By My Van Loc
Everyday, I am amazed by the work done in the adoption community. While I was given the option to be considered for adoption at the age of 14, like many other older youth in foster care, that reality of a “forever home” rarely finds us. It’s no secret that children become more difficult as they get older. They become less amiable, and start forming their own thoughts and behaviours that even the most highly trained professionals have difficulty with.
Over the years, I have learned about the effects of early childhood trauma. I will never claim to fully understand trauma, however. Every child is different, and every scar, no matter how invisible in someone’s history, leaves a lasting mark. I don’t have a degree in psychology, but this, I know to be true: from behavioural to mental, every goodbye is a scar. I have lost count of how many adults have come into and left my life -- often for their own health or damage caused by the heavy work. But as a child in foster care, even if people leave you, you can’t leave. You’re stuck where they’ve left you.
As an adult (a loose use of the term) looking back, every goodbye is an affirmation; I’m not worth it. No one loves me. I’m a waste of time. All over the world, people seem to agree, that children are most precious above all things. I was rarely, if ever, treated as precious, and it was very hard for me to understand this, as other children would be doted upon in public.
I left a home which didn’t want me when I was 16. I worked really hard, and earned something close to stability. When I was verging on 19, I discovered that my two siblings who had still remained in foster care, were living in conditions that were not okay to me. So I embarked on a journey to bring them under my roof. But our relationship was strained. I was nothing close to their mother, and I had selfishly abandoned them at 16, to save myself.
Currently, I am 22; Not traveling the world, not living downtown, not going on adventures. Being a parent to my siblings is one of the hardest learning curves I have ever gone through. We used to fight excessively, and those little traumas would come out. I lost friends who couldn’t understand why I couldn’t go out every weekend. I was still in school, still working, and wanted to pursue my career. I came very close to quitting, several times. Every time I heard my friends tell stories of the life I thought I should be pursuing, I would ask myself: Why am I doing this?
One of the best of welfare workers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing (I’ve met a lot) assigned to my case would keep reminding me that yes, it was my decision. But the lasting damage that my departure would leave on these kids will never go away. My head kept shouting, It’s my life! Ultimately, the disappointment from his expression every time I told him I wanted out of the case, matched my own suspicion. That I would be no better that those adults that left me.
The most important work of one’s life is not necessarily something tangible. Being a parent isn’t something you can put on your resume, but it’s one of the hardest jobs I know. Building permanency, being there for someone, is the greatest work I will ever do in my lifetime.
By My Van Loc