Category Archives: My Story
Sometimes my brothers call me “Brad”. The first time I heard it I really didn’t realize what they meant by it. At first I thought it was like calling me a common name just for fun like “Bob” or “Joe”. When they told me it was for brother/dad it made me chuckle at how crazy kinship care is. Around 2.7 million kids are being taking care of by kin other than their parents in the United States. Some would think that this family situation would run pretty smoothly, but as many kinship carers already know that’s not always the case. Though a great alternative to the typical foster care living arrangements, being a kinship carer has its many strains. I thought about being a kinship carer to my brothers when I moved out of my foster home at the age of 17. Now that I actually am a kinship carer to my brothers, I am glad that route didn’t happen because I needed some time to grow up.
I don’t think there are very few instances a family is ready to just take on another family members child, no matter how the relationship between the kin or length of stay. From being a brother to a grandparent, being a kinship parent to a child that you’re not really the parent of can be life changing, more than I imagine one would think. Sometimes there’s financial help sometimes there’s not, it just depends on the situation. For those fortunate enough to receive aid it’s often times not enough to cover everything a child really needs to live a normal life. Those of you that are parents already know kids can be expensive. Having two teenagers ages 14 and 16 has doubled my food bill alone. Then you add up clothing, increased utilities, school and sports related bills, and that’s still not covering hygiene and extra stuff. In most kinship family situations there is no state involvement which leaves many families strained in the financial realm. Even if you can claim the children on taxes, a couple extra thousand doesn’t help enough throughout the whole year. It’s sad to think that families or individuals step up to take on others responsibilities, making sacrifices, often without enough financial help and guidance for them or the child.
Aside from the financial aspect, some kinship families (such as my own) also run into situations which can make it confusing on what your role is in the family. For example the situation with my brothers calling me BRAD. It’s sometimes confusing for them to decipher when it’s time for our brother relationship and when they more have to listen to me like more like a father. One minute we can be joking like brothers, the next I could be correcting them or telling them something that they need to do. This can be confusing and hard for me as an older brother as well. I want to be their brother and their friend, but I also know that I must have the respect from them to where they know they have to do what I say. I feel like if we had parents, I could be more of a brother because they would have parents watching over them. With our situation, I’m the one watching over them and I’m only responsible for getting them ready for the world but give them the tools to be successful. I’m their brother, but I have to be the kinship parent.
A majority of the kin taking on parental responsibilities are grandparents also known as “grandfamlies”. One of my twitter followers who does kinship care for her grandson shared with me what things are like in her kinship situation. She says “We were once Grandma Mom & Papa. Now are Mommy and Dad. His Mom still wants me to be her mommy. She is 32. It’s very difficult family wise. Other adult children and grand children have hard time with acceptance of this situation and want nothing to do with their sister. I am not even allowed to talk about her to them. They are very jealous of the little guy. I can’t be the super Grandma I once was. I don’t have time to mourn the loss off what I wanted for my daughter when I am so busy raising her son. I miss her. But it messes up the little guy if we spend time together. He wants her. I want her to have active role in his life, but not until it can be healthy for him. He doesn’t understand that. We have let go of what we thought we wanted in life in order to embrace the life we have.”
Even though it’s with family and it’s better than the alternative, being kinship carer is a tough journey.
I was a little bit lucky in the fact that when I went into foster care I was old enough to understand what was going on and able eventually realize the realities of foster care. I could see how hard it was for both the kids AND the parents that were involved in foster care. Neither knew what to expect and I could see that sometimes neither knew where the other was coming from. Fortunately I had some good people looking out for me and guiding me through foster care, eventually moving out on my own and aging out of the system. I wanted to give back in some way and since I’m young and just getting started I decided that a website giving insight to the kids and parents of foster care and also just informing the general public about the realities of foster care was a great way for me to give back. I didn’t plan on being a foster parent but then again I didn’t plan on being a foster kid either.
When I left foster care I was leaving behind 2 brothers at the group home we were living at. I didn’t think I would ever want to be a foster parent but I thought could raise my brothers. I wanted to take them with me when I left but after a lot of thinking I decided being 18 and just getting started in a world almost by myself was not going to be the best situation for them to grow up in. After about a year, a family came along and they were eventually adopted. Their new parents seemed like good Christian people that were able to give my brothers not only a quality life but raise them to be successful productive adults. They also made it known that I was welcome anytime and that I could always be apart of my brothers lives. Over the next 6 years I stayed in minor contact with my brothers. It was always an awkward situation, I felt at times like my brothers adopted parents were near perfect and I had so much to work on. After some years I came to a realization that it was always gong to be awkward but I needed to be there for my brothers especially as they become teenagers and into adults. Over the past year I had really pushed to be in their lives on a constant basis. They were having some troubles at home and I pushed them to listen to their parents and stay focused. I figured they were going through the rebellious teen years and I could help guide them since it wasn’t too long ago was there myself.
A couple of weeks ago my girlfriend and I were in the pool with the kids and some friends. We live out in the country with not a lot of traffic and were surprised to see a sheriff pull up and even more surprised when he said he was looking for me. If you’ve never been asked for by name from a random officer let me tell you that you don’t have to have done anything wrong for it to make you nervous. The officer said that he was there about my brothers and that someone down at the station would like me to call them ASAP. He couldn’t tell me why and my first thought was that one of them had either gotten into some major trouble or hurt themselves badly. The lady on the phone said my brothers hadn’t gotten into trouble and that they are ok, but there had been reports of abuse in the home. She said she would like me to come down to the station immediately because they were placing my brothers into foster care under state custody . She asked me if wanted to take them or if I wanted them to go to an emergency foster care placement. I answered with “I’m on my way to get them”.
On the way to the sheriff’s office my mind was racing. I knew their parents were strict but didn’t see them being abusive. I wasn’t in their home a whole lot but my brothers had never said anything. I could tell that they didn’t like some aspects of living with their adoptive parents, but I thought it was just normal teenage kids rebelling against strict parents. I don’t know if I really thought it was a misunderstanding or if I really just didn’t want to believe that abuse could happen to them again. I didn’t have much time to take it what was going on before we arrived at the police station. When we walked in their adopted dad was sitting in the waiting area and was obviously very upset. He was quite angry with what was going on and made that very clear by his comments. I talked to the receptionist who brought out an officer who took me to the room my brothers were in. After talking with both of my brothers for just a few minutes and seeing the evidence I knew that they were telling the truth. The juvenile office and DFS obviously did too because they were placing the boys into my care for what they made clear was not something short term and they were already discussing switching schools. My girlfriend and I went through a couple preliminary criminal checks and paperwork, the DFS worker followed us back to our house to do a midnight walk through of our home and the boys were in our care. They didn’t have anything but the clothes on their backs and what they went to school with that day. They were just happy relieved that they were with us. I don’t think it set in for anybody what was actually happening until sometime later. I had become a foster parent overnight.
For the longest time I didn’t know if I wanted to have kids. I met an amazing woman that had 2 awesome kids that were younger and I’ve decided being a dad is one of the best things ever. Now at 25, I have 2 young kids and 2 teenagers. My brothers and I have always had a different relationship where I was more than a brother though. One of my brothers sometimes jokingly calls me “Brad” (brother/dad). I now have to guide them through some of the same things we went through so many years ago. Leaving abuse isn’t the end of things and we will have some time worth of therapy and navigating the foster care system. As always the case goal is reunification and I’ve already been reminded of how many flaws are in the system. Now I am seeing foster care first hand from the other side of the table. I’m sure I will be gaining much more insight into the foster care system going from former foster kid to a foster parent. Let the journey begin…
The other day I got off work and headed down to my car, ready to start my weekend. We work at a company that is above a shopping area. It was warm so there were a good amount of people out clothes shopping and running around. As we were walking through the parking lot I heard a screeching noise that caught my attention; so I looked in that direction. It was coming from a truck that was passing by. That’s when I saw a couple of people I haven’t seen several in years… My bio parents.
Here’s a quick background of the story so you know where I’m coming from. They technically aren’t my biological parents. My biological father is an alcoholic. My mom left him when I was young and married a man that eventually adopted me. They had my brothers. Not too long after the adoption and my 2nd brother’s birth, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away when I was 11. A year later my adopted dad remarried. My step mom started the abuse by convincing my dad and others that we were troubled children. Abuse continued for my brothers and I for 3 years before we were taken into foster care. A year after entering care my dad signed his rights away as part of a plea deal that also included that he spend 90 days in jail and would allow my step mom to get off scott free. That’s what some of us would call “taking one for the team”.
My parents never really admitted that they did anything wrong. They pushed a lot of the abuse accusations on me, saying that I exaggerated things or that I misunderstood the punishments and how things were. It was insulting. As many people that have been abused or know someone who was abused there are lasting effects. I have some anxiety issues and PTSD. My brothers are teenagers so I’m starting to see the issues they are going to have. As you can imagine this makes you pretty upset with the people that are responsible for your trauma. Even though I don’t feel sorry for myself, when I get in one of those awkward foster kid situations (family events, holidays, needing life guidance) it makes me angrier with them.
When I seen them coming down the street I was shocked. I literally said out loud “Oh my God it’s them” and just stared. For some reason I wanted to make sure they seen me and they did. I really didn’t know what to do. I was in shock for a minute not really having any feelings our thoughts. Then I got a rush of adrenaline. I knew this would happen one day. They don’t live too far away and a lot of people come to this town from nearby towns to go to the mall. I had played the scenario over in my mind thousands of times. Sometimes it involved them apologizing and them being different. I knew that wasn’t happening so most often it involved a physical altercation. I kind of wanted a physical altercation to be truthful. I kept thinking about how I wasn’t a kid anymore and how everyday for the rest of our lives we will be reminded some by what our parents did to us.
I stood there just staring. I could tell They were in shock too and they stared back at me. I watched them as they drove around the parking lot and circled back around. They were looking at me and obviously circled to get a closer look. They pulled up not to far away and I could see them staring. My dad was smiling. It was that same smile that he used to give me as he looked down on me which my blood boil. I wanted to do something to really get their attention. Part of me was hoping they would come close. As they drove by about 20 feet from me I just stood there. Something in me just couldn’t move. It wasn’t worth the trouble that I would have been in. No amount of revenge I got that day would have been equal to what they put us through. I don’t think I would have really felt better in the long run.
I have a feeling that moment will be one that I play over many times. I question that if I did the right thing for myself. Would confronting them really make me feel better? Did I miss out on an opportunity to do any healing? I’ve thought about it a long time. I think the best thing to do is do the best for you. That is how you get your revenge, you turn it into motivation. As children of abuse we have been controlled and dominated by others. We were made to be afraid and think that we needed them. I was always told that I couldn’t make it without them. It’s been hard, but I’ve made it with out them.