A child living in foster care can have a great and safe experience, or it can have devastating consequences as the system may create a severed, ruptured, or disrupted connection to their families of origins. For those who have experienced multiple foster home placements, multiple stories of loss and/or trauma exist. For many children, their lives are intertwined with a story of loss or rejection.
We have to understand that grief such as anger and sadness are not behavior disorders. These children have gone through every kind of physical, sexual and mental abuse before they are placed into the foster care system. Let us not be too quick to judge and label them based on their behavior. An alternative view to youth mental illness is describing the defiance and oppositional behavior of kids in foster care as “intelligence gathering”. This is a process where they use what is most readily available to them – their behavior – to test, push, trick and challenge the unfamiliar people and environments that have entered their lives. Youth learn to accurately assess their environment while responding to the numerous threats they perceive around them.
Aggression May Be Exposed as Fear; fear disguised as aggression can be difficult to recognize. The kids in foster care are often terrified.
My foster parents will tell you that I never had fear. I had the mental capability to block out fear. I was able to compartmentalize, file it away in my head and move on. It was nothing I ever felt. And so it’s gone into my adulthood with no fear of taking action…no fear of jumping off the ledge of life’s creative world and going after my dreams. I look at the world through creative eyes and know that I have the power to accomplish anything I put my heart, mind and soul to. Anxiety? Yes. But feat? No problem there.
I think that it is normal to have this kid of fear though…one thing I’m fearful of is something happening to my kids or me dying too early and not being there for my kids. I have had nightmares that will try to plant seeds of fear within me. The nightmares were a reality though and then had to relive them when I went to sleep.
As a kid, I did have a strong fear of the dark because of the images I have had in my head…like when my stepdad would hold my head underwater in the toilet. It was awful! As a kid, I was so scared of him. I met him again when I was an adult and I was six feet five inches tall and he was probably five feet eight inches tall and weak looking. He wasn’t a nightmare anymore. I could have crushed him.
I am a fighter by nature and early on showed signs of stubbornness in doing what I wanted and refusing to acknowledge another’s opinion of me. This tendency has carried on throughout my life. I do everything “Derek’s way”. I felt like the world was against me and that nobody liked me. I felt like I was totally backed in a corner, and the only way for me to let others know that I was a real kid was to come out swinging.
If you are looking for an inspiring keynote speaker for your next foster care or social worker conference, consider Derek Clark as he is a popular motivational speaker for foster care.