New Year's Resolution 2013: REBIRTH A CHILD
A Human Canvas
A Social Worker's Journal
I’d like to start with an “Imagery” experience to carve out your memory’s history, to dig deep into your heart, to see who formed it in the figurative sense, and see what makes it tick. Let’s begin…
Think about your favorite childhood home. Some of you may have more than one so concentrate on the one you felt the most connected to.
See yourself living there on a day to day basis, as you did at some point in your life.
You can choose a particular age and specific memory, or your life in general, and your collective memories on the whole.
See yourself, getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, getting ready for school, and kissing your parent or parents good bye before you head off for your day.
Bus rides, car rides, or a walk to your school, classmates, teachers, school days and then well-rehearsed entry back into your home to see your family again.
Go to the frig and get some milk or juice, and sit to chat with your mother, father, or any siblings that you may have shared your life with, at a given age.
Do your homework, and hear your name being called to come for the dinner that you have smelled cooking while you worked. It’s your favorite, and you can’t wait to taste the meal you’ll share with your family. Look around the room and see your family, smell the dinner that has been prepared, hear the familiar voices asking you about your day, and feel those comforting feelings you remember from that time in your life.
Now, take some time, and think about random holidays, birthdays, graduations, picnics, vacations, seasonal events and all the other family memories that come to mind, that give you a warm feeling and put a smile on your face.
Feel your heart ache for the people that you miss. Remembering those that have passed, or those that are far away, feel your eyes well up with the tears you want to cry, as missing them reminds you of the vacancy they have left in your heart. These feelings are real and they are very, very powerful.
Family is an extension of your self. Family has contributed to your personal identity, and its essence runs through your veins. It’s the very core of what your physical being is, and has played a huge part in contributing to whom you have become as a person.
We have all experienced the ups and downs with our family members. Relationships are hard work to maintain. You have to be invested, and even when you give, you don’t always get.
Now, let’s reflect on that day when you either went off to college, or you moved out of the family home in some other capacity, and either lived on your own, or with someone else. As exciting as it was, there was a sense of loss. In time you adjusted, but before you got to that point, there were many tears no doubt, and getting adjusted to your new routine took some time. Even, after all was said and done, you could find the spot in your heart, that had your family’s name written on it, and no one would ever take the place they had in your life.
Now, I am going to ask you to experience another collective imagery. A different angle on memories past, yet one that still embraces your core.
Imagine yourself at the age you are now. Fully grown, perhaps with a family of your own. You have planned on surprising your parents and siblings with an unannounced visit, as you’ll be in your home town on business, and haven’t seen your birth family since the last family reunion picnic, over a year ago. As you pull up to the house, feel yourself pulling into the familiar driveway, you remember playing in as a child, with your neighborhood friends.
Feel the car turn off as you unclick your seatbelt, and look into a nearby window, trying to see if anyone is home.
As you get out of the car, and hear it slam behind you, you feel your heart jump and your stomach has butterflies. You are so excited to surprise your family, and can’t wait to see their faces when they know it’s you at the door. You feel like you’re five years old again, full of anticipation. As you walk up the stairs, count them, like you used to, as a child.
As you approach the door, quicken your step and reach out to ring the doorbell. After waiting for a few seconds, ring it again. When no one answers, walk over to the front window to look in, expecting to see your father sitting in the chair watching television, and your mother either cutting coupons, or looking through a magazine.
What you see, is something you were not ready for. Something you would never be ready for. What you see, is an empty house. No family. No furniture. No lamps. No family dinner table with the chairs you sat in and built memories over with your parents and siblings. No family portraits dotting the walls. No area carpet rugs that your mother was famous for, and that your dad would tease her about every chance he got. Nothing. House Empty. Family gone.
What? Where are they? Why didn’t anyone call me if something happened? How do I find them? Did something happen to them? Are they okay? Why did they leave me? Why did they abandon me? Why did this happen? How could this happen? Why?
Now, remember, even though you are an adult, the feelings you are experiencing are those of a young child who feels abandoned by their family. Where are they? Panic sets in. You begin to shake from the inside out. You begin to cry. You are truly panicked and momentarily helpless. You don’t even know where or how to begin to find answers for your multitude of questions. The hurt and anger don’t even come until later. Right now, all you feel is fear, panic, loss, and abandonment.
Now, through this experience, you realize that you need to think rationally if you are going to find your family, where they are, and how to contact them.
In time, you do. Things become clear, rectified, and rational once again. Life continues.
Now, imagine that horrible episode in not knowing where your family is, or why you have been taken from them.
Imagine that you are really a five year old child who has just been removed from their family by CPS (Child Protective Services) and have the same fear and panic, in wanting your parents, and siblings, but not knowing why these strangers are taking you away from the only life you know, instead. As a child you do not have the knowledge or the experience to understand the “whys”. All you understand is the fear. You understand that your whole world is shattered, and that you don’t know if you will ever get it back. How can a child not be affected by this horrific occurrence? An experience this potent will have lasting effects, and will require an extended and concentrated time for healing. Each chronological age/stage will be affected differently, but just as tragically. Time can and should heal the emotional and mental wounds, but depending on the age of the child, this tragic shake up of the psyche could last and have serious repercussions.
As an adult, I experienced this very scenario, with my own birth family having "gone missing". I did finally locate them, but I still haven’t fully healed, and with both of my parents now deceased, I most likely will never really know all the “whys”. But, as an adult, I have accepted it, and will continue to heal as I move forward with my life, one day at a time.
Having worked in therapeutic foster care for 11 years, I witnessed many children of varied ages experience the same loss. In many cases the children were reunited with their birth families, and they had a happy ending through family counseling and time.
In too many cases to count, though, I have seen the damages far too severe to heal in this lifetime. I have witnessed children of all ages from birth through 21 experience various levels of betrayal by their families in many capacities. I have seen children reunited with their families, only to be returned to care, when the parent or parents, failed to honor their court commitments, or parental obligations. I’ve seen incest run rampant, and known of other unforgivable acts done to children by their own parents, that should only exist in the worst of nightmares, not in real life.
In these extreme cases, there will never be remediation of the birth family unit. In these cases we can only offer another option to a child that would otherwise be living as the dead. Thank God for child welfare agencies, foster parents, and a second chance.
Our “system” is far from perfect, but while we work on getting it right, it’s what we have. Trust me…offering a child of any age a way out of their life in a black hole, is, offering them rebirth.
If there are any “re-birth” families out there reading this, and you would like to change the course of a child’s life, offer them you. Become a Re-birth family!
What a great resolution to make in this New Year of 2013-rebirth a child!
Note: search on-line for a foster care agency in your area, or contact your local district social service office for information.