WOMAN'S OWN|June 01, 2020
Covering her face with her light-brown hair like a protective veil, the little girl looked up at me with her big blue eyes and flashed me a shy and wary smile. Her clothes looked worn and dirty and she was tightly clutching a bin bag full of her worldly possessions – just a few pairs of knickers, an old, moth-eaten teddy bear, a summer dress, and her school uniform.
Hiding behind the social worker’s legs, she was like a tiny little bird, timid and afraid – a quiet little sparrow of a girl. Little Stella*, of primary school age, was one of a handful of foster children me and my husband, Lloyd, were caring for in our home. Along with our own two children, Jackson and Vincent, our household was a sometimes chaotic but happy place, where we welcomed a steady stream of frightened and often traumatised children through our doors.
It hadn’t always been easy as each child had unique needs and sometimes challenging behaviours. That night, I carefully brushed Stella’s long, tangled hair and watched as she stared at me suspiciously while I tucked her into bed. I realised it was going to take a lot of patience to get her to trust me.
And who could blame her, because her social worker had told me they suspected she had experienced some kind of sexual abuse, although they didn’t know to what extent. And, sadly, while I wondered how anyone could ever hurt such a defenceless little girl, it didn’t shock me, either, because many of the children I’d taken in had experienced abuse.
Besides, I knew exactly what it felt like to be neglected and mistreated. My mum was a teenage parent, and at six weeks old I was taken away by social services, spending much of my own childhood in foster care.
Only, I didn’t find a loving home there. Instead, I was kept out of school, refused food, and told I was useless and stupid and that I’d never amount to anything.
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June 01, 2020