“My family adopted eight kids through the foster adoption system. We wound up with a family of three, a family of four, and one with no siblings. Along the way, we had about 200 children come and go through the house. There were all sorts of horrors.
The first two kids we got in were identical twins (we have adopted three different pairs of twins if you can believe it.) They were 14 months old when they came to us and had never spent any real amount of time with each other. One had lived with one branch of his biological family in a Motel 6. His diaper was rarely changed. The method the family had of changing his diaper was waiting until it was so full and heavy that it simply fell off, then putting him in the corner and hosing him off. There were signs of abuse when he came to us. His brother was apparently permanently strapped into a car seat and lived there for most of his life before he came to us. He was absolutely terrified of going near a car seat for ages, as you could imagine. They were malnourished. I was 15 when my parents brought them home, and I made them mashed potatoes and hot dogs when my mom called and said they were headed our way. They had no idea what to do with it. They stored the mash in their cheeks like chipmunks storing nuts. For months, they would vomit every time they went anywhere in a car.
We had one girl who was around 17 whose dad was a professor and heavy drinker. He assaulted her and broke her jaw with a punch. We had a small boy whose relative had tried to stab him. We had a family of four sisters for a long while who turned out to have been abused very severely by other family members. They had to go to another home as we had other children and it was no longer safe for those kids. We had a baby for three years who had Reactive Disattachmen Disorder (RAD) and was unable to form emotional bonds with other humans.
All of the children we adopted permanently were born addicted to various illegal substances. Two of the younger ones (twins) also had cerebral palsy and were never supposed to be able to walk or talk. Through years of occupational therapy, they are both ballerinas now, and (arguably) talk too much now. It’s been an adventure. I could tell so many more stories about all the children who have been to our home at some point.”
The Boy With Two Casts
“I wasn’t in foster care but my parents fostered a lot of other kids while I was growing up. The one that sticks with me is when I was about 4 or 5. A little boy came to stay with us, he was about 2-years-old and I remember asking my mom: ‘Mom why does that little boy have casts on both his legs? I thought you could only break one at a time.’ She just kind of sobbed and said, ‘Because some parents aren’t very nice to their little boys.’
Our town was pretty small and my parents really didn’t have the resources to care for him properly. Generally, the foster kids would stay with us anywhere from a day to a few months (a couple years in some cases) before moving on to another family that was either more permanent or was more equipped to work with any special needs.
In this case, the state already had relatives of the boy who were coming to take him home with them but they lived far away, so he needed somewhere quiet and comfortable to stay while they made arrangements and my parents were able to provide that for a short time.
I didn’t really understand what my mom meant about the boy’s parents until years later when I remembered it for some reason or another. I asked her about it and apparently, one of his parents broke both of his legs and threw him into the wall.
I still think about him and wonder how his life turned out.”
Showing Her The Ropes
“I was a teenager when my family hosted foster kids. It was many years ago, so back then foster care was mostly kids whose parents were abusive. We had many good foster kids who were happy to stay at our house but one little girl, I will never forget.
She was 7-years-old and when she arrived, she didn’t know how to do anything by herself. The first night my mom asked me to show her how to take a shower. 15-year-old me got the kids permission to come in the bathroom and tell her what to do. Now, legally my mom was not supposed to tell me too much about this girl’s history so I didn’t know what I was getting into.
I go into the bathroom and get the water to a safe temperature for her and while I’m doing this, she starts taking off her clothes. She gets her head caught in her shirt so I go to help her and that’s when I see something that will haunt me forever.
This 7-year-old little girl had big black, purple and yellow bruises up and down her back literally from head to toe. Teenage me was barely able to hide my shock and sadness. I pulled myself together and helped her into the shower and showed her how to use the soap etc. Then, while she was rising, I excused myself and stepped into the hallway and closed the door. That’s when I broke down in tears, not only for this little girl but for the realization that we live in a world where someone could hurt a child like this.
My mom was waiting outside the bathroom because she knew what I would see. It was then that she told me that this girl and her siblings were taken away because the dad would hold them by the hair over the stairwell and beat them with a belt. The little girl tried her hardest to be a normal kid but the damage was done. At school and at home she would flip out and get violent hurting both herself and others. After about four months, my mom had to get children’s aid to take her somewhere else because she was too damaged to live with my family. It was the first time my mom ever had to give up.”
Nightmare Social Worker
“My friend Catherine’s daughter and son are foster kids. The whole story was awful and really made me question social services in Finland. I know people don’t really believe this can happen, but let’s remember that social workers are only people and sometimes they are just bad people.
So Catherine had a violent ex. We are talking about a person who broke her hand and abused her regularly. She has a daughter who she loves more than anything. Catherine starts planning to leave and asks for help. While she tries to get out, she gets pregnant and has her son. Once she left she her social workers tell her to cut contact with her violent ex or they will take the children. Catherine’s ex keeps harassing her, so the social workers take her children. Should they have protected her? Taken her to a safe home, not punish her for what her ex did? I think so. Catherine needed help, not punishment.
So they tell her that if she accomplishes certain tasks that the system can give her the kids back. Catherine gets her own apartment, goes to therapy, finishes her nursing education, and gets a job. All this time, they are telling her, do this, and also this. She jumps through the hoops.
During this time Catherine’s children are around three and four and staying with wonderful foster parents, who they call mama and papa. So they encourage her to be in touch, invite her to family events, call her even when the kids are not around, give her as much time with her kids as possible. Her kids adore them. So in kindergarten, they find out the daughter has development problems. Mama and Papa are fine with this, but the social workers want to move them to a house with more experience in this situation. Even Mama and Papa are fighting this because it’s too big of a change for the kids. But the social worker has made up her mind.
So the kids move to a family with more experience. They already have two kids and one foster child. Immediately they tell them they are now mom and dad. The kids are confused, of course. They take away things that are given to them by their real mom. The foster mom tells Catherine her kids won’t be visiting as much as before because they’ll need their holiday days. They forget to invite her to parent-teacher meetings, birthdays, her daughter’s doctor’s appointment, etc. So Catherine hires a lawyer. For the first time, she reads what the social workers wrote about her and it’s all utter garbage. The report said, ‘Mom is unstable and needs therapy, mom isn’t able to study, mom can’t keep a job.’ It’s all contrary to what Catherine did to prove she was ready to get her kids back. It’s just lies after lies. The social worker has no right to make assumptions and Catherine has never been rude or yelled at anyone. The lawyer says this is a piece of cake to litigate as so many laws have been broken.
So the foster mom hears about the lawyer and when picking up the daughter and son starts yelling in Catherine’s front lawn, in front of her neighbors and kids, screams at her that she will not take HER babies away. She is a foster mom and the point is to return my friend’s kids to her! They are not her ‘babies.’ Catherine informs the social workers about this, but they don’t really care. Then she finds out that her violent ex also gets to meet their children. The one who started this whole fiasco. She is now worried about her children’s safety.
Then finally a miracle happens. Her social worker moves away! Woohoo, the maniac is gone! She gets a new one, who has been amazing. This social worker is really interested in doing her job and reuniting their family. Catherine gets more home and overnight visits and notices her daughter is acting strangely. They have a talk and she finds out after they come back from visiting her, their host family takes away their toys as a punishment and forces them to immediately take off their clothes because Catherine is so dirty. She is not! She’s one of the cleanest people I know, even when going through all this. Cleaning soothes her. Her son tells her, he misses ‘mama and papa’ (their first foster parents), so my friend arranges a day with them. All of them are happy about this. In the new foster family, they are not allowed to talk about ‘mama and papa.’ They have also told the kids they are not allowed to cry. Catherine tells them they are always allowed to show their emotions. She found out mama and papa have been sending them gifts that the host family gave to their own kids.
Finally, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. She is getting her kids back. The foster family won’t allow her children to talk on the phone with her as a punishment. They are using what little time they have to really be difficult. For example, planning family vacations at the same time as their visitations, so my friend would look like the mean one. Luckily she has her lawyer, who is crazy expensive but great. The lawyer got their dad only supervised visits, which is a real relief. Catherine is worried how scarred her children will be after all this, but at least she is finally getting them back. They are five and six now.”
Messed Up By Foster Care
“In junior high, I dated a girl who was in the foster system. There were four foster boys in her house. She was 14 and in the 7th grade and I was 12. We went on a date for Valentine’s Day to the mall and movies. She kept putting my hand up her skirt and shirt. I had been assaulted by a babysitter for a year and a half and felt very confused and a bit victimized by it all.
She kept trying to pull my junk out and so forth. After the movie, we ate in the food court and then she convinced me to sneak into the access hallways and make out. We kissed a lot and groped but when she took her panties off and put them in my pocket and asked to bang, I told her I was not ready for that yet.
She began crying, I told her I wanted to date her because I liked her, and thought she was awesome. We hugged, we went to a mattress store (oddly enough) and sat on a mattress while she told me about how two of the boys in her foster home assaulted her on several occasions. She also recounted that in the last four foster homes, the fathers had all assaulted and abused her. Many of the boys had done the same thing. That even two of the mothers had joined in with their husbands. She even had to shower in front of men and boys in various foster homes. She was offered illegal substances by her foster dads all the time. She had been forced to be the girlfriend of the current dad’s friend who was 27 until the guy went to jail for illegal substances and robbery.
It was the saddest thing I have ever heard.
I told my dad what she told me, and he went to the foster house. She told me that after that they left her alone. No touching and nothing inappropriate. She considered my dad a hero. I do not know what all he did or said, he still will not talk about it, but when he came home, he saddled his horse and rode alone through the woods on our ranch for a few hours, not coming back until dark. My mom had to bandage his hands.
We dated for the rest of the year, then she got sent to live with her mom, not a good thing. This was in 1987, so cell phones, especially for kids, were not available so I don’t know what happened to her. She had my home phone number, but her foster parents went through all her stuff before she left, and trashed a lot.”
What Does The Caseworker Know?
“Over her 20 years as a foster parent, my mom had risen up the ranks from being a run-of-the-mill foster parent to being the first to receive and assess children straight from when the child was removed from their parents. We never took in more than one at a time, unless there were siblings fostering together. I lived on a horse farm, in a big house where the foster kid had their own room with ensuite bathroom, which was a real step up from most other foster homes. My mom had a well-paying day job and viewed being a foster parent as a public service. It was a hobby that she took very seriously. My mom was a foster parent because she felt she could make a difference. She cared so much for these kids that she would end up spending more money than she was paid on buying them school clothes and supplies, so they wouldn’t feel like anything less than equal to me and my sister. The system would go through caseworkers so often and she couldn’t bear watching ‘kids’ just out of university tell her what to do without having any on the job experience.
There was one incident that shook her and really made her question the system. So, a teenage girl was placed into her care and it came out, after a few weeks, that she was a cutter. My mom confronted the girl and told her that she needed to speak to a professional about her cutting. The girl did not want to do this and only agreed once my mom offered to go with her to her appointments. My mom saw this as progress and brought the cutting and the subsequent agreement to the attention of her caseworker. DCFS was very worried about the girl, but my mom assured them that they had an open dialogue and that everything was under control.
This was not good enough for the caseworker. My mom was ordered to remove all sharp objects from the girl’s access. My mom thought this was absurd and told the caseworker as such. My mom thought that by hiding kitchen knives and other sharp objects, it would demonstrate a lack of trust and wouldn’t help at all because it would damage the relationship she had built with the girl. She said that if the girl wanted to cut, she would find a way and her agreeing to go to therapy was a big step in the right direction that should be celebrated. DCFS disagreed and without notice came to my house to remove the girl and relocate her to a secure group home out of the area (kiddy jail). When they got there, the girl got really upset. She was crying and begging them to let her stay at our house. She didn’t want to leave her school, her friends, the horses, or my family. My mom couldn’t understand why they were doing this and in turn, also got extremely upset. In front of the girl, my mom told the caseworker that he was a moron, that he didn’t know anything, despite his fancy degree. She begged for them not to punish the girl for being honest about her problem and taking steps to recover. The caseworker said my mother wasn’t educated enough to deal with such a troubled case. My mom tried to reason with them all while the girl was screaming, crying, and begging for them to let her stay. They ended up having to physically remove the girl from my house.
It was then my mom told the caseworker that he could shove this job up his butt, but only if there was room in there beside his head.
My mom was upset for months over this.”
A Withholding Foster Mom
“A close friend of mine is in the foster care system, and she’s been thrown around in it. Her personality can be a bit overbearing because she has always been forced to make her own way in the world and not give in to ridiculous demands, making a lot of people at school dislike her.
The hardest family she’s told me about (she doesn’t exactly enjoy talking about the bad parts) was a woman using all the foster money on her biological daughter. This woman pulled her off all her medication, many she desperately needed, so she could keep the extra money. She experienced intense withdrawal and would sit in class with a migraine while profusely shaking. She managed to be moved from the family, but the bio daughter goes to the same school. Every day, she is forced to see the biological daughter, and it really messes with her head. She can feel ill just by seeing her because it reminds her of all she went through with them.”
For The Wrong Reasons
“My mom was in foster care in Vietnam until my foster grandparents adopted her because they thought she was an American hybrid since she is very pale. It turns out she wasn’t. They then proceeded to adopt another kid, who is like half African-American and half Vietnamese as they needed an American child in order to immigrate from Vietnam to the United States legally and needed a sponsor, which is what I was told. This was during and right after the Vietnam War.
Before my mom was adopted by my grandparents, she said she would always be beaten for no reason, even after doing her painstaking chores for her current foster parents. She did well in school but once she got to America (with my grandparents), she couldn’t go to school due to the language barrier. I believe she was 14 when she arrived. She went straight to work to pay house bills for grandparents.
I feel bad because she did great in school over in Vietnam, but that career ended simply due to language. When my grandpa died and we inherited money from him, my mom somehow got baited into signing something that redirected all of that money to my grandma. My grandma proceeded to gamble over 80 thousand away and became bankrupt, sold the house, and I don’t even know where she is now.”
I’m The Prettiest!
“My mom has fostered a few kids. She’s really good with them, though I think she is a bit too soft on occasion. The first kid (and the worst) went several months without any food and survived by eating candies with her mom. I’m not sure, but I think she was also abused and beaten. She was maybe five-years-old.
That wasn’t what made her the worst kid, however. The worst thing was that her mom spoiled her so much. Once, my mom was taking her to a kid’s party and she stated, ‘They’re going to say that I’m the prettiest one there right?’
To which my mom responded, ‘No, they’re going to say that I’m the prettiest one’ just joking with her.
Then she started crying uncontrollably like it was the worst thing she’s ever heard.
She also made my sister cry on multiple occasions by telling her that my mom didn’t love her (my sister) and preferred her (the foster child).
Honestly, that one girl was the only one who made me want to backhand her as hard as I could.
I get that they go through rough things and deserve pity, but that doesn’t make them angels. Thankfully, after a while, my mom got used to balancing discipline with rewards and now, all of the kids she fosters are well-behaved but loved.”
“The school I worked at put on a special Christmas party just for our foster kids, privately and confidentially, at a counselor’s big house. One of my teacher friends was taking some of the kids home that evening and the foster dad was standing at the front gate waiting. He stuck his finger in the kid’s gift bag, looked in, and inquired what they had gotten. My friend told the foster dad the stuff was for the kid. She has got more guts than me and was sensing some shady energy from the guy, so she took the bag back. Before school got out for the break, she made sure the kid got the stuff that was inside the bag.
It just makes my blood boil that people will take advantage of these kids, whose lives can be so hard.
But I’m talking about this because it’s hard to articulate the rage I have for how often our kids are preyed on by traffickers.”
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