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  • Writer's picture Harlie Cloyd


Updated: Jan 13

Several weeks have passed now since Biggest Sis was moved from our home, and I finally feel ready to write about it.

What happened? What went wrong?

Well, I don't quite know what went wrong, exactly. I'm not sure we ever will.

But as far as what happened... let me back up a bit.

**Some details you may want to know I will intentionally be keeping out of this story because her story is not mine to tell. This will strictly be our side of the story as her foster parents and some parts will be vague on purpose.

The Body Keeps The Score

Have you ever heard the phrase "the body keeps the score?" It comes from the book, The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk.

What it means is that our bodies quite literally keep the score of our trauma. What happens to us, especially in our formative years (0-4), literally changes our brains. It shapes everything else moving forward -- the ways we interact with others, how we show and receive love, our ability to trust others, and so so much more. They've even discovered our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score can be the root cause of certain autoimmune diseases, which absolutely blows my mind.

“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on—unchanged and immutable—as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.”

- Bessel Van Der Kolk

Soooo many kids in foster care have severe trauma histories, most of which began in their formative years. Then you add the trauma of simply being in foster care on top of that. It's a perfect storm for disaster.

Sometimes kids are put into homes that have all the resources they need to start their healing journey. Other times, foster homes don't have any resources or working knowledge of how to help traumatized kids -- however well their intentions may be -- and the childrens' trauma is either pushed to the side, or worse, multiplied.

What happened?

From the very beginning of when Biggest Sis, Riley, and Ruthie were taken into state custody in September 2019, Biggest Sis (5 years old at the time) was placed in a different home for reasons we don't really know. Convenience maybe? We were never even asked to take placement of her in the beginning. So immediately sisters were separated. Is this where things went wrong?

In May 2020, we attempted to reunify all three sisters under our roof, but due to trauma behaviors, mental illness, and sisters triggering each other we quickly became overwhelmed and knew we were not equipped to handle the severity of circumstances that Biggest Sis' presence brought into our home. We asked she be moved into a therapeutic foster home (a step up in training from what we are), to hopefully help her work through some stuff. Is this where things went wrong?

At that time we didn't know if she would ever heal and be able to be reunited with her sisters again. After nearly a year in a therapeutic home, she was doing really really well though. We thought God had redeemed her story and we wanted to give all three sisters the gift of being together forever. That was August 2021.

Shortly after Biggest Sis moved in with us again, the girls' biological mom relinquished her parental rights, meaning we were going to be able to adopt them all. Riley and Ruthie welcomed this news with excitement. Biggest Sis, however, did not. She was devastated. Understandably so. We do not fault her for feeling devastated at all, but could this be where things went wrong?

That's around the time things got really really really hard again. We began to realize she had been masking the month or so she had been back with us, and she was not really feeling good about being back with her sisters at all.

“The stress hormones of traumatized people, in contrast, take much longer to return to baseline and spike quickly and disproportionately in response to mildly stressful stimuli.”

-Bessel Van Der Kolk

Going through traumatic things together can either bring you closer or drive you apart. I believe what the girls went through before foster care drove a wedge between Biggest Sis and her sisters that may forever be irreconcilable. Her sisters trigger her. Maybe things went wrong long before we ever even knew them?

Over the course of the next 7 months, we tried everything within our power and scope of resources in Western Oklahoma to help Biggest Sis feel better. I became a stay at home mom again to give her stability and predictability. We were in counseling as a family and individually. We tried medications. We went through psychological evaluations. I prayed harder than I have ever prayed in my entire life for this child.

But their adoption day was growing closer and closer, and with no real clarity as to whether Biggest Sis could handle being with her sisters forever, we asked the courts to separate siblings for adoption and they granted it to us. We still wanted to give everything we were trying with her more time, but it wasn't fair to Riley and Ruthie to delay their permanency any longer. They were so excited to become a Cloyd.

Things continued to get worse by the day though, and there was no real improvement. Towards the end I no longer felt safe in my own home and we could see our other children's mental health suffering significantly as well.

I know it sounds awful, and it still makes me sick to my stomach, but we had come to a crossroads -- we had to choose between fighting for Biggest Sis' mental health and giving our other 4 children a safe and stable home.

Seeing as how we weren't totally sure we even could help Biggest Sis, we asked for her to be moved to a therapeutic home again. It had helped last time. Maybe it would help again. We just knew we weren't capable of giving her the kind of care she required, despite how many books we read, classes we went to, and effort we put in. Our best was simply not enough.

That's a tough pill to swallow.

To be honest, I feel like such a failure when it comes to Biggest Sis. My heart for foster care didn't start with squishy little babies with little trauma. No, I wanted to get through to kids who had gone their whole lives feeling worthless -- kids who had no idea how to be accept love -- kids like Biggest Sis.

I will always consider Biggest Sis one of my kids. I still hear her singing her favorite songs... I imagined her on the stage at VBS with the other kids her age... I think about her every time I use my library card because she picked it out for me... I imagine her playing in the pool with the other kids. She loved the water...

She will always be a part of our family, and I do not regret knowing her or loving her one bit. Would I do it over again though? Honestly, probably not because this story didn't have a happy ending for any of us. It wouldn't make sense to put everyone through it again. If I could somehow become an expert in the intricacies of healing severe childhood trauma, maybe.

Or even better, I'd rather none of the girls ever need us to begin with.


To Biggest Sis,

"I pray for your healing That circumstances would change

I pray that the fear inside would flee in Jesus name I pray that a breakthrough would happen today I pray miracles over your life in Jesus name."

- I Pray For Your Healing by Katy Nichole

I love you.

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