The first night is the hardest.
That is when they realize they are in a completely new home and that it isn’t a dream.
They are somewhere with strangers. They have nothing but the clothes they were wearing when it happened. No comforts of home. That first night is the hardest.
And sometimes they get placed with friends, but it’s still feeling alone. They wonder if it will be forever, if they will be with their family again.
They wonder about everything… what is going to happen to their stuff, are they going to get new clothes or will someone bring them their other clothes, who else lives here and will they like me and, especially, they wonder about what their parent is thinking/doing/feeling.
No matter how awful their parents are, or how badly they were mistreated, their one true desire is for that parent to love them and want them. It’s how we are all wired.
They start to feel guilty that they may have done something wrong or it’s their fault. They cry. Sometimes they hide it, sometimes they can’t.
They are a dichotomy of emotions.
They look around as they lay in a home they are unfamiliar with, laying in a different bed with different blankets and different sounds and smells. They don’t even know where the light switch is or how to get a drink of water. They are timid to ask where the bathroom is.
They might not remember your first name when they finally muster up the courage to tell you they are thirsty or hungry.
It is a helpless feeling they have, a combination of fear and calm wondering about the old and not knowing what to expect with the new. They know that there will be no more yelling or violence, no more drugs or random people coming around, but they will also miss that familiarity.
There is a familiarity, a queer comfort in the midst of the chaos that they called home. Away from the drama it is so quiet they can hear their thoughts and their thoughts are sad.
It’s hard to imagine these circumstances and feelings as an adult, let alone as a child. A child that has seen too much, been exposed to things no child should see or experience, shuffled around like extra baggage.
I hate it for them. I truly do. It makes me sick to think that parents can’t prioritize their children over everything else.
That’s why we celebrate every kid that comes through our doors, we embrace and we engage, we comfort and we counsel.
We want them to feel remarkably welcome and loved. They are dear to us.
We want them to know that, no matter what, we are reliable.