Unbelievably, we have been functioning as a fully operational children’s home (Casa Hogar) for just over three weeks now, and we thought it might be nice to share some of our experiences and observations thus far.
The first thing that we learned was that even after 4 and a half years of preparation, there are some things that you just can’t be ready for. For instance, consider the broken heart of a small child. You can try to prepare yourself for it… but it’s still something that takes you completely by surprise. The affects that abandonment and abuse can have on the psyche of a little one is unbearable to witness. It affects you in a huge way because, just as when your own flesh-and-blood child is given to you, you instantly fall in love with these little faces. They become yours the moment they walk through your doors and you would die for them in an instant. That’s why it hurts so much to watch them suffer.
Let us explain by giving you an example. Just a few weeks ago we participated in a training session for caregivers working with children dealing with trauma. In the session it was reinforced that children coming into a home like ours often have a first week of pure joy and happiness that quickly dissolves into a second week of absolute chaos. This is caused by the fact that when these young minds start to feel content and safe in an environment, they begin to allow their emotions (that they have been blocking for a very long time) to come to the surface. As they allow themselves to feel again, ALL OF THOSE PREVIOUSLY SUPPRESSED PAINFUL EMOTIONS begin to pour out in a flood.
We watched this happen to one of our little girls. During the initial intake process, our review of this little one’s case-study forewarned us that providing her with the depth of care necessary to bring healing into her life would not be without some challenges. She is bright, beautiful, and a silly little princess with an infectious personality. After the first 5 days we said, “We hope all the kids we receive are as easy as this one!” Then she had a major setback. She began to get aggressive and angry over seemingly nothing at all, she would have a complete meltdown over something as simple as being asked to pick up a pencil. The overnight transformation in her attitudes and behavior were dramatic, and we were so saddened for her, knowing that some very painful things hidden deep in that little heart were causing these reactions.
One of her first incidents was particularly violent and we had to step in and separate her from the others. We sat at her bedroom door to prevent her from running and watched as she tore the room to shreds. She said over and over again, “I hate you!” to which we replied, “That’s okay, we still love you.” She took every bit of clothing out of her closet and threw it all over the room. As she pulled out one piece we would say, “Did you get it all? We think you missed some, get it all!” She took her shoe off and threw it at us with all the strength a tiny child could muster. We caught it and handed it back to her and said, “Okay, your turn, throw it back.”
We watched as the expression on her face changed as she wondered, “Why will these people not get mad at me? This is usually the part where the adults get angry and want me gone.” She softened a bit and came toward us. We asked, “Are you ready to apologize now?” She said that she was and we asked her to take our hand and walk out to the others with us. She said, “NO!” We had a feeling that if we allowed her to go on her own she would just run, so we waited. She got mad, tried to move us, tried to hit us, yelled at us a bit more and then finally just gave up. We could see on her face that she was done. Again we asked, “Are you ready now?” She gave us a small nod. We asked, “Will you hold our hand?” She shook her head no… and instead, lifted up her arms to us asking to be carried.
The battle was over, her little heart could take no more. Exhausted, she climbed up into our arms, put her tearful little face in our neck and we went out to see the others to whom she apologized like a brave little soldier. Love had won this time but there have been many more battles since… each one a little easier than the other. As a staff, we are determined that we will love these little ones through it all. We will be part of their healing and not the cause of any more hurts. We will fight for them, even if it is against their will. We will be there for them through all the ups and downs that life has for them. We will be the constant in this crazy world in which they did not ask to be part.
We have sacrificed much to get to where we are. Now the real work that we have been called to do has begun. We have been called to love those who do not know love, who do not understand love because they have never actually been loved. It is a privilege we have been given… to love the hurting, abandoned, abused, lost little souls that come into our care.