Imagine if you were 8 years old....
I was a foster child in the late 80's. At that time, in my county there was not a CASA program. I was placed in foster care due to sexual abuse by my setpfather and his friends. My mother quickly divorce him and began the long process of getting us back.
I had told my 3rd grade teacher that I was being molested and begged her not to tell becuase I would get in trouble. Then we received a letter in the mail asking all of us to come to the courthouse because there had been allegations of sexual abuse. It was an incredibly difficult task to tell the detectives and social workers, whom I had never seen in my life, all the icky details of what had happened to me. Even though they assured me that I would not be in trouble, I still felt that I would. By this time, my stepfahter has already called me a "liar" and told me I would to go a foster home and only get bread and water if I continued my "lying". I was very confused but I told the detectives the truth.
I remember how hard it was to leave my mom especially when they told me I could not go home with her. I knew they had lied and I was indeed in trouble! I felt so horrible because my baby sisters couldn't go home with mom either and it was all my fault. Just like my stepfather had told me!
The first home I was placed in was outside of the county I lived in becuase there were no available foster homes. I felt so far away from everything I had ever known. My foster parents were older and said that we could call them Grandma and Grandpa. I called them by their first names because I already had a grandma and grandpa whom I loved!
My foster parents were nice. But it was a completely different environment that I was not used to navigating or understood all the new rules. I felt like living there was our punishment for me telling what was happening. I remember my foster mom tellng me how it was my stepfather's fault and also my mother's. I got upset...my mother hadn't done anything to me and I missed her so bad. I tried to be so good so I could go back home and made sure my sisters were good too.
Could you imagine if one day you were dropped off at a house you've never been to with people you've never seen and everything is foreign, nothing familiar to comfort you? Now imagine you are 8 years old. I regretted ever telling about the abuse. At least if I hadn't told we could be with our mom!
I started a new school where I made one new friend I called "Gigglebox". They wee teaching different things than what my other school was teaching. I felt very out of place. But this foster family took us to church and I loved church! I knew all the answers in Sunday school and I felt like I had friends there. Then one day, the welfare lady came and loaded us up and took us away. I had no idea we would be leaving or where we were going.
We went to another foster home that was closer to my Mom. As the welfare lady was introducing us to our new family I had a burning question..."Will I be able to go to church?" My new foster parents assured me that I could go to church and the church was right down the road. With that I was okay with staying there. But I was never allowed to go to church, which was where I felt safe and soon after arriving there things begin to go very wrong!
Our new foster parents had two biological children. The boy was a year older than me and the girl was two years older. The son took karate lessons and one night my foster dad started yelling at him for something. He kept saying "Do you think your a tough guy?" and I watched in fear as he began to beat up this kid. He was punching him and throwing him around the house.
The most horrific thing was when my litter sister, who was 5 years old, accidently stepped on a their little Chihuahua and it yelped. My foster dad grabbed her and took her in the bathroom. I could hear her head being slammed against the toilet. She was screaming and I was going to go in there and stop him but his kids held me back and told me no.
My other sister began to pee the bed and in the morning before school he would make her wear her dirty underwear on her head and walk to school that way. He told his daughter to take them right off before we got to the school. He never beat me. I had a therapist that came to the house once a week for counsling and I wanted to tell him so badly what was happening but my foster parents were right there and could hear us.
Our foster parents were EMT's and had access to medical supplies. After the foster dad would hit his kids or my sisters he would apply ice packs and there would barely be a bruise the next day. I was so scared and felt so guilty because if I had not told what was happening to me, my sisters wouldn't be getting hurt right now! When the welfare lady would pick us up for our visitations with my mom I would pay close attention to the route she took and ask how long would it take to walk home? I was planning to get my sisters and make a run for it!
After some time, we began to have overnight visits with my mom. One weekend w were there and Mom reache dout for my sister's arem and she flinched. Mom asked "whats the matter?"
My sister replied, "My arm hurts". My mom looked at her arm and saw a bruise. As she began to inspect her body she saw many bruises and found the same on my sister. She asked me what had happened and I told her if I told our foster parents would be very mad! Mom called the welfare ladies and they came and took pictures of my sisters bruises and asked us what happened. I wouldn't tell them until they promised me we would never have to go back there. That was the day we were reunited permanently with our mom.
I feel like my story is another reason why CASA volunteers are NEEDED in the child welfare system! If I had had a CASA, things would have been totally different for me and my little sisters. A CASA volunteer speaks fo rthe child. Their sole interest is on that of the child's welfare and they spend time with them. As a foster child, I didn't feel like I had a voice. Where I was going and who I was with was decided by the welfare ladies and my foster parents.
That is why when I had the opportunity, I became a CASA volunteer. It can be heart wrenching work but it is also the most fulfilling when you know that your CASA child is safe and happy. Every child in the child welfare system deserves to know that there is a t least one person who is on their side and will speak up for them.
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