Changing the Theme Song for Kids in Foster Care

There are millions of cells in your brain dedicated right now to storing the lyrics to theme songs you thought you forgot a long time ago.   Theme songs serve different purposes depending on how they are written. Some are simply a musical background beneath the opening credits. Some have melodies or  lyrics that create a sentimental connection to a show (think Cheers, The Andy Griffith Show or MASH). And still others are dedicated to telling the entire backstory of a particular series.  These might be my favorite. In a minute or two, they summarize everything important about the plot of a TV series. Take Gilligan’s Island for example:

Just sit right back

And you’ll hear a tale

A tale of a fateful trip,

That started from this tropic port,

Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailin’ lad,

The Skipper brave and sure,

Five passengers set sail that day,

For a three hour tour,

A three hour tour . . .

Sing along everybody!

And of course, there was the Beverly Hillbillies:

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed

A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,

Then one day he was shooting at some food,

And up through the ground came a bubbling crude . . .

There were several like this:  The Brady Bunch, the Jeffersons, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  All of them set the backdrop for the characters and the plot of every show.  And as we all know, once you get one of these theme songs stuck in your head, it’s hard to get it out.

Trent Taylor was 4-years-old when he entered the foster care system.  He was first placed with his grandparents for a few months before beginning a series of moves with his two brothers.  He recalls taking some clothes and few toys in a trash bag from place to place. He describes each of those transitions as the “scariest thing in my entire life . . .every time.”  

“Every move, I learned to just trust nobody because I wasn’t going to be around long enough to trust anybody.  I was just so scared of everything. I just learned to be afraid.”

This fear caused Trent to do his best at every placement to make sure he didn’t get too close to anyone.  Between the ages of four and eight, Trent was in five different placements in five different schools. He kept his distance because he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be hurt again.  That was until he arrived at the Taylors at 8-years-old. He describes this particular placement as different and as a place where he experienced “genuine love.”

“They acknowledged my pain…They came under me.  They weren’t my drill sergeant, they were my parents.”

Trent says the Taylors would coach him and cry with him, explaining why he was feeling certain things. A year later, at nine-years-old, Trent was adopted by this family.  Like most kids who have experienced the things Trent experienced, trust took time. When asked what his family did to eventually earn his trust, his answer was immediate:

“Every day they would tell me that no matter what you tell us, we will never think of you less, we will never love you any less, we will never judge you.  Nothing you can tell us will change our minds about adopting you . . . It was the constant reminder that I am loved, I am safe, and they will do anything to make sure that I am not going anywhere else.”

When Trent’s family told him this everyday, they were helping Trent to change his theme song.  He was no longer living a life dictated by fear but instead governed by unconditional love and acceptance that he found in his relationship with his family and in his relationship with God.  Keep in mind, changing your theme song is not the same as changing your story. Our story is always our story, but changing the theme song can allow us to change how we see the story.

At the time of this writing, Trent is 17-years-old and is wise WAY beyond his years.  He and his adoptive mom wrote the book, Shattered No More, about his experience when he was 14.  Trent has dedicated his life to sharing his own experiences so that he can help other kids who are living the realities he has been through.  His message to young people is clear:

“Just because you’ve been through foster care, just because you’ve been through domestic violence or sexual abuse or neglect, it doesn’t define who you are and it does not make you damaged or a victim.  But if you can move beyond, it makes you a person who can help others.”

Trent was handed a theme song filled with fear and pain.  A foster family came along when he was eight, walked with him and helped him change that theme to one of unconditional love and acceptance.  Now at 17, Trent is all about helping to change the theme song of others.

NOTE:  An extended version of  Trent’s story is featured in episode 10 of the Foster Movement Podcast. It’s available for download from itunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Overcast and at fostermovementpodcast.org.

This article first appeared in CAFO’s regular Foster Movement column of the Fostering Families Today magazine (July/August 2018 issue).  To see a preview of the magazine and learn more about how you or your organization can subscribe to this great resource, click here.