My Journey in Foster Care: Rejection, Defiance, Love and Strength

I went back to my foster family for what would turn out to be another six months. Of course, the not going to Argentina was never actually explained to me. Nor would anyone tell me where my brother lived, and why I couldn’t see him again. In fact, I don’t remember anyone explaining anything.

I started to have those damn negative thoughts again: “Had they seen my photo and decided they didn’t want me back?” “Did they die?”

Talk about confusing! I am amazed I can write about this now and having a first grader of my own, I look at him and wonder aloud sometimes, ‘How did I ever cope with this rug being pulled out from under me again?’

In August of 1978, I was adopted. My adoptive family lived one town over from my foster family, in a much less ostentatious house, with lots of cats. I remember waking up sometimes in my new bedroom with my new family, getting out of bed and losing all control of my body. I would literally fall to the ground, unable to stand and think. It was as if, looking back now, the rug was literally being pulled out from under me.

Eventually the feeling would come back to my legs and I would manage to get back up. After a few months this stopped happening, perhaps because I started to feel more grounded in my new environment that, for all of its flaws, was a loving home. And for that I was very lucky.

I have always wondered: Where did my inner strength came from? My birth family? My foster family? Or just me? How did I manage to juggle all of this chaos and still manage to be a kid, to make it through adolescence and my teen years without terrible abuse, self-inflicted or otherwise?

Yes, I was defiant, angry, and sad, but I was also a child who “kept it inside.” I didn’t scream it out loud like my adopted sister, a sexual abuse survivor, whose story also needs to be heard.

I was screaming so loud inside, without anyone knowing. It felt safer that way.

This is one reason why children who have been in foster care do not share their feelings and keep them bunched up inside. There is so much fear of being rejected again, of being given away.

My strength comes in part from luck. I had experienced real love and the healing power of it, from my birth father who visited me in Jewish Child Care. From my foster father and from my adoptive parents who through all their human flaws, loved me and wanted me. I think at some point I realized that I was loved, I was wanted and that I mattered.

I was important to someone and amidst all of the chaos, I had hope.

Jeanette Yoffe is the founder of Celia Center, a non-profit support center for all those connected by foster care/adoption within the constellation and beyond.

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