Tag Archives: malnutrition

Life Without Conditions: Motherless Mothering

There are stories we yell out to the world with a megaphone, stories we tell only in the dark, and other stories we keep buried under the rubble in our thick skin, the skin thickening with time, loss, disappointment, and hurt.

Recently my mini me, a proud and soulful preteen, had the chance to scratch the surface and get a pinhole view of her mom as a child. She had 3 full days with my adoptive brother, whose stories of our time together in foster care, she never heard. I watched her face light up and dim all weekend. Some were stories of hope, others of fear and mayhem. This weekend was my daughter’s first real lessons about her mother’s personal past. With so much unknown history from my side of her family at all, this was her chance to scribble the first few pages of her own history book as well.

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Me and my girl.

I’ve been very skillful in my disclosures to her. The stories in between the basic timelines, I usually gloss over. My daughter knows a lot about children in foster care, but I am often impersonal about my experiences because they are part of her also and I want her to be nothing but proud of her background. There are a lot of things to not be proud of in my history, but I never wanted her to see the blemishes. As she’s gotten older I feel uncomfortable with some of her questions. They are no longer shallow and easily answered. I write academically about transitioning foster children at universities and about strong mothers in literature. But, often talking about my own vulnerabilities is not easy for me. 

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Survival of the Fittest

A recent foster care case in Florida this month has many wondering about the abuse of children in the foster care system.  Six children were removed from a home after nearly dying of starvation, having been locked in separate rooms, covered in feces and abused for a long period of time.

 The foster parents had the six children in their care after they were abused years before. This situation and many others like it have advocates wondering how we can protect these vulnerable children.  It also has well-intentioned foster parents, mentors, social workers, psychologists, teachers and journalists asking, “what now,” when these cases come to their doorstep. How do you end the cycle  for these children? And what can you do when these children’s issues come into your home or office?

A blog  I follow posed a question by new foster parents that has weighed on my mind all week. They have two new foster children who were neglected and starved before entering their home. And now, the unexpected challenge is the “unusual” eating habits of the children. They are overeating, they are demanding more food than normal for their size and age, they seem continuously unsure of their physical and nutritional security.

This simple post  hit home for me. I was taken from my mother at a young age, after I was found locked in a basement, abused, suffered from severe malnutrition and was  unable to speak or walk. The challenges I and many others like me faced, were innumerable. 

When a young child whose brain is still developing is starved nutritionally many things happen physically and psychologically. The brain simply does not develop optimally. Stimuli response is thwarted, memory is disturbed, physical senses are interrupted, sometimes learning disabilities develop, and psychological “survival” instincts kick in full mode.

Once a child is taken from a food/sunlight deprived scenario, the mind reacts very similar to that of a released prisoner. It confuses day and night. Sleep patterns are interrupted. And the search for food and quench of hunger is heightened. These reactions to the natural instinct to hunt and secure  food and water are actually quite normal.  The long-lasting effects of this trauma can be mitigated.
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