Today, I have 5 daughters. All of them joined our family from the Foster Care System at different ages. People ask me which ones are “yours”.
I politely respond, “ they are all mine”. They prod further usually and say, “which ones did you give birth to?” I respond, “At this point I don’t really remember.”
2 of my daughters have been through hell. And although they are safe today, they will never forget the place they left, or the things they left behind. They are siblings. One child was removed from her family of origin directly from her classroom at school. All she had on her was the clothes on her back, lice in her hair, a backpack with a folder and a note from a teacher that said she desperately needs glasses, 3rd notice to parents.
Her younger sister was removed directly from her home. She clutched to her caregivers screaming, fighting and running from law enforcement out of fear, guilt, and shame. She had nothing but the clothes on her back and a pair of too small shoes with holes. She also brought lice with her, the worst seen by most. She was covered in dirt.
Neither child had a trash bag of things. The first night, they had to borrow panties from my daughters because Target was closed and we had no idea their sizes or what time they would arrive so I was scared to leave the house after we committed to take them.
After being removed from their family of origin at lunchtime, 12 hours later they were split from their other siblings both older and younger. These 2 girls ages 6 and 4 landed at on my front door.
They were met at midnight by my 3 other children who already live here. Met with open arms, toys, food and hugs. They had their own room with warm beds that were too scary for both, so they slept on the floor.
One slept on the floor for 2 months before we convinced her to try to stay in her bed. We sawed off the legs so the bed is close to the floor and eventually she crawled in.
It’s been a year.
They still don’t have their old stuff. Law enforcement no contact orders plus a lack of cooperation or understanding of the girl's perspective left us with the battle of grief and loss that seems never ending.
They have new stuff and new lives and new friends and tons of ownership over their belongings and their daily lives. Lots of new memories.
Their future is still in question and they're still healing from the visit to hell they were born into. Their past trauma comes like rain; in drizzles and torrents, and sometimes hurricanes, unimaginable to anyone else unless you endure it with them. The loss of everything they held dear is something I cannot fix.
But I can fix today. I can shower them with love and protection and arm them with skills they can use today and forever. I can fight with them and for them until they see their value as people and one day hopefully believe that value wholeheartedly. I can advocate for them and their peers navigating the same waters of uncertainty without any tools to stop them from drowning altogether.
I appreciate My Bag My Story. I appreciate the value My Bag My Story places on a child who has lost everything, and then surrounded by adults who look at their “everything” and see “nothing" worth saving.
We got 2 of their things back that case management fought for. One child got a ragged Disney princess blanket with a hole cut in it and the other got a stuffed lion that was originally a present from Law enforcement who responded to a 911 call at her house that she made at age 5, and was right to do so.
Those 2 things mean a lot to my daughters.
On one hand, it means I kept my promise to try to get their stuff. Because I value them, and what is important to them, is important to me. Even if to everyone else, it seems like nothing.
Foster care is a war zone for these kids. And even with all the endless resources and education available to me to help them, most days I just feel like we are all failing them, and all I can say is “I’m sorry I’m not equipped to make everything right again. I promise to never stop trying.”