and look scared. And it never stops, not for one instant. Most of these children do not even realize what is happening to them. They just continue to grow up, year after year, thinking that this feeling of ‘feeling scared’ (all the time) is just a normal feeling and that is just the way things are for everyone. By the time most of these kids reach 7 or 8 years of age, they have become smart enough to think and feel only with their brain, and not with their emotions. They learn exactly what to say and what to do to make adults appear to like them.
Most foster parents I have met should not even be foster parents. Many of these people act as though the child owes them something just for being kind to them, much less loving them. No child should ever be made to feel that they owe an adult anything, just for loving them.
So to answer your question: would foster care have saved me as a little boy?
No, I do not think that foster care would have saved me from being a scared little boy. However, what it might have done in later years was to save me from being a scared grown man.