A Long Road

by Walked T Road
(Charlotte, NC, USA)

After being placed in foster care due to my mother fleeing from my abusive father (alcoholic, physically abusive, threatening her/our lives) I was abused. Not in one "safe" home but in multiple ones. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse seemed to be the norm rather than the aberration.

I caused many kinds of problems with "acting out" and "bad behaviour" on my part. Lashing out at anything to ease the pain and shame I felt. Caseworkers who were overworked and with little time to listen to my (then as a child) pleas for help seem to be normal and the expected way for things to be done. If they listened at all or cared to look for any sort of abuse to begin with. A system, which was supposed to protect children, did the exact opposite.

I was made to understand that my presence in these homes was a monetary concern only...and that I was little more than a burden and a toy for these people's amusements. Other children in these homes, other foster care children and their own children, were treated differently. These people's own children were "different," "special" and not the same as "these foster care problems." We were treated as little more than slaves. Worse, we were seen as playthings for the other children and their parents to freely abuse and use as the brunt for their own bad behaviour.

You can imagine the result of this. Or can you?

My life has been affected in ways that have driven me to many sorts of destructive behaviour and a sense of self-loathing I hope no one else ever has to experience. Only through facing these memories, working through them (with a lot of help) and reliving them many times have I finally come to realize that I was not responsible for what these people did. You may look at this and say: "How could you not know this? Why would you ever think you were?"

That is a question I wish I could answer. The best way I can is to ask you: "Why wouldn't you?"

Any system which is in place to protect children which offers them up to people who are worse than those whom they are supposedly being protected from is flawed. When that system gives people too much power and not enough accountability it is a disaster waiting to happen. It has happened and continues to happen. Add in that they are overburdened with cases to manage and are often self-righteous and you have a complete recipe for destruction. Especially when you add the element of not vetting well enough those whom children are placed with into the mix.

Parents who abuse their children (even if they seemingly are and aren't actually doing so) are stigmatized and reviled by society. This is what gives social services, DSS, CPS, whatever you want to call them, their inordinate amount of power. They are tasked with protecting children and many of those involved in protecting children see their work as a crusade. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, but when it blinds them to reality it is. When it blinds them to what happens to children in their care it is not only dangerous but disastrous. I can assure you of that one personally. We need to focus on what is best for the children involved and the facts. Not our knee-jerk reactions to abuse of children.

As a case in point, I can tell you that when my mother returned to recover us, my brothers and myself, it was very difficult for her to do so. My father had less difficulty, nearly none, (and in fact did have custody of us on more than one occasion) and continued to abuse us. She was seen as "the bad guy" because she left us for fear that my father would kill her. He not only verbally threatened to, but did so with a gun to her head and terrorized her in front of us. She was beaten repeatedly in front of us on many occasions as well. She didn't get the benefit of being believed or any weight to her reports of this happening because she "abandoned" us. The system was broken. The system is broken. Just as broken as those who abuse any child.

What are we going to do? We can talk about it till the cows come home, but nothing changes until we take action.

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