This week’s “My Story Monday” is my first interview with a foster parent who has firsthand experience in foster care. As a warning, this true story describes graphic abuse. Names have been changed to protect their identities.
My Story Monday: Former Foster Child
I was born in Colorado to my mom, Katie. She had met my dad in New York and said he was abusive, so she ran from him while pregnant with me. When I was one year old, she gave me to my aunt so she could go trucking. My aunt became my kinship guardian until I was three when my mom came back looking for me. I remember being so scared and very sad. I loved my aunt and cousins.
I was mandated to be with my mom, and when I would cry, I would get locked in my room. My mom wouldn’t give me water, so I would use my shoe as a cup to drink out of the toilet when I couldn’t stand the thirst. If she heard the sink water come on, I would get beat. At this time, I have a vague memory of looking up at a gentleman in an elevator and wondering who he was. That man was later confirmed to be my father who was trying to get custody of me to give me to his sister in Puerto Rico. Luckily, he stopped his search when he needed blood work to prove his paternity. This was the saddest time for me because I was ripped from my aunt (whom I considered to be my true mom) and given to someone who was abusing and not feeding me. I still hurt thinking back this.
Katie and my aunt through a two year custody battle, and Katie eventually won. The judge sided with her since she had recently married, was pregnant again, and seemed to be working on getting her life together. As soon as my mom won custody, the beatings got worse. I was my room more frequently than before and starved to the point where I snuck out of my room at night to eat dog food and raw potatoes. My new stepdad began to sexually abuse me. I remember being scared one night in bed, going to my parents’ room for comforting, and my stepfather rolling over to put his hands down my pants, touching me. When I went to them for comfort, I was sexual abused in return.
They would tie our doors shut with rope so we couldn’t get out at night. They would give us cereal, then pour powdered milk and water on it while they ate eggs and bacon. The taste was so nauseating that I would pour salt on it to make it taste batter. If I asked for more food, I would get tied to a chair and punched in the gut. My stepdad would molest me, and if my brother came out, he would get sent to the corner. If either of us moved while in the corner, we got beat with a belt.
When I was six or seven, I shared with my cousin all sorts of abuse that was happening. I was taken give back to mom’s sister who was very abusive. At some point I was given to my grandma. I loved living with her, but she let me run the streets of LA, which was far from safe for a child my age. I ended up in a group home, and it was the first safe place in several years. I finally felt loved. I think I lived there for 2 years. This was also when I remember my relationship with God starting. I was talking to him, knowing he was there for me, and telling him my sadness and how scared I was. Despite my circumstances, I experienced so much comfort and peace from God.
My social worker wanted me to go to a foster home, but I didn’t want to leave the group home. I remember having dreams that I tied myself to the bed at the group home so they couldn’t take me. Eventually, I was made to go to a new foster home. I remember my worker telling me I had to leave the group home so they chose my new home. This foster mom beat me and would treat us different from her children. It was a two story house. We would have to stay downstairs during weekend. Her kids could go up when they were hungry, but we got yelled at and told to put our noses in the corner. She also grounded me when I peed the bed, and I wish she would have realized I couldn’t help it. Everyone else got to play in the snow while I stayed inside grounded.
During this time I was in counseling and began seeing my mom for visits. She eventually got weekend visits and then got me back full-time. However, my stepdad was not allowed contact with me while she was on probation for 2 years. We moved to Texas, and my mom’s boyfriend would beat the crap out of her. There was still so mental abuse towards me and my brother, and we were constantly hungry. She moved us back and forth between Texas and Arkansas. She had a knack for packing us up and leaving all our stuff behind, leaving in the middle of the night. When I was around 13 (she got me back around the time I was 11), she asked me if she could go back to my stepdad because she didn’t want to be abused anymore by her boyfriend. I felt guilty and said yes.
By the time I was twelve or thirteen, Katie was back with my stepdad, and we moved back with him to California. Things were okay as okay could be. We were still neglected, but it wasn’t as bad as when I was younger. We didn’t get hit, but my brother was always locked up. I believe it was because they knew if they did it to me I would tell someone. He was barley ever fed or allowed water. When I could, I would sneak him things.
My mom got pregnant. And she had the baby super early. Around this time my brother ran away, and my stepfather started showing me porn while touching me. He also started showing me videos he took of me in the shower. He would give me treats and money to touch me. It took me a long time to realize this is what predators do to their victims. I felt that if I told the truth, then I was in the wrong because I accepted money and treats for my abuse.
My parents, at the time, would lay around while I cleaned house, cooked, and took care of my brothers. I felt like the wife and mom. After all, I was taking care of my stepfather’s needs and doing all the things a mom would do. My baby brother called me mom first before Katie.
My stepdad told me he would never take my virginity because I could only give that to one special person. Come to find out, he was raping my brother and that was the reason he ran away. I thought I was taking all the sexual abuse. I would have never dreamed he was being hurt too. I ran away at 15 and told the cops what was going on. Tragically, they still left my brothers in the situation.
After reporting to the police, I was put in a foster home 2 hours away. She was great, but I couldn’t handle being away from my brothers and boyfriend, so they brought me back near my family. They put me in the president of the foster association’s home. She was very abusive in the sense of making me eat goats meat, not buying me underwear, pads, etc. She falsely claimed that I was sneaking out with my boyfriend and leaving without asking. I ended up being fostered by my another mom after that because that foster home wanted me gone.
I finally was given an amazing social worker who helped me find my forever home. I ended up pregnant, but still graduated high school while raising my baby girl. I would have never had my forever family if they had not taken me in and chosen to keep me after I became pregnant. When social workers told them I was pregnant, they answered with, “when do you want us to come get her?” They chose to love me through all things. This was the first time I truly realized how much they loved me. Even in failures they chose to keep me when everyone else just wanted to hurt me. I won’t lie; it’s been so hard. I feel that I have had many years of healing. It took 14 years of abuse to get me where I am, but it’s taken even more time to heal.
I decided to become a foster parent because my lifelong goal was to be a good mom, the kind of mother I didn’t have. As I went through the system, I realized how messed up it was. I just wanted to be the home that was open and loving. Sharing Christ’s love makes what I have been through worth it because I have an idea of what these children have been through. I have been there as a social worker calls home after home after home. And no one wanted me. I have struggled being enough and feeling wanted. I want to make sure that I can do that for other children. Being a foster parent has been the hardest and most rewarding journey of my life. When my foster baby went home, I missed him so much, but I know I planted seeds in his life that will help him grow into the man he will become one day. These kids deserve someone to fight for all their needs and be their voice. It’s all I could have asked for growing up.
If you would like your story featured on Still Orphans, please send an email to email@example.com! The woman behind this story would like to preserve her anonymity, but she is very open to questions or advice. If you would like to be put in contact with her, you can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Story edited slightly for readability]