Many theories talk about how vital connections, attachments, and relationships are for human development. Most of us take for granted the power that these relationships have in our everyday lives.
For the survivors of trafficking I work with, it’s heartbreaking to repeatedly witness the impacts of relationships that have been lost or damaged, or potential connections that never get to develop. In my experience, children will always look for ways to create attachments that are vital for their development (even more so when the first and most important relationship to a mother or a father is damaged or missing). Children are smart and resourceful: They will try to get this need met, to form the attachments they need, to “fix” a broken connection, or find a way to get their parental figure to care. Knowing all of this, it’s hard not to shed a tear when I watch a child I work with gather up the courage to ask their mom for a hug after not seeing her for months. It shows this child’s power and resiliency. All the child wants is unconditional love.
For the youth I meet in our survivor care program, instability is the name of the season.
Most spend only a few months in a specific living situation or with a service provider before being uprooted again. The child might start to make connections and form relationships, only to have them wiped clean and have to start over from scratch. How many of these children have a stable family member or someone that they have formed a relationship with that will visit them at the next placement? How many of them have adults or friendships that are consistent?
That’s what I believe is the most important thing about my work at Love146: that no matter what the child has experienced, no matter where the child is in the state, no matter how many times they move in and out of different foster homes, or group homes, or hospitals, or detention centers — we at Love146 are consistently there.
They can count on us; our relationship to them won’t be uprooted and wiped away. I can show up week after week, in a different place each time, and be able to look them in the eye each week and tell them: “This setback is only a setback. It doesn’t have to define your life.”
And the consistency of hearing that from someone in a relationship they can trust allows them to believe it, little by little. Even if they don’t believe it for themselves, they can borrow my belief in them – because I’m not going away.
Author’s name has been withheld for protection.