During this speaking engagement, I listened to these foster children describe the many homes they had bounced around in for the past two years. One foster child, approaching the age of 18, spoke of the four homes she has been, and the difficulties she faced moving to home after home after home. Another young child, in her early teens, spoke about the difficulties she faced as she moved through four different school systems, in three different states. Both of these foster children were affected by what is officially known as “Multiple Displacement,” moving from one foster home to another.
I had a discussion earlier with Glenn Garvin, the Vice President of Camps for a wonderful organization called Royal Family Kids, an organization that focuses on sending foster children to a week long and life changing experience at a summer camp designed specifically for those children in foster care. Glenn shared with me his experiences with the thousands of foster children who had attended the camp over the past 25 years. Indeed, the stories he told me about some of the children sounded sadly familiar to the many that have not only come through my own home, but to those I have worked with. Foster children face unique difficulties and challenges.
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Being ripped from their homes, their families, their friends, schools, and all they know, and then placed into an environment that is, most often, strange and unfamiliar to them, and told that this new environment is to be their home for an unforeseen amount of time is a most traumatic experience. Couple this with the emotional, mental, and physical scars that foster children usually struggle with, and it is apparent that these children face challenges unlike any other group of children.
Yet, through all of these difficulties and challenges, I have found many foster children to be resilient fighters, toughened by the scars of their personal battles. Indeed, unlike children who come from traditional homes and traditional families, foster children have to depend upon themselves, many times, for survival; survival as they move from home to home, from family to family, from school to school. Moving in a world that is unknown, and frightening, to them, never knowing if or when they might one day be reunited with family, or with anything that is at all familiar to them. For the many foster children who graduate from high school, even going on to college; for those who leave foster care and are able to make a positive contribution to society; and for those who are simply able to make it through the day, it is remarkable. I wonder, at times, if I could have done the same if I was placed in their situation.
-Dr. John DeGarmo
Dr. DeGarmo's new foster care children's book is now available. A Different Home: A New Foster Child's Story.