Uncovering the Truth

May 15, 2018

It’s hard. It can be hard…you go to multiple places and never knew what was going to happen next, who was going to get you, if they were going to be nice or a great family,”

— Freshman Jenna Alexander

Imagine living with seven different foster parents scattered all across Indiana from the time you can remember. For Jenna Alexander, this is reality.  Alexander explained that most of the families were kind and civil towards her, but, “…the only ones that weren’t nice were ones that were really strict. They would make you do a roll call and get you up at five a.m. and would have a whistle,” said Alexander.

While some homes were not ideal, she does have fond memories of all the homes she has been to. Regarding the people who prepared her for a real family, she said, “Foster care gives kids a home. I’ve never had an experience [where families] do it for the money.” She was then adopted into the Alexander family after they had fostered her for over three years, thus gaining three siblings, a loving home, and long life lessons that she wants other foster kids to know. “It’s a new family, it’s a new start; you can go to different countries, you can go to different states…and once you are an Alexander, you are never going back.”

Junior Brian Houchin had an average experience with the foster care system. With his biological mother prone to mood swings and a disinterested father, Houchin’s initial experiences with the foster care system left little to be desired. Houchin said, “He [my father] is caring to some degree, but never really takes interest in what I am doing.”  He noted how, in the system, he always had good food and got most of what he wanted. Houchin said, “I didn’t get everything, but most of what I did want as a child, I got.” Finally, his adoptive parents seemed to be detached from him. He said that they did get a bit nicer towards the end of the adoption process though. This just shows how average his experience was in the foster care system, seeing as he was not majorly inclined towards positive feelings or negative feelings about it.  

Not every child that goes through foster care has had a good experience. A female student at Martinsville High School offers her story about foster care. She explained that kids go through a lot of trouble when being placed into foster care and siblings are often separated and are left unsure when or if their birth parents will come back. According to her, most of the birth parents are in bad shape when giving away their children and are even worse when they return. “My aunt fostered a baby since she was three months old,” she said, “and she was 18 months old when the police took her back to the birth mom, then the birth mom suffocated her and killed her.”

The authorities explain that parents should be given second chances, yet this mother had all seven of her children taken away and given back, only to be killed in the same fashion. She also said that a lot of kids are picked on in foster care.

“There are kids in the foster system that get bullied, picked on, and even thrown. They get into fights with the other foster kids; it all depends on where you go and who you are with,” she said. She stated that once kids do go to a foster home, that doesn’t mean they are in safe hands. She said many foster parents are in it for the money that is given to them, and some kids are left to fend for themselves.

There was an incident where our anonymous speaker saw two children laying near each other surrounded by trash, cigarette butts, and empty alcoholic beverage containers. However, she does have advice for those who are in foster care: “Don’t let people pick on you. Stand up for yourself, don’t let people tell you how to live your life because that just sucks real bad. If you don’t like your home, say something, speak up, don’t keep it down to where you are stuck in some place where it could be a living hell.”

According to the Indiana Department for Child Services, only five percent of foster children are less than a year old, which, according to our anonymous student, is the age in which a child is most likely to get adopted. In addition, a reflection of this statistic resides in another, “for children in foster care on September 30, 2004, the average foster care stay was 30 months.” Also, more than two million children in the United States live with distant relatives because their parents are inadequate, known as relative foster care. “Each week, nearly 60,000 children in the United States are reported as abused or neglected, with nearly 900,000 confirmed abuse victims in 2004. About 520,000 of those children end up in foster care each year — double the number 25 years ago” (ABC News).

The baby who was left on the church’s doorstep is grown up now. He is officially old enough to age out of the system. He steps out of house that he has most recently been assigned to, breathing in the fresh evening air, not quite the same as he might have been had he not been left on the doorstep. He has been through a lot, both emotionally and physically. He leaves the less than ideal home with the intention of bettering society in any way he can. More specifically, he strives to better the system that he just got out of, because he knows its problems and has ideas for the solutions. Though he marks the beginning of the foster care movement, this child is not much different from ones here at Martinsville High School. He has likely been through many trials, some worse than anything that could be experienced today, some better. When it was no longer convenient for him to be somewhere, he was pawned off to the next available home. The cycle repeated and continues to repeat to this day.

Find the rest of the series on BreakingBlue.org

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