Besides the ongoing conflict between our own daughter and her new foster sister, trust (or rather mistrust) was the biggest issue we had to deal with during this placement- specifically distrust of men. It was especially hard on my husband, who happens to be about as threatening to children as Mister Rogers, and who would take it personally each time Precious would scowl at him for no reason or avoid any contact with him.
The first time we got Precious into our car and my husband tried helping her in her carseat since I was buckling our daughter into hers, Precious immediately became panic-stricken. “HER!” she yelled, pointing a finger in my direction. “I want HER to do it.” Thereafter we quickly learned that I am the one who buckles and unbuckles Precious and my husband is the one who buckles and unbuckles our daughter- even if it’s inconvenient.
“She hates me!” my husband dejectedly told me after our first night with her. I tried to reassure him it wasn’t something to be taken personally and that Precious was just acting out of self-preservation. From her perspective he was still a stranger to her and a potential threat and her defensiveness served as a way of protection.
It took Precious four days to figure out that my husband was “safe” and then trust him enough to do the things she wouldn’t let him do initially- fasten her car seat, carry her in the house, or push her on the swingset.
Because of her distrust in men, I was especially nervous when I found out that the Guardian Ad Liteum assigned to her case happened to be male and he needed to meet her in our home. Precious was initially resistant to meeting him when I introduced him to her and pretty much stone-walled when he tried to talk to her. “I’ll just try to establish some rapport” he told me after sensing her apprehension. He only stayed for about 15-20 minutes and did a great job of putting her at ease by spending most of the visit reading one of her favorite books which happened to be in the room, with as much gentleness and enthusiasm as a kindergarten teacher, and asking her questions about the book. She was even willing to give him a high-five before he left- which wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most kids, but says a lot for Precious. It turns out her Guardian Ad Liteum used to be a counselor for the State before going to Law School.
We also had two home visits with Precious’s caseworker (or rather her caseworker’s supervisor since the caseworker was out of town) since she’s been with us. During the first visit the caseworker shared some more information with us about Precious’s father and her case. After hearing what she had to say about him, and especially when she confessed that “he makes me nervous” (and this is coming from a woman who has had years of experience working in the child welfare system and is no wimp) and that she would need to sit in the same room as Precious and her father during their entire supervised visit- rather than just outside of the door in the hallway- I began dreading taking Precious to her first supervised visit. Sure, I’ve been nervous before about meeting the parents of the children I foster when I hear about their criminal backgrounds, mental histories, or the allegations against them, but I can honestly say this is the first time I was actually “scared” to meet a bio parent in person.
Precious’s father never returned any of the caseworker’s phone calls or messages regarding visiting his daughter so I never had to meet him in person.