Life with Holly hasn’t changed much in the last month or so. We have positive days, pull-your-hair-out days, and every other kind of day in between. What we haven’t cracked yet, is what makes such a big difference between a day and the next.

It is a demoralising thought. We wake up every morning hoping for the best. We try hard to forget what happened the day before and put on our best smile, and sometimes that alone takes an enormous amount of effort. And after all that prep work, we can tell how the rest of the day will go within 15 minutes of interacting with her.

Because Holly is the discriminating factor between a good day and a miserable one. How we react to her moods plays a huge role too, of course, but although we can correct our attitude and behaviour, she can’t. A bad day stays a bad day for her. We spent the last three months trying to understand what outside factors affect her behaviour so much, and we’ve got nothing to show for it.

What we learnt though is that when Holly is having one of her bad days, it is best for everyone if we stop pretending we are her parents.

It feels wrong to write that and much harsher than it actually is. It’s not neglect, if that’s what you’re thinking. We could never neglect a child of ours. What changes is the distance we keep between us and her. We behave as any caring adult would behave towards somebody else’s child. If she needs us, we are there for her. If she wants to talk to us, we are there to listen. We just wait for her to come to us first, and in truth, she never does.

I don’t believe Holly has formed a real attachment to any of us. She plays with us, sits on the sofa with us, goes along with our routines and small house rituals. She coexists with us, but I don’t believe she cares for us at all, and that saddens me. I would be happy to know that she didn’t need us, that her loyalty lies with someone else–with her birth mum perhaps–but I’m not sure of that either. I am starting to believe Holly has very little trust in grown-ups and, given the choice, she’d gladly do without.

And if that is the case, if Holly really hasn’t formed an attachment to us after all this time, it means we have failed her in our duty as foster carers. It means that all we did to include her in our house and our life was not enough to convince her we are safe, that she could trust us. It’s probably our fault at the end, but if we are to be blamed, it shouldn’t be for not trying hard enough. It should be for not speaking up earlier perhaps.

Despite the many reassurances from Holly’s social worker, we suspected Holly had behavioural problems from very early on, although we tried hard not to look for them. The way she behaves with complete strangers, for example, friendly to a point the person feels uncomfortable about it, could suggest an attachment disorder. Other behaviours and delays in her development may point to Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder, a form of FASD, and if that was the case, then we would have needed more training to deal with it.

But no one knows, because she’s so little, and before the age of 3 any serious behavioural problem is generally bundled up with the typical tantrums of a toddler. We keep writing what we see, little clues, possible symptoms, without ever suggesting any condition of course, because that’s not our job.

And sometimes I wonder if anyone really wants to know about it. A lot of work has been done already to find a more permanent accommodation for this girl, and the simple threat of a serious condition could put a stop to all of that. Plus a diagnosis would take time, these children grow fast, and past the age of 3 it becomes harder and harder to find a suitable family for them.

Her Social Worker described Holly to us as a perfectly “normal” child, after she’s seen her only once. And perhaps she was right. I’m sure the same Social Worker–who since then have seen Holly one more time–is telling the exact same story to whoever might be interested in looking after this child, with the usual warning about her being so young and possible conditions that could come up in the future, of course, but otherwise a perfectly healthy young girl. And who wouldn’t want that?

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  1. Jo 12th April 2017 Reply
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