Saturday, September 3, 2011

What is "Abuse"?

And so L and O came to us.

They are relatively "easy" as foster kids go. They are here because of instability -- they were constantly changing homes and schools -- and because Mom got arrested. Originally, they were placed with their grandmother, the foster system always preferring to place children with family when possible. But Mom took Grandma (her mother!) to court to insist that they be returned to her. That wasn't gonna happen, so here they are in my home.

There is bad blood between Mom and Grandma and between Mom and Dad. There's a raging custody battle that's lasted years and Dad lives out of state. Their little lives have been turned upside down and inside out for years. L is a 7 year old girl who is a sharp cookie. You can see her absorbing everything and trying desperately to keep everyone happy all the time. But they haven't been "abused" or "neglected".

Well, they haven't been beaten. They haven't been sexually abused. They seem to have always had clothes to wear and food to eat. But . . .

Seems to me it's "abuse" for a 7 year old girl to have to listen to her mother tell her it's all her grandma's fault that she's having to live with strangers. Or that Daddy is lying to her. Seems to me there's something wrong with a situation where Mom would rather her kids be in the care of the foster system than with her own mother.

Seems to me the only way a 7 year old gets 7 cavities (3 of which are bad enough to need crowns) is by some sort of "neglect." Especially since both Mom and Dad had the same reaction: "What? Have you been brushing your teeth, girl?" Umm... shouldn't you KNOW? She didn't develop 7 cavities in the 2 weeks she's been here.

It's clear to me that the 3 year old has been taught to ask for things and ignore the answer. "Can I let the dog out?" he asks; I say "no, we're about to go somewhere" and he reaches for the latch anyway. And then is startled when I stop him and repeat that I said no.

It's clear that the 7 year old thinks that any love her brother gives someone else is less he has for her. She must be the center of his universe and she needs him to only show affection to HER. She gloats when she gets some sign of affection from anyone -- whether it's a hug or a word of praise -- as though it's always a competition to be the one who is loved the "most."

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