Archive for December, 2009

Legacy of child abuse or legacy of foster care?

No matter what I do, I seem to keep failing.   Most people would label me a loser, trash, perhaps worse.  I’m uneducated, unemployed (recently fired again), poor, transient and been homeless, mentally ill, and a general waste of fresh air.

Is this the legacy of abuse and neglect or the legacy of foster care?  Let’s see, I believe it is both.

1.  UNEDUCATED:  I don’t remember being read to once during the 7 years of life with my bioparents.  I don’t believe their was a book other than car magazines or porno in my bioparents apartment.  In fact, no one cared if I went to school or not.  Today they call this “educational neglect.”

So foster care should have improved this—right?  But, how well do you think a kid learns when they are moved all the time?  How well do you think kids can focus when they are afraid they are going to be moved again?  12 placements and at least 8 schools that I can recall….how well do you think kids learn in new classes, new schools, new kids, new everything; when they move so much?    I have some type of learning disorder where I have a hard time reading and understanding.  Sort of like a comprehension problem but my brain can’t take in what I am seeing on the paper.  I was in special ed classes at SOME schools, but not all.  Why?  Because sometimes my records were “lost” or not transferred.   At times, if the teachers knew “I was the foster kid,” they did not care if I did my homework or not, especially in highschool.  I remember seeing another kid reading the book “The Call of the Wild.”  The cover looked cool and I asked the kid about the book.  I wanted to read that book for my report.  The teacher told me it was too hard and suggested I read  “How to Eat Fried Worms” — instead of encouraging me to try with assistance, the teacher gave me a book 3 grades below to keep me out of her hair.  I never did read “The Call of the Wild.”

The final educational failure came when I turned 18, and the foster care system kicked me out… What’s the problem you ask?  Well, I had stayed back two grades and at age 18, I was still a sophmore in highschool.  When foster care kicked me out with nothing, I had to work to survive….finishing highschool was not an option.  So, I never graduated….BIG EDUCATIONAL FAILURE.   But guess what?  I am not alone — only ~54% of foster kids who age-out get a HS dipolma and only 2% get a college degree.    Pathetic CPS.  (http://www.fostercarealumni.org/resources/foster_care_facts_and_statistics.htm)         I eventually went back and got my GED at night.  I did that, without the support of anyone.

2.  UNEMPLOYED:  I got fired again.  This time because I have been so depressed, I was missing work and forgetting.  I know that’s irresponsible, but sitting around wanting to kill myself is not really conducive to making sandwiches at my ex-deli job.  I remember my biofather working and I think he worked on cars.  As you might have read previously, my ex-therapist believed my biomother was a prostitute, so that would mean she worked as well.  In foster care, some of my foster homes had two parents that worked and some had only one that worked.  I never really knew what most of them did.  So, there were some models for keeping a job and working.  But, I have no skills, no trade, and little education… and I get tired working 60-80 hours a week to “survive.”  I want a career, not just a job.   I want to be a social worker and work with foster kids, but I probably couldn’t make it through college, let alone afford it.  Failure of education matches perfectly with unemployment.

3.  POOR, TRANSIENT, AND HOMELESS:   Oh brother.  This started when I was born and continues until today.  My biofamily was poor.  Any money they made was used for alcohol and drugs.  I barely saw a penny of it, even to buy food when I was starving.  We lived in the ghetto in a city notorious for poverty.. a place most people would be afraid to go into. There was no beauty at all, no grass, nothing but housing projects.  We were so poor, there was barely anything in the refrigerator, barely any towels or soap, barely any shoes, no toys, no books, nothing—-wait, but there was money for booze and drugs.  Interesting how that happens, isnt it?

Foster care removed me from the projects, but it introduce me to the world of being a transient.  When things went bad in a foster home, I was moved.  When foster parents moved, I was moved.  When foster parents had enough, I was moved.  When foster parents had new babies, I was moved….just like a transient — “a term to decribe the wandering poor.”    And then when I was kicked out of foster care, I continued to be a transient moving constantly —partly out of fear, partly because I had no where to go, and partly because I had no idea what to do in life.  I was/am lost — a transient.

I spent my time homeless, living in tourist towns working during the day, partying at night and sleeping under the stars.  When it got cold, I slept in my beat-up old car for some warmth.  I slept in some shelters which believe it or not are pretty dangerous places and they have crazy rules.  Like one shelter kicked everyone out at 7:00 AM and it was first come first serve at 7:00 PM to get back in.  I hated them and would rather take my chances sleeping in nature.  Lots of foster kids that age-out wind up homeless.  Statistics vary, but it ranges anywhere from 25% within the first two years to 60% within 10 years of getting out.   CPS—When you kick kids out with no-place to go, what do you expect them to do?

4.  MENTALLY ILL:  This is a difficult issue and an issue I have MAJOR problems reagrding foster care.  Let’s be clear—abuse and neglect lead to all kinds of mental illness in children and adults, such as PTSD, Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc, etc.  And after 7 years of severe mistreatment, my bioparents set me up for the issues I battle today.  They deserve the blame for that.

But foster care did not help.  In some cases, it added to the problems when I was placed in homes that were abusive or hurtful, just continuing the trauma.  If the foster care system was supposed to raise me, it definitely did NOT provide the  mental health treatment I needed to heal.  I left foster care with a severe eating disorder, severe self-harming behaviors, PTSD, and Dissociative Disorders.  These were issues in care and were ignored.  For example, when I was 15, I hurt myself so badly that I needed stitches in three different cuts.  My foster parent’s pleaded for mental health treatment; I never got it.  I don’t know why.  Part of it was access to care issues I believe —  simply not enough providers who take Medicaid.  Part of it was that I believe the foster care system had given up on me.

When I did have therapy, do you know what type of therapy I had in foster care?  “LT — if you don’t stop acting out, you will be moved.  Why are you acting out?  Don’t you see you are causing your foster parents to want to move you?”   — I don’t think that is therapy.

It is estimated that as many as 80% of kids in foster care have emotional and behavioral problems..of course they do; they have been treated like crap.   Studies have shown that kids in foster care have TWICE the rate of PTSD than veterans of the first Gulf War.   If there is going to be a system to HELP these children, there needs to be a system that can address their needs; and yes, that means the mental health needs of children.  A study by the Department of Health and Human Services (2005) evaluating care of foster children stated that: there was a sheer lack of mental health services for children, mental health assessments were not conducted adequately or timely, and that there is a lack of consistency in providing preventative services for children. (HHS. 2005. “General Findings from the Federal Child and Family Services Review.”)

How do you think children are going to heal, without adequate treatment?  They won’t—and it leads to lack of education, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, prison, addiction, etc, in kids who age-out.

 

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December 1, 2009 at 1:32 am 14 comments


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