This is a question that I get a lot. The foster parents and the social workers that I’ve worked with over the years all want to know WHY is it that the youth they work with still want a relationship with their abusive mother/father; why they run away from their foster care placement to go back to the abusive home they were taken from.
We are inherently inclined as humans to depend on our family unit for survival. This is where we are nurtured and protected from the dangers of the world. This is where we are taught the ins and outs of this world and how we are to maneuver the challenges that come with living. In a country that appears to have become so individualistic (although we see the benefits of those who have a functioning and productive families), people forget just how important, no, VITAL the family unit is. It is something that those with what they may consider functioning families take for granted to a certain extent because its just something they have that they don’t have to think about.
It’s only when you don’t have a family unit or when it is so damaged that it doesn’t function in a way that provides the benefits I talked about earlier – that you come to understand just how important family is. When I was in foster care, I desperately wanted a connection with my family. I struggled to maintain relationships with those biological family members that meant so much to me. For some reason, I felt there was a huge hole in who I was because I didn’t have a connection to my father, I couldn’t have a relationship with my mother, I didn’t have a good relationship with my sister and my brother was living in Oregon and I hadn’t seen him in years. Sure I had cousins whom I’m still very close with to this day, but the absence of my NUCLEAR family was the most crippling.
Before going into foster care, I lived with my uncle for 8 years. I loved (and still do) my uncle because he was the only father figure I had known. I was told I used to call him UncleDaddy. Although I endured different abuses by his hand, I still wanted the best for him. When I was taken away from him, my goal was to get myself together (whatever that meant) so that I could help him. Even at a young age, I could see that he was at war with something internally that affected his relationships with his family, with his friends, with people in general. When I was 19 years old he and I reunited, so to speak, after 5 years. I thought this was my opportunity to help him; I thought maybe we could start over. A month later I was told he was murdered. I was DEVASTATED to say the least. When I share what I experienced when I lived with him, people are astonished with WHY I still look at him in such a high regard. Sometimes people even say “well he got what he deserved” – which REALLY grinds my gears because for all intensive purposes, he was and always will be the only father I ever knew.
My answer to why foster youth have an allegiance to family that scarred them is…..waaiiit for it………humans are WIRED to biological family. All people have an unspoken and sometimes subconscious allegiance to family, even family that may have scarred them. Like, when a child that is adopted as an infant comes of age and begins to act out without knowing why and when they’re told (if they’re told) that they are adopted the void that they felt all their lives is suddenly explained! And no matter how good their adoptive parents had been to them, they STILL have a NEED to KNOW where they came from and to whom they originally belonged. Foster Youth are HUMAN, that is why they still have an allegiance to the family that may have scarred them. The sooner our society begins to treat youth in and from foster care as humans that deserve love, family and all the good things that the next human deserves, we can begin to break down some of the debilitating stereotypes that have created a system where its almost impossible for them to flourish.