I have not personally fostered this age group, but one of the things that I have noticed for this age group in foster care, is that they are very verbal, and therefore parents think they are reasoning things through, but in reality, their social/emotional development might be delayed due to experiences with trauma, abuse, neglect. So they can be misleading, and parents need to be very patient and take the trauma stuff into account--giving them lots of extra love and patience!!!
I took in a 4 year old boy last January 2013. I was his FIFTH foster Mom and he had been reunified with his birth once before coming to me. None of this was disclosed when I agreed to the placement. We STILL haven't been able to finalize our adoption - maybe by Sept/Oct 2014.
He was very angry when he came and mostly expressed himself with tantrums and crying. Most of what he could express verbally was self loathing. He would say things like, "I want to cut my head off", "I hate myself", and "I'm just a piece of garbage, you should throw me away". I strongly encourage you to read up on Secondary Trauma. The number of nights I have cried myself to sleep over the pain this little has suffered is too many to count. I would encourage you to take classes and research Conscience Discipline. The more you know now the better prepared you will be. We learned on the fly and it was tough. Get yourself a really good support system. My friends without kids are slipping away - they just can't understand. My friends with birth kids don't understand how critical routine is for our family and they get frustrated at our inflexibility. My husband and I work full time and when we come home we need to "gear up". We have to practice redirection, be ready for tantrums, and on the look out for roughing up baby brother. It is exhausting (we don't park our kids in front a tv, but sure can see why folks would it). I haven't mopped my kitchen floor in six weeks, but I have read 100's of stories. At this age it's common and actually helpful for bonding to let kids regress. I have fed our son like a baby when he asks. We have even put crib bumper pads around his bed (at his request). I rock him like a baby when wants it. Fight for services immediately. Get a therapist, OT and a referral to a trauma specialist. By the time you realize you need these for your child it will be too late. Get your local school district involved with special education testing.
My son is healing. He is very bonded with my husband and I. New challenges have emerged, like ADD, but his overall sense of self-worth is on the right track. He's in kindergarten and tested above average in math and average for reading. Several weeks ago while getting him ready for bed he tells me, "Mom, I don't want to go to bed until I dance with you in the moonlight." It doesn't get better than that!
Thanks for the reply. Wonderful story. I did have a foster (via guardianship) sister growing up with severe attachment issues. She came to us at age 2 and her mother abandoned her repeatedly until age 6 when she just never came back. She would horde food, she would starve herself, binge eat and then vomit. She was violent sometimes. My mother was not equipped to deal with any of it so she left us at age 12 for a real foster home. They helped her a lot with counseling and medication. We are still sisters and talk weekly, and I know a little what I am up for. She is doing as well as she can be. Still has some anxiety/attachment problems, but is a nanny for a family that has a down syndrome boy who she loves.
I have been a foster mama for three years (also have two bio children) and had five long term placements - the last two are still with me (a sibling group of baby girls age 21m and 4m) and we are starting the adoption process with them. We had a four year old boy with us for 1 year other than that we have had infants. I agree with a lot of what Cinco de Mama said but I would add a few things. Yes - try to get therapists as soon as possible even if you don't think you will need them. It will be good to have a relationship with them if something comes out later - which it probably will. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given as a foster mother was this - from one of my children's physical therapists who was also an adoptive mother herself - she told me that I didn't need to love the child right away and not to feel bad about it. She told me - what they need from you is total commitment and the love will come with time. As far as strict routines and things like that - we are a very rhythm based family. I felt like it was better for our little boy if we were able to offer him a routine but also be flexible when we needed to as he worked through things. As you go into your new placement try not to have expectations - have a support system ready and go with the flow of your new child. Also - don't take things personally. Children that are this age coming into placement may try to push you away and push your buttons as much as they possibly can to test if you will still be there for them. You can't know what she has already been through but you can support her as she works through it. Hope all goes will with your journey!