“I held my 5-year-old foster daughter as she screamed and cried uncontrollably once again. These episodes lasted 2-5 hours at a time, multiple times a week, and often involved hitting her head against the wall, scratching herself, pulling her hair, and more.
My husband and I have always wanted a large family. After several miscarriages, and two biological children who shouldn’t have been, we decided to foster and agreed that we would adopt one girl – maybe. She had to be just right though, as we’d both seen our share of adoptions over the years that hadn’t been so good. In fact, they’d been very difficult. And we both had our very stubborn minds set that we didn’t want any children who had been too abused. We didn’t think we could handle that.
Well, it’s been almost eight years and 24 foster girls (bios not included) later, and three of them now share our last name! My husband and I are now therapeutic foster parents to severely abused and traumatized girls.
When my first foster daughter came to my home, I was so naive. I thought if I just loved her enough it would cover all her hurts. That’s just not true though. It’s like putting a bandage on a broken bone and expecting it to heal. It doesn’t. While you absolutely need to have love at the root of all you do, you need so much more. You need resolve, resiliency, patience, creativity, understanding, determination, tough skin, fortitude, and so much more. Parenting an abused child, one who often has psychological disorders, is so draining, yet so rewarding when you see a breakthrough.
Over the years, it’s been amazing how my heart has grown. Now, as soon as I learn a new girl is coming to my home, I already love her. The capacity for love that my Mom-heart has developed baffles even me. It’s kind of like the feeling of biting into that gooey, chocolate brownie knowing that you have to have another bite, and then another, and then another. You just keep eating because it tastes so good – you just can’t stop. That’s the way I love these girls. Just when I think that surely there can’t be room for another, I somehow find room for just one more, always one more.
Along with all this trauma my girls face, I knew I had to be missing something though. I kept feeling as if there were something that could help me in my work with these girls. I love them deeply, but the trauma these girls in my care are facing is so tough. Kids aren’t meant to handle so much of what is thrown at them, and there are so many days that despite what I’ve learned I’m unable to help them. What was my missing link? One day I came across a book about Therapy Dogs and I thought this just might be what I was looking for. I began researching and praying and thinking.
But, when would I have time for a dog? How would I get the money for training? It didn’t matter. I knew I needed to do it! I put my mind to it and determined this is what my girls and other kids like them in my community need. I posted on Facebook about my desire, and by the end of the day I had so many contacts and possibilities for a dog it was unbelievable. I had friends sending me money to help purchase the right dog. I had people I didn’t even know wanting to help. Within just a few short weeks my dream was a reality!
What a great gift. She came on my birthday. Cooper, the Irishdoodle pup. She’s smart, gentle, fun, and she loves all my girls. Right now Cooper is learning all those puppy things – housebreaking, teething, who those shoes really belong to! In about three months though she will begin her ‘official’ training. Training that will teach her to provide a calming presence to help alleviate stress and trauma that so many children in foster care face. Therapy dogs provide affection and comfort, and don’t require a child to talk when they’re unable to find their words. They give a gentle nudge or a neck to hug. What a wonderful calming presence to have around.
For my sweet 5-year-old girl who didn’t have my new Cooper to love on, I’m sorry, but thank you for prompting Mom to think of yet another way to help. For my future girls who have Cooper to love on, you have our whole hearts and we want nothing but the very best for you!”
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