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"A Young Child's Point of View on Foster Care and Adoption"

© Michael Trout
Director, The Infant-Parent Institute
Reprinted by permission

Mr. Trout is a trainer and course leader in infant mental health, a writer and video producer. Based on his more than 25 years' experience, he wrote and produced the video from which this text is reprinted. The video is available from The Infant-Parent Institute.

In the video, the following script is delivered without the presence or voices of any adult.

I want to talk to you about what it feels like getting ready to be adopted, when you are a little kid who has already had about a hundred mothers.

When you can barely remember what your first mother smelled like.

When everyone spoke a different language in the place where you were born than in the place you are now.

When some of the people who took care of you were called "foster parents" and you didn't know what that meant except something about they weren't going to stick around.

When, in the process of being moved all over the place, you lost some of your brothers and your sisters and a particular pair of shoes that felt just right and your absolutely most favorite cuddly, and a certain place on the inside of your last crib where you used to scratch with your fingernail to help yourself go to sleep.

Kids like me, see, don't have families of our own.

Because there's something wrong about us. (I guess) Or because there aren't enough to go around. Or something.

And I probably won't get one, either.

Or if I do, will it be too late for me to believe that they love me, and are going to stay with me?

So I want to talk to you, Big People, about these things, even though I am not sure you are real interested.

Are you the same Big People who keep doing these things to me in the first place? (Please don't get offended if I talk to all of you at once: caseworkers, foster parents, judges, adoptive parents. I just need to say how it all feels to me, and sometimes I can't get the cast of characters straight.)

Some people say that my first parents shook me until my eyeballs got loosened up, or they left me alone, or they gave me away, or they just ran away.

I guess you think, because of that, I am supposed to not miss them? (Because if I did it would sure make me lots more cooperative with all the plans you keep making for me.)

Should I just say, "They did the best they could" so I am not so ticked off and lonely and worried all the time about what the Big People are going to do next?

The truth is, I can't do any of these things: I can't forget. (Even when my brain does, my body won't.) I can't stop myself from yearning (even though later I will get quite good at playing games about this).

I'm not saying I was some cherished treasure or anything in my family. But what were you thinking when you sent big men in uniforms to grab me out of my screaming father's arms at eleven o'clock at night, scaring me to death? Or when you sent me to a foster home without telling them about the special ways I needed to be handled because I had never stayed anywhere long enough to get attached to anybody?

Or when you then took me from those people who were so disappointed in me after a few weeks that they said I would have to be "disrupted" (whatever that means).
So you sent me to a family with an older foster child who was mean to little kids because they were weak and small. And so he punched me a lot in secret. And pulled real hard on my penis in the middle of the night.

And when that family got rid of me, and the next, and the next, did you think I was going to take it all lying down? Did you think I was supposed to just be sweet and adorable and ready to connect to yet another family who were going to throw me away? (Could you have done that?)

After a while, I had just lost too many people that I might have cared about. I had been with too many "parents" who really weren't, because they couldn't hold me tightly in their hearts at all.

None of you got how I was being changed by all these losses, (in my heart and in my behavior).

After a while, I began to get some pretty bad ideas about how things work. And mostly those ideas said that I was, by that time, in deep doo-doo.

I wasn't going to let anybody like me. Not even me.

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