Moses was a foster child and look at the trauma his foster parents experienced. Superman was a foster child and I’m sure the ability to see through walls didn’t do him any favours in childhood. Harry Potter was fostered and defined as a problem child, a difficult child and Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, was fostered and institutionalised as a psychotic. I could go on with a list of characters from the heart of our popular culture who were fostered and defined by unchallenged language such as their being “difficult” and “challenging.” Are they a problem to be solved or a solution waiting to happen.
Why have we not made the connection between the brilliance of these children and the brilliance of real foster children who use extraordinary skills to deal with extraordinary situations on a daily basis. They don’t deserve our distancing self regarding head tilted pity. They don’t deserve the unquestioned assertion that they are “difficult” and “challenging” with a “troubled past”. We know that they have these incredible stories of survival the moment they land on the doorstep of the care system. We exploit them by our lazy labels that do more to excuse our treatment of them than anything else. Shouldn’t we be finding language to truly describe them
And worse is the blatant hypocracy in that we recognise the acute brilliance of Harry Potter but not the foster child in our midst? Whole religions have been built on the words of a foster child. Moses. (Jesus was born of a single parent and a step father and the writings have us believe he was a spectacularly “challenging” child adult.) By highlighting how “difficult” a child is we deflect the question of our own responsibilities. Often foster parents make these statements before passing the “difficult child” on to an ever decreasing circle of parents willing to take him. They, the foster parents, are not to blame – We are.
Incidentally (or not) the reason there’s such a drive towards fostering, the reason their are more children in care than ever before is quite simple and nobody seems to admit it: It’s the recession “stupid.”