I hope they are not ugly….
What does that say about me? What do I mean? I don’t know really. When I signed up to take in other people’s children and when I would get the phone call from the social worker asking me if I would take in someone, ‘I hope they’re not ugly’ would always spring to mind.
Rewind to years before I ever became a foster carer but to a time when a seed was planted. Working on placement whilst studying law, with young offenders in a secure unit I was horrified that they were so young and yet were locked up due to their ‘behaviour’. Having read their files, I was more appalled at the level of neglect they had received from their significant care givers. I knew then whose behaviour was uglier.
Through this placement my path crossed with foster carers, caring for a very pretty little baby girl. My heart broke. My 2-year-old was safe at home and surrounded by a loving family. The seed was truly planted.
When my 2-year-old was 15 I took in my first child. It was to be for 2 weeks. Having been given some of the back ground, it was with nervousness, excitement and even a little bit of trepidation that I agreed. Not only wondering how this would all go, she was also the same age as my 15-year-old, I would try to imagine how she would look, based purely on the information I was given about her circumstances.
In total I have fostered 13 children over the last 15 years and none have them have been ‘ugly’. But what does that even mean. Ugly can be determined in different ways can’t it
The dictionary definition is: –
- unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance
- involving or likely to involve violence or other unpleasantness
At times, over the years, there has been an element of ugliness with regard to unpleasantness, bad or undesirable behaviour. There have been challenges, battles, disagreements and it doesn’t necessarily come from the ‘child’ who has been fostered.
I have had battles with school teachers, my own biological children, social workers, my husband, family of origin members, my family members and of course, the children themselves.
I had wanted to foster children between the ages of 0 to 10, because at the time, my youngest children (twins) were 10 years old. I wanted all of my children to be older. As I said, the first child which was placed with me was 15, the same age as my oldest child.
As the two-week period came and went, turning into six months, things eventually became difficult during this period of adjustment, for my oldest child felt that her ‘life’ as she knew had been completely changed and taken over. She had to share her home, her school, her friends, her mum and dad, with this new girl. There was nowhere for her to ‘escape’ apart from her own bedroom. It was junior cert year and it was a difficult time. She felt for the girl and her circumstances, but was that really her concern, she was after all, just a kid herself and didn’t really need that sort of responsibility, did she? Wasn’t she already dealing with enough transitioning into and through teenage hood? So at times, it got ugly. The twins however, felt differently because to them, it was just another older sister. She didn’t impact on their friends, their after school activities or their school life.
Even now 15 years later, we are in touch with this girl. Lots of other children have made a way into our lives and most have stayed a part of it too. Fostering is not an easy task by any means, because there are many different angles, perspectives, personalities, dynamics, challenges and ugliness. There is however, also a sense of joy, a sense of satisfaction and a sense of hope that you can make a real difference in someone else’s life. Not only the child that you foster, but actually, your own and your biological children’s life. It teaches tolerance, respect, understanding, responsibility, sharing, even when they don’t want to and acceptance, even of the ugliness. It teaches people to grow, to have empathy, and to care, to care enough for someone else, someone who has to deal with the ugly.