If you’re reading this blog post I’d like to think that you may have once in your life been “removed” from a caregiver or know someone in your life that has experienced a removal, and you are seeking to understand what happened to them or yourself.
First, I’d like to define a trauma in my own words. Trauma occurs from an event/experience that is shocking or scary, and overwhelming in nature that creates fear or terror for one’s life or someone else’s life with an overall sense of helplessness. Trauma can come in many ways, some are; physical abuse, neglect/abandonment, being bullied, moving, medical conditions, experiencing a natural disaster, witnessing domestic violence, or being taken away from your parents/caregivers by The Department of Children and Families (DCF). Which is the event I would like to focus on today.
What happens after experiencing a trauma?
Sometimes people can experience what we call trauma related symptoms, these symptoms can last for a short or long amount of time. These symptoms include things like nightmares, flashbacks, use of drugs or alcohol to suppress overwhelming thoughts/feelings, avoidance, self-blame, isolation, memory issues, racing thoughts, irritability, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and being unable to control the fight or flight response, just to name a few.
What is a “removal”?
Simply put, when a child is removed from their parents or identified legal guardian/caregiver by a child protective investigator (CPI) it is because there is danger identified in the home of the child that is immediate, significant, clearly observable and actively occurring. There could have been intentional harm/maltreatment done to the child, and/or the child could be living in hazardous living conditions. Many situations and events can fall under this category, and it is then that an action may be taken to protect the child; like a removal from the home.
When a child is removed from their home they not only may have experienced some kind of abusive situation/event that created a concern where an abuse report was made, but, they may have then experienced being questioned, sometimes taken to a hospital to be examined by a medical professional, seen police show up or talk to their loved ones, have been placed in a new home, may be hungry/sleepy, and have been transported to their new home by another social worker they met for the first time. This new home may be with someone they recognize like a family member or friend that has passed all the safety requirements set by DCF or, this new home may be a foster home placement. While some foster home placements can be abusive, which can be re-traumatizing for the child to say the least, there are definitely other great foster home placements for children that can be a safe place for children to recover and thrive. Even if the new home placement is a safe one, the child has to adjust to a whole new home, smells, noises, routine, group of people, rules, bed, sheets, clothes, food, toothbrush, toys, school, and the list goes on and on. All while experiencing trauma related symptoms that often others have a hard time managing and understanding.
I have had the privilege of hearing children’s and teen’s stories of pain and healing involving their experience of being removed from their legal guardians/parents from ages 5 to 17. Each story different and unique to their situation, perspective, pain, thoughts, and feelings. While they are all different, one thing they have in common is that when they felt safe, supported, heard, and like they matter more than their symptoms however difficult they may seem, they then begin to trust and heal.
I hope this blog post was educational and helped you understand what you or someone you know may have gone through in their childhood. If you have been struggling to understand what you yourself went through, or how come this experience still affects you, I hope this information was validating to you that experiencing a removal can be traumatic, and much healing work needs to be done after. I encourage you to seek therapeutic services with a local provider in your area. If you know someone who has been removed from their home in the past or present, I hope that this gives you some insight into some of the pain they may be going through.
To all whom once have been removed… someone cares about you, you didn’t do anything wrong, it’s ok to be sad, mad, scared or even relieved, your feelings matter, and I believe in you.
All rights reserved © Jennifer Morejon, LMFT
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