Founder | Board of Directors
Ellen Young ~ Founder
Foster children hold a special place in my heart. For a child placed in foster care any number of disturbing or traumatic events may have already taken place in his or her life. Let's take a moment to name a few of these: abuse, sexual or physical, the parent(s) addiction to drugs or children born with HIV/AIDS whose parent(s) have died from the disease. The statistics say that over 510,000 children end up in foster care every year. The statistics don't matter to a child, but what does matter is the question that haunts them all the time, the question for which there is no answer.
"Why don't my mom and dad love me?"
This is where I introduce another reality, my reality. How many children are not being reached by the "system"? I was one of those lost children. When I was growing up (I am 30 now so 15-16 years ago), my father was physically abusive to my sister, my mom and myself for many years. I lived in fear of my father's hand and cried each time I felt the blow. After many sleepless nights, hiding bruises from my friends and lying to my teachers at school what ending up hurting the most was having a parent that rejected me and that could not even love his own child.
I still sit back a little in my seat and think "wow, this is really your story..."
Here is a snapshot of what my life looked like from the outside. I grew up with three sisters in the suburbs of St. Louis, and parents from large families that shared birthday parties and holidays. Our house sat on a golf course, we each had our own room, bed and closet, a basketball hoop on the driveway and golf lessons every Tuesday. My father opened an environmental company that proved to be stressful, and due to unfortunate circumstances forced him into a 12 year court battle against two state governments. Needless to say he and my mom worked all the time.
In all fairness my father was fighting for what was his. But, with stress levels sky rocketing and three girls living in the house the image started cracking. Patience grew short. Kids wanted attention and he couldn't handle it.
I can't even remember how the fights started but I remember that after a point he just wouldn't see my tears anymore. I would hear him marching up the stairs to my room, which was the first room from the top of the staircase - that's when I knew I'd better get ready.
"What the *&@# do you think... You better learn your lesson!" And the punches fly, my back against the wall. I beg him to stop. He says to me "I'm doing this because I love you!" A swift kick and I am down the stairs, the yelling, hitting and kicking continues in my parents' bedroom as I curl up, lifeless on the floor, visualizing my escape. As it turns out... I am forced to sleep on the floor at the foot of their bed so they can hear if I try to run away.
The next morning when I join my sisters in getting ready for school, it is bittersweet. Their eyes fill with tears because they heard everything but were powerless to stop it. Instead of swapping clothes and giggling my older sister and I try to cover a black eye and fight back the tears as we silently walk out of the house.
Being 14 and an amateur at makeup, the black eyes would show up and so did the police. Two times social services came to meet our family. The first time my sisters and I were instructed to lie, so we did and so did our parents. (Not sure how believable it was considering the shiner on my eye.) After another night of strangling and punching the police came, then social services came a few nights later. We were instructed to lie again, but this time I didn't. The social worker physically examined my face swelling and bruises on my neck, and wrote down some things. I remember the look on her face was complete disappointment. In what, I wondered. Me? My father? She sees this right? I don't have to stay anymore - we have proof and they are lying! I fully expected to be taken somewhere safe.
She left me at home that night.
I remember being so nervous, I hadn't lied, I hadn't done what he told me to do, the social worker was gone and I was still there! I was terrified, who was going to make sure he didn't beat the shit out of me? I was certain it was coming. I talked myself into being tough enough to handle whatever he gave me.
There were times when I thought it was better for me to just die. I felt dead ,worthless, embarrassed. Suicide was more than just a thought. I looked down the hall and knew my sisters would hurt more if I died than if I just took the beatings. So I put the knife down.
I ran away a couple of times when I was 16, and at 17 I moved to California. I went home a year later with the thought that things would be different but I was proven wrong. So I saved my money and moved to Arizona and promised myself I would never move back, I had to watch out for myself, and so I was gone.
I still wonder to this day, how badly off do you have to be for the system to actually do something concrete to help? Was I not deemed to be suffering enough? Wouldn't it have been beneficial for our family to have social services actually do something? Keep me and my sisters safe, provide family counseling? If that happened my story could have been different, maybe my sisters and I could have a Dad and my mother could have a husband. Instead, I have a therapist and my mom has a lawyer. After 34 years of marriage they are finally divorcing.
As for my mother, she is an amazing and strong woman. There was a time when I was angry with her for staying with my father. I felt like she chose her marriage over her children, maybe she did. I don't ask. We don't live in the present to change the past, I move on. What I do know in an acute and personal way is the overwhelming flood of pain and confusion that comes with living with an abuser. She does too - our history binds us. We have a close relationship and share our lives together; she has given me life in more than one way. If it weren't for my loving sisters and her tender heart I would have never put the knife down.
Moving away and starting my life elsewhere proved to be healthy for me, allowing myself to get out of a toxic environment, creating exciting new opportunities. I thought the pain was going to go away for good. The physical pain did, but my heart is still broken. Didn't he want me in his life, enough to change his behavior, get counseling, be a caring father to me? To this day the answer is no. It is the ultimate rejection.
I still ask myself, why doesn't my father love me and why doesn't he care that he hurt me so badly? Even at 30 years of age I still don't understand. The reasoning my parents gave for the years of abuse is "He (my father) was raised that way." Oh great! That's so ridiculous, and grim. If I don't break this cycle. What kind of parent will I be?
Currently my father wants no part of my life, my sisters or my mom's life. When the brusies heal the feeling of abandonment crushes my heart. To have a parent that doesn't want to know who I am as his daughter is tough to swallow. My mind goes to the foster children in our community. I often times wonder how they reason with the fact their parents couldn't make the right decision to keep them in their lives.
Children will endure the abuse, neglect and poor choices made by the adults around them. Most of those 510,000 children in foster care and those who aren't reached will still make it to adulthood. They've got a 50/50 shot of being a part of the cycle or breaking it.
I'm breaking it! As an adult I have a voice, I will be heard over the lies, the yelling and crying. Help me help those who's voices aren't being heard. My mission is to heal hearts, can you help?