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Desperate foster parent

Community Member
I've become a foster parent of 2 little girls under 4 for nearly 12 months now. I don't have any feelings for these children and am constantly feeling guilty about the lack of emotion I'm able to give them. I know they need love that I seem to be incapable of providing. They are well cared for and happy but missing the love they need. Every moment spent with them is difficult and all I want to do is stay in bed and not see anyone. I can't even smile. I've changed anti-depressants hoping these symptoms are due to depression and will pass, but I'm 5 weeks into the medication and seem to be getting worse, not better. I haven't had much luck finding places/forums to discuss these feelings and if its normal. I feel like such a failure when I see other parents and foster parents and the joy they get from their children. Any advice or pointers greatly received.
14 Replies 14

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Peppapig and welcome 😊

These forums are a safe and nonjudgmental place for you to talk and vent as you need so thanks for joining us and I hope you stick around and keep talking.

First of all... you're not alone. I felt very similar to you dealing with my own children (2 and 3 years old at the time). The guilt is overwhelming! I think that's why noone talks. Because it takes a hell of a lot of guts to say to a GP or psych or family member or friend... I don't feel anything for my kids and I feel like they'd be better off without me. But that's the depression talking.

Small kids drive even healthy people up the wall on a daily basis but for us with depression it is bloody hard work! Being annoyed and tired and frustrated is a constant so it is easy for the depression to sneak in and make you feel numb and useless and guilty.

And it's also easy for the doctors to keep saying be patient but in reality you know your own mind best. If you feel crap don't let them convince you this is "normal" because it may not be normal for you. Keep asking for help.

Please go back to your doctor and tell them what's going on with you. Ask for help. If they don't pay attention get a second opinion. I would have thought by 5 weeks you'd have felt a change... Maybe call your doc and ask about this too.

You mentioned meds... so do you just see a GP or a psychiatrist or psychologist or combination? Have they given you a diagnosis? Do you have therapy in place or just medication? Sorry lots of questions but it helps if you feel able to tell more. If you don't feel comfortable that is fine too.

Also... What supports have you got around you? Friends? Family? Spouse? Is there anyone regularly giving you time for yourself? This is important too.

Please take care and try not to be so hard on yourself. Yes we all want to be superparent but realistically we can only just do our best and ask for help. You're not alone Peppapig... I'm not winning mum of the year either but that's absolutely ok too 😊.

Hope to talk to you more.

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi P, welcome

My mother in law has been a foster parent for 11 years now. The child is 14yo.

The one ingredient above most others was compatibility. The chemistry has to be there or at leadt given time to grow.

If you are struggling then its time to consilt with the authorities.

Sooner better than later.

You are an amazing person to take this on.

Tony WK

Thank you so much for your reply. I was diagnosed with melancholic depression and I guess I've been on medication for at least 15 years. I do have a psychiatrist for the medication who isn't that helpful. She's said because of the biological nature of my depression therapy won't really help. Having said that I saw a psychologist for years (and spent a lot of $$$!!). I do believe she did make me feel better but I no longer live in the area where she practices and I can't face starting new with someone else.

I have a partner but we really don't have any close support family or friends and it is quite isolating. I only moved into this area 4 years ago and don't really have friends up here. FACS haven't been helpful, but I believe that's more a case of them being unresourced and having to prioritise kids at risk. I'm lucky that I've been able to put them into childcare 3 days a week, but those 2 days when I don't have them I just want to stay in bed and not move.

I just wish I knew that I would start to feel more positive about the situation and that I'll love the girls. At the moment I can't seem to feel love for anything.

Its the length of time its taking to feel better. I've felt a lot worse in the past but for shorter periods. Its been nearly a year of feeling down and its just getting worse. I've excused those feelings as normal and getting used to being a parent for the first time and having to cope with the difficulties of kids with behavioral problems. I know anyone would feel this way but at the moment there's just no light out of it.

Phew. Thanks for letting me vent. I can't really talk like this to anyone and if I try I cry and feel so guilty and ashamed.

Okay, time to change a smelly nappy!

Hi Peppapig,

Wow! First time parent as well as foster parent! You know you're awesome right?

You mentioned one thing I get annoyed about because it stopped me from getting the help I needed.... Mention the word first time parent to anyone along with depression and everything starts getting blamed on the kids and that being a parent is crap at times and we just need to "wait it out". It feels like everyone knows better than you or thinks they do. But like I said before only you know your own mind. If you feel this is getting worse maybe a medication review is in order?

I used to feel like just sleeping and even if I had a break from the kids it didn't help at all. I left speaking up and demanding help until it got very bad and I was planning a way out. Have you told your psychiatrist how bad it really has gotten?

It isn't unreasonable to want to feel like doing more than sleeping. And there is no shame or guilt ok. I've been there too. Most parents have and if they say otherwise they're probably the ones posting photos on instagram and facebook of the pristine house and happy happy happy family 😊. Your girls are safe and happy. You're doing good. Now you've just got to look after yourself.

Vent away Peppa 😊 this is your thread... Your space to get it all out. Plus you said you're isolated and talking to other mums is important. Mother's groups get bad press but there is a lot to be said for making friends who are in a similar situation as yourself. Does the FACS have any information on social groups in your area?

Oh man the day I managed to toilet train little miss and retire the nappies was quite possibly the happiest day of my life. Feeling you there 100%.

Take care of yourself please.

Hi P

We are all normal but some, like us are at extremes. So we are more emotional, more reactive, more crying, easily stressed and so on.

At times this means pulling back from responsibility to care for ourselves. I've been a community champion for over 4 years and sometimes I pull back for a few days but like you, helping others is an adrenalin rush so I return.

So, when you feel down dont feel guilty nor worry.

Google this

Topic: worry worry worry- beyondblue

And good luck. Repost any time. And pat yourself on the back. You're a wonderful person.

Tony WK

The comment 'I left speaking up and demanding help until it got very bad and I was planning a way out' so resonates with me. I have been telling various medical professionals that I see... I have changed medication that doesn't seem to be helping and have to wait a few more weeks until it 'kicks in', hopefully. I'm really hoping its a case of feeling worse before its better.

And it isn't the kids fault, they're not responsible for the situation they're in. We have monthly visits with their biological family which is difficult for everyone. In hindsight we should have started with short term, respite care.

Its horrible being so emotional all the time. I'll even cry watching ABC Kids with them!

Thanks for your kind words.

Hi Peppapig,

I hope your medication starts working soon. In the meantime though what have you got in place to keep you safe? Have you done a safety plan? There is one on BB if you are interested. I found it helped having my plan on the fridge so on days where everything was overwhelming I didn't have to think I just worked through the list.

Have you considered writing out how you feel to show the psych? At my worst hubby made me write out bluntly and honestly how I felt and it was a shock to read. I took it in an envelope and gave it to the psych and finally it seemed to communicate the depth of my despair in a way I couldn't seem to vocalise. I think in person there is always the element of performance. Do you think this something that could help you?

I feel you about even crying at ABC kids. I have days where the noise of my kids is too much. Pre meds I remember sobbing hysterically because my son had dropped a toy and it wouldn't turn off and I couldn't find a tiny screwdriver to remove the batteries (I put it in a bucket of water outside haha). When you aren't well the smallest things can be too much.

Have you thought about talking about your options regarding care responsibilities? I'm not sure how it all works to be honest but are there any options of shared care? It is a massive responsibility to care full time for a child and you're not a failure if you ask for help. My dream would be my family or hubby's taking the kids overnight once a fortnight. I haven't had a proper sleep in years.

Thinking of you and hoping you have a good day today.

Community Member
Hi peppapigs,

This can happen to parents of all sorts - biological , step parents, and foster parents. Don’t be alarmed or ashamed of your feelings.

There seems to be a lot more support for women with Post Natal Depression (at least these days , and thank goodness for that ) than maybe for other types of parents and carers . 

However , don’t let this deter you. 

What you are experiencing is definitely not uncommon for all kinds of parents ( ring PANDA on 1300 726 306  to have chat with them about this ) . http://www.panda.org.au/

I feel you should definitely have a counsellor to talk you through this thinking and help you 
- be more compassionate  to yourself about it
- understand the negative thinking and be able to identify the β€œnasty” thoughts 
-  develop strategies to either challenge or ignore the negative thinking 
- develop behaviours known to limit negative thinking ( e.g. exercise).. Yeah super easy with 2 little girls !! 
- find a support group - check with the agency from which you fostered or with your therapist or via PANDA .
You are not being silly for trying to pursue this. It is hard work to parent and harder to do it under the veil of depression or negativity or ambivalence. 

I think that's a good idea writing things down. But then my thoughts get so dark it doesn't seem real or it's embarrassing to show my shrink. But I feel like I'm always acting with others and never letting them know just how bad I feel. The guilt shame spiral is constant. The girls need love, I can't even love my cat at the moment.

It's odd though, I have started to feel better at moments since joining this forum. I know I'm not a bad person and it's stupid beating myself up all the time. I just can't seem to stop myself. I didn't know about the safety plan and will look into it.

I'm amazed by all parents. I had no idea just how difficult and selfless a parent has to be!