Jane Miller is a parenting coach and helps foster carers and adopters support their children in dealing with their early childhood experiences. In this article, she shares some of the horrific experiences she endured during her time with her birth mum and in foster care, and how she now uses them to support adopters and foster carers to create a better future for their children.
I was almost adopted and my experience in foster care
My early childhood experiences
Warning: this could be triggering. Content of abuse.
I was in foster care from the age of about four until I was 18. It wasn’t an easy experience. I haven’t read my files although I do know I was in about 10 homes and abused in a few. What I talk about in this article touches on some of my experiences which may give you an idea as a foster care or adoptive parent of some of the issues your children may have gone through.
I am the eldest of three siblings which was always a challenge. I took on a parenting role for them from when I was about two or three years old. Changing their nappies, feeding them, protecting them from men and people that would be around us.
My birth mum was an alcoholic and drug user. She would have different men around and I saw a lot of things that weren’t appropriate. We went into a family centre for a period of time but we were removed from her care because she wasn’t able to protect us or meet our needs. There were signs of abuse even then.
My memories from this time
I have some memories of the things that happened before we were taken into care. I remember my birth mum burning her head as she washed it in the sink. She had to go into an ambulance. Another memory is a man running after her with a knife, and my sister and I crying behind them.
I remember a man making me get into bed with him while he touched me. And her kissing taxi men and having sex where we lived and her putting a gas bottle in front of the door so we couldn’t get in, though we still could.
I went to a psychiatrist and told them all the things that were happening. Soon after we were taken into care. I remember that day. My sisters and I were taken into a car with police and social workers. I was kicking and swearing at the social workers.
A lot of this time was a blur although I remember parts. My younger sister who was 6 months old was separated from us. I worried all the time about her.
Over the next few years, we moved a few times. Then at the age of eight, we went to be adopted. However, the couple didn’t want me or my sibling. They wanted my youngest sister as she was three and they wanted a baby. They agreed to take us all, though within a year our adoptive placement changed to a foster placement.
I was kept away from my sisters. If we went into the garden, we would have to stay out there for hours until the foster carer said we could go in. We could only eat when she gave us food. I can remember being so hungry all the time.
I used to wet the bed due to all the abuse and being anxious. She put nappies on me that didn’t fit so she put sticky tape around it bruising my skin. We weren’t allowed to go to the toilet unless she said we could. We couldn’t get up in the mornings unless she said we could. At weekends this could be 11 or after. Our bedtime was usually about 7pm.
We were left on our own in the house while she went out. We were hit with belts and rulers. I was kicked out of the house a few times and made to sleep in the garage or stand in the garden for hours on end. I think one time it was for five hours at night.
When the male foster carer was home from the Navy, the sexual abuse would start. I think at that stage it was just me. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I asked to be removed from the home at 12 years old, and it then started with my sisters.
This is only part of what happened in my first 18 years.
Understanding your child’s behaviour
I’m sharing my experience as a foster child to give foster carers and adopters a better understanding of some of the things that your children may have been through. This kind of experience isn’t always known about, and it may display itself in behaviour as your child starts to feel safe but doesn’t know how to talk about what happened to them.
So, if you’ve got a child of any age, but usually the eldest sibling, who is being motherly or overprotective or doing things for their younger siblings all the time, it may be because they have had to take on a parenting role and doing those things for that younger child because their parents or carer didn’t take on that role.
If they come to you not wanting to make relationships, act defensively or appear moody, it is because they don’t trust people. They’ve had so many people let them down. We know parents are the people who should be protecting children, but for them, they weren’t. They find it hard to build trust as they may not have been taught how to.
Another reason is they will think that they’re going to be taken away again. So why bother building a relationship or trusting people?
When it comes to food and eating it may be that some things trigger their behaviour. It could be if the fridge or cupboards aren’t full which could be a trigger if they experienced going to bed hungry and had limited access to food so didn’t know when they were going to eat next.
How I can support parents
Those were some of my childhood experiences and I’m passionate about using them, as well as my professional experience, to help foster carers and adopters understand and hear their children so that they can support them in understanding what has happened.
I train foster carers and I am a member of a foster panel. I keep up to date working in different roles in childcare and education. I do this with 121 coaching and mentoring and a group membership at low costs.
I would love to have a chat with you to see how I can support you and your children have a positive future.
Did you enjoy this article? Why not buy me a coffee to help keep the magazine free for everyone to read? If you’d like to read more articles about adoption and parenting, head over to the home page and have a look at what’s new.