Lisa Foster reads to her two grandchildren in the tiny home she shares with her 77-year-old mother. It’s a quiet moment in an otherwise tumultuous life as she struggles to give her grandson, who suffers with FASD, ADHD and ODD, a chance for success. Finding a home of their own is a critical component.
Life in the tiny Burlington bungalow she shares with her mom and two grandchildren is so turbulent, Lisa Foster can’t find a quiet place to cry when she’s overwhelmed.
“I have found myself in my car, doors closed, crying, yelling because I can’t just go into a room and shut the door,” said the 52-year-old.
Six years ago Foster’s life was relatively routine; she had a part-time job, a partner and lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton.
But all that changed with a phone call. Gravely concerned for the safety of her grandchildren, Foster herself contacted the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society.
And so at the age of 46, the mother of three grown children began raising a second family when Lexie, 4 and Cameron, 19 months, came into her home.
“I couldn’t work anymore and we had to move into a bigger home.”
After two years, they were on the move again when the beach strip house they were renting was no longer available.
Three years ago, out of desperation, the family moved into the two-bedroom home owned by Foster’s 77-year-old mother.
At about the same time, Cameron began exhibiting signs of aggressive behaviour and learning difficulties. By the time he was six, her grandson, now 7, had been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). Her granddaughter was also given a diagnosis of ADHD.
Initially, Foster believed Cameron was acting out because he was scared and confused; she knew he suffered from severe abandonment issues, so much so that the little boy would run after her car if she left the house to run an errand.
Medication helps with Cameron’s ADHD and ODD, but there is no cure-all for the brain damage caused by FASD, said Foster.
“It’s complete chaos. You’re sitting waiting for the hurricane to hit and you don’t know when it’s going to strike and the devastation can be horrible,” said Foster.
Life with Cameron is physically and mentally draining. He’s verbally abusive, defiant, and hurls expletives. He has gouged her mom’s hardwood floors, taken a knife to a chair, set fires, driven nails into the tires of Foster’s car. And he runs away.
“He has no control over his language. Other parents don’t want their kids exposed to that so they stop their kids from playing with him.”
Foster completely understands parents wanting to protect their children, even the parents of Lexie’s friends who won’t allow their daughters to visit.
She has lost count of the times she has jumped in the car and searched the neighbourhood for him when he bolts.
“I’ve put locks on all our doors so you need a key to exit as well as enter the house so he can’t just take off. I have child safety locks on my car doors. I have to open his (car) door, grab him by the wrist, escort him into the house and then deadbolt all the doors. He constantly needs supervision.”
There is nothing about the living arrangements that could be described as ideal. She and Cameron share the basement while Lexie and her great grandmother sleep upstairs. In the interest of privacy, Foster dresses in the bathroom.
When he doesn’t want to be seen, or see anyone, Cameron’s go-to safe spot is under Foster’s bed. The lives of everyone in the house are in a continuous state of turmoil.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.