Since the day our foster daughter Holly has returned back to our home, we have been living under siege.

I feel for her. She left us to return to mum, and what was supposed to be the start of her new life was instead a nightmare that lasted 8 long days. She came back traumatised, hurt, scared, and angry. And I understand why.

I know why she so openly hates me, why she is so insanely jealous of my son Ben, why she lashes out constantly, why she cannot return to a good routine. I understand all the whys and I can justify all of them. I cannot really blame her. She is one of the victims of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, a casualty of a foster care system that doesn’t run as smoothly as it should.

As much as I understand why Holly is behaving as she does, I cannot ignore that, as a result of it, my son is afraid. Scared of Holly hurting him, scared she will get to him while he’s sleeping, scared that he won’t be able to protect me next time she hits me, scared she will stay here with us for good.

My son is my first priority. It’s my job to protect him and take good care of him. My role as a parent is to make him feel safe and secure. And with Holly staying here with us, I can’t.

So, we decided to give notice, we asked social services to find a new family for Holly. It was a hard choice to make, I felt I failed her, but I cannot have my son living in fear. So, two weeks ago I called and emailed both Holly’s social workers and mine and told them that, as sorry as I was, they needed to find her a new home, somewhere where she doesn’t have to constantly compete with other children for the attentions she so desperately craves.

First I was told they would move Holly in one week, then they say at the beginning of the following week, later that it would have taken two weeks, then again up to 28 days, and finally they mentioned a meeting in few days to discuss the next steps.

I’m so angry and disappointed. Social services are taking their time to decide what to do. Their first meeting together to discuss Holly is over two weeks after I gave notice. No one in this time ever offered support, came out to see us, or gave any tips to better cope with the situation. What I got so far is two phone calls from two different social workers asking my point of view so that they can bring it to the meeting. No one even explained how to give notice works, they just told me I have to be patient, up to 28 days patient, apparently.

No one from the fostering team told me I could also ask to place Holly in emergency care if the situation gets unmanageable, I had to find out about that by myself. Most day I think I should. Social services, in specific my social worker, failed to protect me and my family and left me alone to deal with all this.

But above all, I feel guilty. I put my son in a stressful and frightening situation. I can explain million times to him that no harm will come to me or him, but I would tell him a lie. Holly regularly bites him, scratches him, barges in his bedroom in the middle of the night, screams on the top of her lungs, and mock him by calling him names or just saying the opposite of what he’s saying.

My son has nightmares, he cries in his sleep. I can hear him most nights sobbing in his sleep “please Holly don’t hit me”. When he wakes up in the morning he crawls in our bed and he always asks: Is Holly still here?

I feel powerless. I put my son in this situation and now I cannot help him get out of it. I wanted to care for Holly and I ended up hurting my son instead.

Holly attacks are getting more violent, and more unpredictable. To keep my son safe, I finally decided to install a gate at Holly’s bedroom door. I keep the kids separate as much as I can. I’m becoming someone I don’t like, and someone I’m not proud of. But what choice do I have?

The reality is that I cannot cope with this placement anymore. I never thought fostering could have made me feel so lonely and isolated. Never thought that the so called professional could fail so miserably in protecting all of us, both my family and Holly.

There are no winners in this situation. My husband goes to work every day knowing that he won’t be able to offer any practical support, my son lives in terror, I’m exhausted, and Holly is just alone in her suffering.

Holly will move out of here one day. I don’t know what there will be left to save by then. I want to think that the summer holidays, lots of love and plenty of laughs will be enough for my son to feel safe in his own home again. But for now, he will have to rely on the temporary sense of security that a baby gate can provide, knowing that the person he’s afraid of cannot do him any harm, and waiting for the day there’ll be no need for it anymore.

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