The reality of a child in foster care, some of my story.
“Well at least you’re pretty Tina, I don’t worry so much about you.” said my social worker. She looks at me in her rear view mirror and I look back at her then out the window wondering what that means. Had she said that to me seven years later, at eighteen, I may have had more understanding of the importance society places on physical beauty.
I look at her delicate hands on the steering wheel and wonder if my hands will be so fragile looking when I grow up. I am eleven years old riding in the car toward what would be my last foster home until I age out of the system at eighteen.
My younger brother and sister are in the car. This new placement is I think the fourth or fifth home for me, the third for my sister and I don’t know about my brother as we were separated for a time when he was an infant. The home we are moving from was not a good situation. It was a very sad and somewhat dangerous situation where through a succession of heart attacks the father died and the mother more or less kept herself sedated on pills. There were people in and out of the house, strangers and my mother and step-father who were friends with this couple who had become foster parents just to care for my brother, sister, and I. They were good-hearted people to take responsibility for all three of us but the loss of her husband was too much for the woman, understandably.
There were many events that took place in that house to instigate the desire for placement in a different foster home. I saw my mother get taken down in the front yard of that house wrestled to the ground by policemen for fighting with the foster mother and her daughter. I may never know what the fight was about. I saw my step-father's car parked in front of that house as I walked home from school and decided to go spend the day in the park until he left. He had inflicted almost five years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse on me. Why he was allowed in that house, I don't know.
This same house was robbed one evening when I had intended to be home alone but at the last minute decided to join my foster mother, brother, and sister on errands.
Even at that young age, I had the awareness had I stayed there, my life could have been dramatically changed or ended. I found out many years later that a girl who my foster mother used to babysit that my brother and I played with was murdered by someone the girl's mother hung out with. I have very few photos of my childhood but I do have some photos of that little girl. I’ve cried heavily over her violent death and why some of us continue living and others don’t. The son of the people who lived across the street hanged himself. A lot of tragedy in that neighborhood. The house was at the end of a dead-end street that led into a public park. I witnessed the typical activities of public parks, picnics, ballgames, playground fun but also saw people shooting up drugs which I wasn’t aware what was happening until I got a little older and figured it out.
I have no doubt the woman of that house loved us but it was not a good place to be long term. I had to plead with the social worker and to the court to move us and keep us together if possible.
I look back and realize at this young age I had already cultivated a connection with my intuition. I’ve often said as an adult I feel I was a much smarter ten year old as I listened to my gut and reacted. There was no overthinking, just instinctual behavior used for survival.
We were at this house for approximately two years? I attended fifth and sixth grade while living there. Two moves prior to this I left the house in the back of a cop car with the clothes I was wearing, that’s it. I was nearing ten years old. For the move to this house, I don’t recall what we were able to bring as we left an emergency foster home to live in this one. And now on the move to my last foster home, one suitcase is packed with whatever I could fit. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures with us from this house. I went back many years later as an adult and acquired a small number of photos I have from my childhood but that is another story.
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The point of this post is to provide some insight into a small portion of my life in foster care. There is quite a difference from the real-life experience compared to my children’s book “Rose Marie Lynn and her fallen feline friend” as it’s a very generic and child-friendly version of some of the feelings I had as a child in foster care.
Much of my early life remains a mystery buried in stacks of court documents archived in Contra Costa County, CA. I don’t have any relatives to go to for history so have relied upon memory and a couple of pieces of court document copies with social worker notes for what I know.
I’ve spent much of my life in a variety of jobs sometimes two and three at a time without much thought to actively healing my childhood or even investigating it. I have wanted to help foster children but knew I had to get myself to a place of healing before I could help others.
Creating my children’s book is a step in the healing process as I receive feedback on how the story touches people from all walks of life. It’s a step in the right direction of viewing my childhood difficulties as challenges to overcome and help others through their experiences.
Thank you for spending the time to read this post. Through the sharing of our stories may we raise awareness for those who are still in the suffering.
"A life lived with purpose is the most rewarding life to live."