The Look of Love

love hurts

Last weekend, at a visit our 9yr old foster child was told in 2mths she’ll be leaving us to live with her mother. Her dad’s certainty contradicted everything the social worker and I have said. In truth, there is no way of knowing what will become of J. Everything is still very much up in the air. But it’s quite certain, nothing is certain at this point.

J returned home quite distraught, likely heightened by the fact she was only fed M&M’s for lunch. She was starving and angry. It wasn’t long before she was melting down.

“If I’m leaving, I want to go now,” she said in the midst of her tantrum.

I reminded her that bad behaviour is not going to get her moved from my house because we really want her to stay. And it is a good place for her right now while we wait to see what will happen.

“Then I’ll kill you all so I can go,” she went on. “My dad told me you have to be 12 to go to kids jail. So I won’t get in trouble for killing you. I’ll just get to live somewhere else.”

Seems dad was a wealth of information.

I let J scream out her frustrations. Then she went to bed and, I assumed, woke up in a better frame of mind. Then at church, J decided she didn’t want Raine sitting near her. Raine ignored this demand and sat in front of the girl. J began kicking Raine’s back. Raine shouted at her to stop. J didn’t so Raine hit her. And both girls erupted. Or so I’ve pieced together from the Children’s Pastor and the girls themselves. I was paged and came to collect my unruly children.

I do appreciate the team who work in the children’s department. I know they go out of their way to manage and have often kept Raine when she’s well outside the range of acceptable behaviour. Their commitment to my kids is incredibly valuable. It grants me a brief time of peace each week as I take in the service. Despite their best efforts, the teachers could not separate and calm J and Raine.

I gathered them and Athena from the classroom. J didn’t follow me up the stairs but took off running. When I went in search of her, she was in a hallway huffing and puffing. To my instructions to come upstairs, J answered, “I’m not leaving with you. I’m going to behave so badly that I move somewhere else today.” We reviewed the fact that bad behaviour won’t get her moved – I’m committed to caring for her as long as necessary.

“I don’t want to go in 2 months. I want to go now!”

“You’re not going anywhere today. And probably not in 2 months,” I answered. “Your dad doesn’t have the ability to decide what will happen. He and your mom have been asked to do certain things so that it will be safe for you to be with them. If they do those things, a judge will decide if you go to live with your dad or your mom. But for now, you’re staying with me.”

She came to the car – kicking and scratching all the way. I drove to a nearby park, letting Raine and Athena play while J screamed and kicked inside the car. Then it was time to go out for lunch and shopping for Athena’s birthday. J pulled herself together. And managed the rest of the day without incident. At bed, she snuggled close to me and talked all about how much she loves being at our house.

It would be easier if love didn’t manifest as death threats when the possibility of leaving comes up. It would be nicer if love wasn’t a wall of hatred brought up to distance herself in the face of potential separation. But this is the look of love when you come from a place of brokenness and fear. This is how I know my care and investment have made a difference. This is the look of love in foster care.

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