Okay, nothing is 100%. There are always exceptions to every rule. In all the years I have worked child welfare I have not seen many exceptions, and those I saw I question. When caring for children who have been traumatized, (every child in the system of care), you can count on these three things:
Children always love their birth parents
If you want a definition of unconditional love, you do not have to look any further than the heart of a child. It does not matter the type of abuse or situation brought the child into care. Trust me on this. When you want to “set your child straight” regarding their bio parent because your child doesn’t appreciate all you are doing; bite your tongue. It is unnecessary and you will lose the heart of your child.
Unnecessary - because they will figure it out on their own. It may take their late teens or early adulthood for the pieces to connect, but it will happen.
You will lose the heart of your child – Your child will raise sword and shield in defense of their birth parents. You lose the moment you make it an “us versus them” issue. Seriously, just don’t go there.
Children always feel the guilt
I don’t really know why this is, but you also see it children of divorce. Somehow our children take it upon themselves that they are the reason the marriage dissolved or somehow it is their responsibility to bring their parent’s back together. In the case of children who have been removed from their birth family this guilt may be compounded due to a sibling’s accusation that they “caused the problem” or if the abuse or neglect was discovered due to something they said or someone seeing marks on their body.
Our children just don’t get it until much later (with much loving reinforcement), that their only responsibility in life is to be a child and grow. Caring for the child and themselves is the parent’s responsibility. Be aware of this especially when your child seems to always be lying or hiding something. Guilt can be a beast.
Children hold on to the belief their birth family is going to “save” them.
This goes back to that unconditional love. With love comes limitless hope. Our children are fountains of hope. Regardless all evidence to the contrary, they cling to the hope that birth mom and dad are going to finally get it together and show up at the door one day to take them back home.
Of course it doesn’t happen. There is a reason our child languished in the system and it is not because social services needed more children to care for. This leads to countless heart breaks. I wrote previously of the difficulty our children face as they turn 18 and often try to reconnect with birth family.
This is one reason why many children have difficulty in fully giving themselves to a new family: it feels like a betrayal of their birth family; and again we come back to guilt.