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When you can't say "I love you."

At Sitterwise, we meet lots of children who feel loved. They are blessed with nurturing parents who have provided a stable atmosphere for them throughout their childhoods, and they are secure and confident. In our work with foster agencies and social services, we also get to meet some kids whose lives haven't gone as planned. My friend Nicole has stepped into foster care in the last few years, and today she wrote something that could change a lot of children's experiences:

"Just ten little words. When fostering teenagers, it can be so difficult to tell them how much you care about them in a way they can accept. Years of trauma and neglect, being disappointed and let down over and over again can leave them feeling so unworthy. They hate themselves and can't believe that anyone would find them worthy of love.

A teenager recently joined our family. He had bounced from foster home to group home to jail for years, usually running away.

When a child moves into our home, we make a choice to love them.

"I love you." They didn't seem like the right words. How could I let him know, without saying the words? With actions, of course, but when I say goodnight to my bio boys, I always say "I love you."

The first few nights, I didn't know what to say to him. I didn't want to spook him. Then, one night, I said ten simple, little words.

"Have I told you today that I'm happy you're here?"

And there it was, a little sparkle in his eye. I said it again the next day, and the next, and the next. Before long, he began responding, "I'm happy I'm here too." That's how we end each night. The same simple exchange. Each time, I see the sparkle.

He's been with us for just a few weeks. He came home from school the other day and told me about an assignment he had to do for his speech class. He needed to give a speech about himself and include a PowerPoint with pictures of his family. I said, "Well, how would you like to handle it?" He asked, "Can I use pictures of this family?"

"Have I told you today that I'm happy you're here?"

san diego foster care, foster kids in san diego, foster families, parenting


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