“I am Safe. I am Strong. Jesus Loves me.”

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“I am SAFE”

“I am STRONG”

“Jesus LOVES ME”

 

Trauma doesn’t begin when children are taken from their home and placed in foster care. Often times, children have endured a lifetime of trauma and traumatic situations before they are removed. Even a baby removed at birth can have a history of trauma. Children in the foster care system have been hurt by those they trust and they carry that hurt with them in their day-to-day life. The hurt shows itself through behavior such as: anger, self-harm, depression, rage, anxiety, and a whole host of other emotional manifestations.

 

Lately we have been working through a lifetime of toddler anxiety. All toddlers go through an anxious stage, where they are clingy, maybe afraid of the dark or monsters or bugs. But trauma behaviors are so much more. More than being afraid. More than needing to be held by mommy. I pray fervently that you never have to see your two year old have a full-blown panic attack, because it is one of the deepest hurts I have had to endure. It is helpless. And as irrational as two year olds are under normal situations, anxiety riddled toddlers have zero control over any irrational thoughts or behaviors.

 

Toddler anxiety in our home looks like extreme fear, sleepless nights, and a lot of tears (both from toddler and mommy). Having a routine, melatonin, deep hugs, and recently our little mantra have been helpful, not a cure, but helpful. And this morning we saw a mini-breakthrough. As the puppy started to get riled up, as she would normally start to cry and jump into my arms, she looked right at him and told him:

“I am SAFE”

“I am STRONG”

“Jesus LOVES ME”

My sweet girl is starting to speak words of truth over herself as I have spoken and prayed over her for months. She may not fully believe it, and it may be a lifetime of needing reminders, but these are the truths we are sowing in her little heart. I pray she always knows safety, uses her strength, and feels the love of Jesus.

 

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On rising up…

Before becoming foster parents, you are required by the state to take a 27-hour course in which a majority of the material is geared around how to parent a child who has experienced trauma. You watch videos of various scenarios, role play different techniques, and discuss possible daily outcomes. There is required course reading and a list of suggested books on trauma behaviors and how to parent them. You are reminded that no matter the circumstance surrounding the removal, the removal from the home is trauma enough for a child.

And then, at the end of the course, they hand you a child who has experienced trauma and ask you to parent them.

It does not matter how hard you work to be prepared. It does not matter how many blogs you read, mentors you sit under, or audio books you listen to in your car. Nothing can fully prepare you for the days ahead.

When you see me and say, “I could never do it”, I want to say “me either”.  I simply am not enough for trauma behaviors. I could not handle typical two-year-old mixed with hurt and fear and confusion. I could never do the days that visits are canceled and I have to find a way to explain that to a confused toddler. I could never sit through three months and counting of screaming through getting dressed, bath time, and diaper changing because of something terrible that adults did. I could never rock a perfect baby to sleep every night knowing that someday he will probably never be in my arms again.

But we do it anyway.

Because these sweet children are going to be in foster care whether or not we do anything about it.

Because there are over half a million children in foster care in the United States.

Because God has given us gifts and talents and called us to love on the least of these in his name.

So, I will learn about trauma. When new behaviors start to surface, we will cry together, call someone wiser than myself, and work it out. We will lay on the floor doing deep breathing exercises until panic attacks subside. I will sit with my babies through the disappointment and though the breakthroughs. I will put aside my fear and insecurities for the sake of healing.

It is time to start asking practical questions and getting involve. Never hesitate to ask where to start…I have never met an orphan care advocate who didn’t want to share her story. As Christians we must rise up to be a part of the healing process.

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