5.03.2012

May Foster Care Challenge: Day 3.


Wow, it's only May 3, and I feel so great about this month!! All of the support on this and other foster care blogs/websites has made me feel so humble and thankful.  Again, thank you guys.  Before I answer today's challenge I wanted to show you all this amazing article about a new program that helps foster teens graduate college.  It's really amazing to actually see people step up and help the group of youth that get neglected right in our own home towns.  One of my favorite bits of the article states: 

"In an interview earlier this week, Dunn said it would have been easier to hold more meetings, ponder some more or simply do nothing. Sometimes, though, you just have to act.    ."Everyone talks about the system being broken, but the problem is not with the system. ... We are the system. ... It's really up to us," he said." 
A bit more info on our scary statistics:


• 1 in 5 or more will become homeless after age 18.

• Fewer than 3 in 5 will graduate high school by age 19.

• 7 of 10 women will be pregnant by their 21st birthday.

• Just half will be employed at 24.

• Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by 25.

• 1 in 4 will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care.


I was homeless for awhile after turning 18.  Luckily I got a year or so of college under my belt and and am, at last, going back at age 24.  I know I am fortunate, trust me, I dwell on it every day.  There are many who aren't so lucky.  It's a tough world out there. Which brings me to Day 3's Challenge:

Your Worst Foster Parents.

You may be wondering "Why dwell on things like that?" Well, I'm not 'dwelling.'  This challenge was written as a means to uncover my own past and experiences with foster care.  And most of it was a train wreck, nightmare, et cetera.  This is the kind of stuff I willingly tell other people about, because I want to share the deplorable state of condition supposed "caretakers" will leave their foster children and teens in.  You may think, after reading this, "that's not the case most of the time" ....well, in Tennessee, it is.  I've been through the system for years.  I saw every side of the state and the "best" as well as the "worst" homes.  

Again, it's not pretty.  It does nothing for a teenager's self esteem to be told she's going somewhere "safe" and then get dumped off somewhere straight out of Deliverance.  I thought long and hard about how I would write this post, and decided that instead of get into gritty who and what details I'd just list some of the things that happened in my foster homes.  This might help explain to people who simply can't understand my mistrust of foster parents, why I avoid them like the plague.

Among other things, I lived through: 

-Sleeping on urine-stained beds that hadn't been washed or dried
-Cleaning up younger children's feces from the other beds (children who were never potty trained)
-A deep infestation of head lice that lasted over a year and left my scalp full of open sores for years after
-Being pulled from a seat by the hair of my head and punched in the face by a foster parent
-Having my personal belongings (music CD's, sketchbooks) stolen and thrown away by foster parents
-Being forced to wear lingerie and subjected to sexual "massages" from a foster parent
-Eating moldy, maggot, or cockroach infested food for lack of anything else to eat
-Having my clothing stolen by foster sisters (clothing I bought with waitressing money)
-A letter to the judge from a foster parent which stated they were afraid I would murder them 
-Being forced to call foster parents "mom" and "dad" even when I expressly declined the will to do so
-Being forced to participate in church activities and pray publicly again when I declined the will to do so
-Living in a former drug house, where ex-inhabitants would sometimes break in to have sex with other girls
-Being called fat, as well as having my mental health criticized condescendingly by multiple foster parents 


I could go on, but I won't.  These are the important things, anyway.  The ones that have stuck with me and cause me to mentally tune out anyone and everyone after they say the words "foster parent."  There's a shortage of foster parents in Tennessee, but this is not acceptable.  I know at least two--possibly more--of my previous foster homes were shut down and the parents had their licenses revoked due to unsanitary conditions and foster child abuse.  Not only did I have to deal with this multiple times, but each set of parents decreed that 1) this was my home now, and would be, because they would never get rid of me, and 2) they would look into adopting me.


A Word on Adoption (Okay, A Rant)

To all adoptive parents: that's great.  I hope you bring joy to whatever life you touch.  That's fine.  There are a lot of children and even a lot of teenagers who want to be adopted.  But you need to understand that adoption is not a magical cure that will give a child a second opportunity at life.  Children in foster care (usually) remember their own parents.  They already have an idea of what family is.  You can't take that away from them or erase it.  You are not going to solve their already deep mental issues.  You can be supportive without pushing for adoption, if the child or teen doesn't want it.  At 15, I only had three years until I was out of the "system" forever.

With one fucked-up family breathing down my neck already, I had no intention of getting another that I would never talk to or want to look to for support.  I had no desire to be anyone's salvation or hobby life-improvement.  Despite this, women still begged and sometimes forced me to call them Mom.  Several sets of parents looked into adoption.  Luckily, I think after a certain age the foster child has to consent as well.  I never trusted anyone enough to consider them adoptive parents.  And what would be the point anyway? I already learned that parents is a code word for misery and disaster.  To think anything otherwise is fool's logic, and I was a lot of things as a teenager, but never a fool.  

My point with this rant is that if you want to adopt and kids really want to be adopted, go for it, reach the sky, whatever.  If the kid is having trouble accepting two families, if they are confused as far as their own family, or if they're like me and tell you to go take your family and shove it up your goddamn ass, consider that you don't need to strip a child of their rights, last name, and identity just to care for them.  Had anyone actually done that and stuck with me through the ups and downs instead of just sending me to the next place, I might not be such a bitch about adoption.

Whew! Boy it felt good to write that.  Best thing I've written so far. I've been meaning to say that for years. Well, now it's time to go pack for my blogging retreat!!! I'd love to hear your thoughts/experiences in foster homes, or your thoughts/experiences on adoption (just don't try to win me over! You'll FAIL.  But I love knowing that there are decent parental figures in the world, so don't be shy.)

7 comments :

  1. I've thought quite a lot of becoming a foster parent. The more I read your blogs in this series, the more I want to.

    So many foster "parents" are not in it for the children, but for the monthly stipend checks they get for "caring" for kids. In my mind, if a child or teen is in foster care, there life has been fucked up enough. I'd like to not be a factor in fucking it up more.

    I had a friend in high school who was in foster care. When she became pregnant her senior year, everyone automatically assumed it was because she was promiscuous and doing the nasty with lots of boys. In reality, the father of her child, was her foster "father". Her social worker didn't believe her and when she turned 18 she, she "aged out of the system" and was put on the streets with a newborn child.

    Since then, she has secured a small apartment, is almost done with college, and works as a receptionist at a doctor's office. Her daughter? A happy and healthy kindergartener with no knowledge of any type of home but a loving one.

    My friends situation is the one I want to prevent from happening. Yes, there's a happy ending to the story, but it shouldn't have ever been that way for her. Those foster "parents" are still fostering kids. It makes me sick.

    I commend you for sharing your stories and for also wanting to become a foster parent. I know you'll be an amazing one. :)

    Thank you for sharing your stories.

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    1. Jesus. I am so sorry for your friend. I'm relieved that things have worked out in her favor but as you said, it shouldn't have had to be that way. Sentient beings should never have to suffer at the hands of caretakers. The idea of it is really revolting.

      I would say I'm shocked that nobody believed her, but I'm not. So much goes unsaid and unpunished in foster care that nothing really shocks me. It's literally impossible to faze someone after all of that.

      Maybe one day we can meet up at those fancy foster parents retreats ;) they have them all over the country and they do seminars and that kind of crap. I've always wanted to be a speaker at places like that (a very errr, abrasive speaker, lol) but either way, I think you'd make an awesome foster parent just by recognizing most people do it for the money. It's like this unspoken guilt check they never discuss with you at all (despite the fact that it's there FOR the child's care.)

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    2. Everything you just said made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :) Thank you.

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  2. Husband and I were almost done with the certification process 2 years ago to foster-adopt when I found out I was pregnant. We've been debating over whether to revisit that since our daughter is not an infant anymore.

    Your writing is giving me some things to think about...especially since I always wanted to foster older kids and teens. I don't have the POV of a former foster kid. I don't share those experiences. Especially with an older kid or teen, I need to be able to meet them where they are. While that's not always something a kid can articulate, it's something I feel like I'm getting from your posts.

    You're not only helping prospective and current foster parents with your writing, you're giving a voice to the kids that don't have one or don't have a way to say it.

    Thanks.

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  3. I think it's so great that you're letting all of your feelings out and being completely transparent. It's very refreshing. First, I just want to tell you that I'm so sorry that you went through all that you went through. No child, teen human should be subjected to such abuse. I can compltely understand and respect why you feel like you feel.
    I do want to touch on the misconception that foster parents do this for the money. I'm sure that there are some parents that do that. They would have to foster about 5 kids or more to possibly make a decent living off of it. As a foster parent we normally foster up to 2 kids in our home plus our 14yr old son. DES has cut so many services that really the income we receive from the 2 kids gets spent every month. I think it would be so dificult to do this for the money. The kids that come into our home have been through hell and back and come with so many issues that to do it solely for the money no one would do it. It just wouldn't be worth it. At least that's how I feel. There's gotta be a deeper wanting to do this. A wanting to fight for this kids and to be able to set your fears and be able to love this kids when all you want to do is scream. trust me I've been there.
    Great post Patricia! I'm just so honored to be able to follow it. :)

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  4. I'm sure it'll be hard for you to do this whole series, but it seems like it'll help you! It's great to get things like that rant off your chest, and it's helpful for other people to read about it and possibly help in some way.

    Vince and I have talked many many times about being foster parents or adopt children when we're older. We both know how hard it would be for everyone all around, but I want to be the opposite kind of parent of what you've mostly encountered.

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  5. I get so angry when I read this stuff. Sick, sick people. I can't even wrap my brain around the fact that this is happening in so, so many places. I know this might irritate you because you have the views you have based on your own experiences, but I have loved, loved watching my adoptive kids grow in confidence and watching them begin to heal. I hope your writing helps you to heal in some way.

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