To me, the child welfare system is like the monster in the dark in my kids’ room. I have done everything I’ve had to do to get that monster out.
When I became a mother, I wanted to end my family’s cycle of losing children to the foster care system.
My grandmother lost my father.
My mother and father lost me.
My sister lost her children.
My brother lost his child.
ACS came into my life because I was hitting my kids. I knew nothing about being a parent.
I was sent to a therapist who was terrible. She used to look at the clock and eat snacks. I hid my anger and kept my real problems to myself. I didn’t ask for better quality help. I just wanted the system to leave me alone.
My children came home in 6 months. But I hadn’t gotten over the hurt I had experienced in foster care.
When my children came home, it was hard for me to care of them. Eventually, I felt like I had no choice but to place them back in foster care.
This time, I knew I needed real help, or I’d lose my children forever.
Here’s what didn’t help:
- Because of turnover, we transferred through 2 agencies;
- I had 8 different workers on my case;
- And 4 or 5 supervisors;
- Sadly, in total, my kids were placed in 6 different homes.
I was also given almost no information about the services that could’ve helped my family heal. I was told, “Go here. Do this.”
But I have found people who have become my support system, my village.
On the very first day that I saw a therapist at Safe Horizon, she neither blamed me nor labeled me. She was trained in trauma-focused therapy, and she helped me understand why my emotions were so strong. She explained that, because I grew up in such violence and without support, exploding was a natural reaction for me.
Over time, I began to feel comfortable breaking down and crying like a baby with her.
After we worked together to find out the root of my anger, my therapist told me that we needed to try to find ways to calm my storm. Although my rage was understandable, it would not help me get my children home. She said that the system wasn’t against me personally. Their biggest concern was safety. I had to show them that my children could be safe with me.
My therapist suggested experimenting with different techniques:
I tried throwing ice cubes in the tub or breaking a plate if I got angry. That didn’t help.
I tried to eat candy in court so that when I heard negative comments, my mouth would be full and I would not say things that would negatively affect my kids coming home. That didn’t help.
What eventually did help was attending peer support groups, doing yoga, listening to peaceful music, writing in journals and venting to my therapist.
I also attended therapy with my oldest daughter and began to better understand how my anger had impacted her. I learned that she was scared of me and didn’t want to come home.
I felt horrible, but the therapist told me over and over that I couldn’t be expected to know how to create stability when it was something I had never been taught. I could learn from my mistakes and grow, however.
Over time, I began to see myself as neither a victim nor a perpetrator but as a survivor who wasn’t doomed to repeat her past.
I’d like to say that my story has a happy ending. Almost two years ago, two of my children came home from foster care. That was among the happiest days of my life.
But even though my oldest daughter told me she loved me and forgave me, she also told me she was too scared to come home and that she wanted to be adopted. That is a sadness that I live with every day.
My children are also filled with pain and anger. It’s hard for them to get through the day without their big sister. And they’re afraid to get comfortable at home. They’re still afraid that they’ll be taken away again.
Part of the reason I’m writing for Rise is that I hope my daughter will read my story someday.
Another reason I’m telling my story publicly is that I know that if I had gotten the right support sooner, things could have worked out better for my family.
I wish my village had started when I was 9 years old and had just entered foster care. I should’ve gotten quality trauma therapy back then.
I’m a person who’s always been looking for help. I read Rise throughout my case. I was in therapy even before my kids were removed. But dealing with unsupportive caseworkers, I felt desperate and ashamed to even ask for help.
I know my own actions and choices led my children to enter foster care. I hit my kids. But my life choices also show my devotion to keeping my family bond whole and strong.
Sometimes I’m still scared of ACS, especially when my children are going through hard times. But I’m trying to no longer let the monster in the closet frighten my family. I want my children to know that we don’t need to live in fear. For the first time in generations, we are living as a family.