Generational Trauma

By Rachel Mar

A majority of the children we have been given the privilege to love and parent have come from generational trauma and foster care.  This means that their parents, grandparents, or other family members have come into the child welfare system at one point or another in their life and sustained a life full of different types of abuse and traumatic events.

When I look at the kids in our care, I see bright-eyed, rambunctious toddlers with the world at their feet.  They are full of life, love, and mac and cheese.  But I know that as a resource parent, I have one of the most rewarding and important jobs.  And that job is to show them love, consistency, and to make them feel safe all while doing my best to instill in them how to be breakers of that vicious cycle. 

Understanding the generational foster care cycle helps me to have more understanding and empathy for the biological parents of our kids.  The first feeling that most people have when hearing the reason a child is in foster care are confusion, anger, and sadness.  Those feelings are all valid and have a right to be felt but having an understanding for what led biological parents to this place is a major part of the story, and unfortunately, that story is often left untold.

Odds are the biological parents of our foster kids have never been taught effective or positive ways to parent.  They are dealing with so much pain of their own, that adding a child or two to that mix just adds fuel to the ever-growing fire.

Often individuals look at biological parents as the enemy, but just 20 years ago, I bet those biological parents were young children who you would have given anything to take in, love, and teach them the same values and lessons that you are now teaching their children.  It makes me sad thinking about the birth parents of our foster children and that for some of them, their own time spent in the foster system was not a good experience to say the least.  It breaks my heart that when these biological parents needed a safe place to turn to, they had nowhere to look, so the cycle continued. 

Perhaps when you get a child that has been through more trauma than anyone should ever have to endure, try to give grace to everyone involved.  There is always so much more to the story.  It is not always possible to have a relationship with a child’s biological family, but if it is, I encourage you do so in your own way.  To want the best for your foster or adoptive children is to want the best for their first family and their future family as well.

My hope and prayer for each of the kids in our home is that they grow up to be incredible people with loving, secure families.  I hope they take what they have learned from us and use that in their everyday life.  I hope that when they get the chance to show someone else love, they take it and make a real, tangible impact.  I hope that their kindness and love ripples throughout the world so that someday, they themselves can be the cause and force that helps empower others to end generational foster care, trauma, and abuse in their family.