One thing I have learned from being Auntie to my gorgeous nieces and nephew is that trust is easily gained in the right circumstances. My beautiful niece Emily is 18 months and has known me her whole life. She smiles when she sees me, and when I’m babysitting or am in crèche with her, she comes to me for comfort because she knows I’m there for her. She shows me things because she knows I’ll encourage her, she says “ta-da” and claps her hands whenever she does something she’s proud of, because she knows I’ll clap for her and cheer her on. She does all of these things because she has only had good experiences with me (yay) and I have never given her any reason to distrust me – I have never shouted, or hurt her, or neglected her.
Her baby brother Eli is the same, although at only 10 weeks old his trust of me is much more instinctual. When he’s with me, he knows that if he cries, I’ll comfort him. (The most effective way is to let him suck on my little finger!)
Neither Emily nor Eli panic when they are with me, or get stressed out if I’m taking care of them and Mum and Dad aren’t in the immediate vicinity. This is because they have learned through their entire lives that I am a person can be trusted. Their trust in me is a given, it is learned.
With the foster children I have worked with, and work with now, and for almost all foster children I can imagine – trust is not easily given, it is not easily learned.
Fostered children have come from painful, neglectful homes. The families they were born into have let them down, one way or another, and in many cases have deliberately caused them hurt. They have not had any experiences that have allowed them to build trust for that person – so when they are moved into a foster family and told “you can trust me” by their foster parent, they simply CANNOT believe this.
We learn a lot from our experiences. In the same way that Eli and Emily have learned to trust me, because I have been kind and caring to them, fostered children have learned to distrust people who are trying to care for them: because those who have cared for them before have not done it well.
It can be very hard for foster parents, to have a child living with them in their house, knowing that the child doesn’t trust them. But it is more than that – the child CANNOT. Their brain tells them that people who “care” for you cannot be trusted; they will let you down.
(This is not helped by professionals who make promises they cannot or do not intend to keep, compounding the child’s view that anyone who says “you can trust me” is an outright liar)
In these situations, it is a long and sometimes painful process, as the child will need infinite amounts of patience, kindness, and reassurance, and numerous chances to learn to trust. It is worth it in the long run…but you have to hang in there, for the child’s sake
views expressed in this post are entirely my own