She broke my heart. Luckily, it didn’t have to stay broken.
A few weeks ago, Children Services picked our most recent foster daughter up at her daycare to reunite her with her mother. We’d arranged with her mother to take the 4-year-old to a birthday party for a few hours just two days later.
When we arrived, this usually friendly girl looked at us as if we were pure evil. She distrusted everything we said and did. She suspected we’d take her away from her mother again, as if that were our action to take.
She especially returned to the distrust of men she had when she arrived at our home nearly a year earlier. I tried to get her to give me a high-five, our regular greeting. She refused. At one point, she looked at me and plainly said, “I don’t like you.”
If you work with or love young children, you know you shouldn’t let these comments hurt you. Still, it cut me to my core. We spent nearly a year keeping her safe and comfortable, and I wanted to believe she’d enjoyed some moments our family treasured. Yet here she was, obviously unhappy to be with us just two days later.
At that moment, my brain decided we’d never be foster parents again. I obviously was delusional to think we’d done a good thing for this girl. She obviously resented us. Even if I had loved her like a daughter, she obviously didn’t love me like a father.
When people hear that my family helps with the foster care system, they often say they couldn’t do it. It’s too hard to let the children leave, they say. We always answer we know our role, a temporary caregiver who one day must send the child wherever a judge decides.
Now I knew the worst part was being so emotionally invested in a child who hated my guts.
A week and a half passed by before my wife received a call recently. The girl’s mother was in trouble again, and they needed a home for this girl. Since she already knew us, we were a natural choice.
My wife asked me if we should open our home up to her again. Before my brain had a chance to cast its vote, my heart said we had no other choice but to open our home back up to her. My wife agreed.
I’m glad my heart overruled my brain. It’s changed our home dynamic, for sure, but it feels like a missing piece is back in our life.
She got over the initial trauma of leaving her mother’s home and returning to ours. It still scarred her, and she asked some very profound questions about why people keep making bad choices. We mostly listen to her and reassure her that we’re just there to love and care for her until her mother is ready again.
I checked on her before she fell asleep on her first night back in our home. Her head was still buzzing obviously from her experiences. As I started to leave the room, she tapped me.
“David,” she said, pausing for a few seconds. “I love you.”
I wasted no time telling her I loved her too, and we were glad to have her back in our family, for however long that might be.