A while ago I had a lovely little nine year old girl in my home, and her eight year old brother. Great kids- truly. I never once saw a bad piece of them. One day, a man came over to my business while my kids were with me. During the transaction my girl shouted out "I know you! You used to come to my house!". It didn't seem to phase her that he was there, so I kept along with everything. But his attitude changed immediately. His face flushed, he got nervous, and he left quickly. I'd seen this man before- many times. He was always friendly. A great customer. Very cordial. Very kind. And I had no reason at all to think that he would have done something odd to my children. With that being said, I can read people fairly well. And this man's reaction to my child calling him out was not natural (wouldn't most people be flattered that a child recognized them, and extend some kind of greeting in their direction?). Once he left, I turned and asked my kids how they knew of this man.
"He used to drink at our house. And when he'd get drunk he'd take off all of his clothes and try to come into our bedroom," my girl said, matter-of-fact. I was shocked, and truly didn't know what to say. She didn't seem phased by this at all. This men had repeatedly exposed himself to her, and she thought that was natural... so natural that she talked about it without blinking her eye.
I was heartbroken. NINE YEARS OLD. There is so much innocence in that age. What else had she been exposed to if she thought such an action was so common from a grown man? Of course this opened up an entirely new path for us as a family. This was the FIRST time my child had ever mentioned sexual assault. The first time she had acknowledged an inappropriate action with an adult. Not surprisingly, it was not the only time she'd dealt with these kinds of issues. But had I not read into that man's reaction- and had I not been open to hearing why my kids new him, I and this girl's case worker and therapist would have missed out a key piece of information. We would have never known her secret. We would have never had the resources to help her cope.
I'm sharing this story, because as a foster parent YOU know your child better than anyone else. YOU are around them most often. YOU can tune into little things. Don't expect your case worker to know everything. Don't expect a therapist to uncover every dirty little part of your child's past. Be open, be ready to catch a quickly-fading peice of information that your child tosses out nonchalantly. Be aware of the fact that your child may have come from a worse situation than people originally thought, and always have your heart ready to accept even the saddest stories that they decide to share with you.