Posted by: Beverly Davidson, LMSW | January 16, 2009

We all need someone in our corner

I had reflective supervision this week and the topic was loss, specifically the loss babies feel when they are placed in foster or relative care.  While many times it is the safest thing to do to remove a baby from its home, I can’t help but think about the profound loss the baby must feel.  What a terrifying feeling to “be with” someone for nine months, essentially being one with their mother, and then at some point after they lose her.  This is not to say that foster or relative caregivers cannot provide love and affection….they can.  But what is so hard for me at times is that these caregivers often keep themselves at an emotional distance from the baby, unable to allow themselves to “fall in love” with the baby, because they know they may lose the baby at some point….I hear “I don’t want the baby to get too attached because I know they have to go home soon,” or “I want to be called grandma but she keeps calling me mama…”  Or I see a baby look at their new mommy longingly, just wanting her to love her back as unconditionally as she loves her at that moment…..but she does not get the same love in return.  We all have a need to protect ourselves from loss and immense pain, but these babies dserve and need to have someone just love them and want them, even if they have to be let go at some point.  Its hard sometimes to be empathic to the caregivers’ needs of self-protection, while also trying to be a voice for the infant and her needs.  When I put myself in the babies shoes, and try and feel her perspective, it is hard to remain in that place.  But we have to go there so we can speak eloquently for them. 

This could not have been more illustrated when I met a new client today.  A young single woman who is homeless and pregnant.  She is educated, well-spoken and seems to have insight into her issues.  She was adopted at age 3.  She spoke of her parents and of her tumultous relationship she has with her mother.  I asked her if she thought her mother loved her.  The tears started to roll.  She said no, she doesn’t think she does love her.  She said nothing she ever did was ever good enough.  She said she always had a nice home, nice schools.  But she never felt wanted.  She just wanted to be wanted. 

We all need someone in our corner.



  1. Dear beverlymsw,

    Thank you for this insightful piece.

    I think the pain of these babies is devastating. and the intergenerational effects, demonstrated by your second story, are devastating and all too predictable.

    thank you for being with the babies and the foster parents and sharing their pain and doing your best.

    I suffered separation from my mother and all my family as a baby and toddler. I know what you are writing about. I actually think we need to work harder at prevention–doing all we can to prevent births to people who are not ready for the responsibilities of parenthood. I know this sounds hard, but if we really thought about what the children suffer, and how difficult it is to provide what they need, I feel we would try harder to prevent the situations occurring.

  2. Bev,

    This is an eloquent piece. I worked with birth families whose infants/toddlers were in foster care. Some of those babies were returned home, but many were not. I agree with you completely about what these babies need. I was greatly encouraged to learn recently about efforts being made in Wayne Co, not only to implement a Baby Court model that better responds to the unique needs of these infants, but also a pilot program (New Beginnings?) that will recruit, train, and support specialized foster parents. I sincerely hope that this pilot project will lead to many, many more caregivers who can be in those babies’ corners.

  3. Such an awesome post, Bev. I have found that the foster-adopt training we’ve been doing has been an interesting experience, coming from both the practitioner and future-parent sides. The training is so brief (even though it is supposed to be 27 hours…I bet it was about 18-20) and it barely touches on important topics like attachment. And…the PRIDE training in general focuses almost exclusively on older children that are verbal. I kept asking…what about infants and toddlers??? I really do think they need to have PRIDE trainings that target specific age groups. I appreciated the info on teens, etc., but I missed out on a ton of info specific to infants/toddlers and the staff members were ill-equipped to answer more specific questions. Not that they don’t care, etc. I don’t doubt that in the least. Some of the case workers just appear less trained in infant/toddler issues related to foster care. That seems sensible to me, knowing how deficient my field is on understanding infant/toddler issues.

    And to top it off–the agency said (like we had talked about when we had dinner) that infants are coming into foster care in droves as of late. So sad to me. I know that the agencies are strapped for cash, but I also know that there are lots of things about foster care which are just not adequate for kids. Such a quandary.

    As always, I appreciate the work that you do for the little ones!!

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