It's Monday, and as you might already know every other Monday morning, I have an assessment at the clinic. This time with an 8-year-old girl, named Zoe, who is in foster care (not officially adopted yet, but that's probably going to happen soon) with two wonderful foster parents, Djibril and Greta. Her foster parents seem very experienced, as they have already had 3 children of their own, who are now adults and have left home, and for the last 12 years they have been foster parents.
Reading the child's paperwork before the assessment begins, I make myself aware that Zoe, along with her 4 years older sister, grew up in a chaotic environment, where they were significantly neglected by two parents who were drug users. When the children were withdrawn by the social services from their biological home (after many attempts not to be separated from their biological parents), the two girls changed 3 different foster families, where they continued to experience inhuman neglect. Trauma upon trauma!
When Djibril and Greta saw the two girls for the first time, they felt a deep desire to help them. The social worker in charge of the case told them that the only way to help them is to take them home.
If they can, of course...
Djibril and Greta thought about it for a while and decided they would go for it. Greta told me during the assessment, in a whisper, that ‘the help we give to these girls fills us with love!’
Zoe was 22 months old when she went to this bright house, and her sister 4 and a half. Greta told me ‘Zoe was like a wet puppy who couldn't even stand on her feet, but now look at her...’
Obviously, the signs of neglect were imprinted in all Zoe’s efforts, for example, she did not know how to write many of the numbers and letters of the alphabet, but she was happy and seemed to have confidence in her abilities. She was cheerful and what struck me most was how she started a conversation with a stranger, me, wanting to make a statement about herself. And she did it twice.
The first time, whilst at the table being tested on various subtests, Zoe looks at me and says:
- Do you have friends?
- I think I do, I replied. What about you? Do you have friends? I ask her back.
- Yes, I have, she said proudly and continued, Nadia, Rosie, so-and-so.
2 minutes later, Zoe asks me:
- Did your father want you? with an innocent and steady voice - as if she had everything solved in her life...
I was shocked. Frozen. Suddenly things got overly serious. I glanced at Greta sitting next to us who signalled me to continue.
-Erm, yes... I think... To be honest I hadn’t really thought about it, I answered with immense hesitation.
- Well, I know. He didn't want me, answered almost cold blooded and continued the tests.
As soon as she finished the next test, I tell Zoe ‘Now you can take a break’, and she, instead of going straight to the swings, as she had done before, went and sat at the feet of Greta, who in turn gave her a kiss and a hug.
Tidying up the occupational therapy room, little Zoe filled my mind with question marks and deep reflections.
And I am the one who's wondering..
Did my father want me?