Foster Child: Rebuilding Trust
By Glenn Bresciani
There is a wooden box in our house filled with costumes and props. Our youngest foster daughter, seven- year-old Mandy, is always into that box. Forget the fairy wings. Never mind the blue clown wig or princess things. It’s the Halloween stuff that ignites sparkles in Mandy’s smile. She drapes a Dracula cape over her shoulders, slides on a wig of long red hair and horns, and then announces to the world that the Vampire Princess is born.
To celebrate Mandy’s talent for make-believe, we organized a tea party. Everyone in our house was invited- especially Mandy’s dolls. Lovely, our fifteen-year-old foster daughter, will attend but only if her boyfriend Jack was involved.
All of the guests were dressed up as stereotypes. My partner was a witch with a black pointed hat, while Lovely’s conversion into a fairy queen was achieved through strap-on butterfly wings. A blue afro wig and a red nose made a clown out of Jack. For myself, I wore a plastic horned helmet- because what’s a tea party without a Viking? Vampire Princess Mandy was the host, serving cupcakes and lollies with Fanta in tiny tea cups. Until, she was so overloaded with sugar, she couldn’t stay in her seat.
“Come play with me Jack,” Mandy shouted, grabbing Jack’s hand. “Come on!”
The two new playmates ran into the family room for some Nerf gun fun. Lovely’s brow crumpled under the strain of worrying as she watched her boyfriend and Mandy dodge projectile foam darts. Anxiety cut deeper lines into her frown every time Jack and Mandy’s laughter was synchronized.
“Little bitch,” Lovely murmured, her glare still fixed on our youngest foster daughter. Yeah, I know. Only a teenager with serious trust issues would be convinced that their relationship was threatened by a child in primary school. To any of us, this would seem illogical and silly, but to Lovely, Mandy is a real threat.
Before she lived in a foster home, Lovely lived in a drug house. Blame her parents, as selling drugs was their trade. Drugs arrived, drugs were sold. All the adults Lovely had met followed this pattern, in and out of her life as often as Mandy switching between her favorite green crocodile onesie and her other favorite. As for Lovely’s Mum and Dad, they were even worse. Their parenting was non-existent, their love for their daughter as flashy, flimsy and false as the costumes and props in that wooden box.
Such a masquerade life as hers, how could Lovely have learned to trust anyone when there was nothing solid for trust to cling to and take hold? If only trust was a gift that I could give to her- like a birthday or Christmas gift. I would. I’m no psychologist or Faith Healer or Self Help Guru, so the best I can do is be consistent with Lovely, like the box of cereal in the pantry that’s always there to start your day; or the sock draw always full of fresh socks; or the towel that’s always on the towel rack when you step out of the shower.
If I demonstrate trust to Lovely, she will learn to recognize it, see trust all around her, in the friends she will make and the acquaintances she will meet.
If I do the best I can, then hopefully, trust will cling to Lovely and take hold. It will grow and grow, reaching out to Lovely’s disordered life, disarrayed by distrust, and place everything into a neat row, one that she can trust. Only then, will Lovely be able to trust her own instincts, and consider the possibility of a teenage girl losing her boyfriend to a primary school girl as illogical and silly.