She was heartbroken – and no amount of love was going to fix that – how fostering is not what you think
Foster carers play a critical role but their homes will always be an alien land to the children they care for, says consultant Sarah Anderson
Published by Community Care April 8th 2022
Many moons ago when Bethany* came into our lives, our home was her foreign land. Her mum was in a psychiatric ward and in and out of rehab – sometimes she just disappeared – and her seven other siblings were also in care, for which the deep sadness of separation never left her. Bethany had no contact with her mum apart from third-hand whispers from friends and family. She grieved for her mum and her siblings, although it dimmed a little over time and she began to embrace our way of life as her mum and extended family paled into the background, blurred, but not gone.
She started to attend school at fourteen. Slowly, and by choice, she began to dress as my own daughter did, her makeup changed, she started to discard her own food choices and embrace ours, came on holiday with us, spoke differently, and for a while, she mixed with the other children at school whilst she caught up educationally and began to look to the future and college.
Bethany was doing what many looked-after children do, like a chameleon, changing metaphorical colours to survive and blend in, an attempt to absorb more approval, and warmth and to communicate.
After two-and-a-half years, out of the blue, her mum came back on the scene and it upended everything. One sunny evening, Bethany’s phone rang, she answered it and scurried upstairs to her bedroom. Ten minutes later, she reappeared dressed in the very outfit she had arrived in on that first day, complete with heavy makeup, all of which had been resigned to the back of her wardrobe.
She announced she was off to live with her mum in her new flat. Her mum said it was going to be different this time – she wanted Bethany with her and they were going to get all her siblings back too and live as a happy family. With deep happiness and joy, seeing the end of her longing, with the promise of hope, the reconnection with self and her inner six-year-old bursting with the certainty of the long absent love of her mother, she left the house to begin a new life.