Ejetta Harvey, Homeless, Unwed, Single Mother, Abused

Posted September 25, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: Raphaels Life House, STORIES FromHomeless Former Foster Children

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Margaret Smith Touches Jamillah’s Life

Posted September 25, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: Raphaels Life House, STORIES FromHomeless Former Foster Children

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Homeless, Unwed Mother, Foster Child, Living by her Rules

Posted September 9, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: Uncategorized

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STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Jamillah Williams, a foster child who became pregnant while living in a homeless shelter. She gave birth just after her eighteen birthday to an underweight baby boy, a baby she never wanted but credits him now with keeping her on track.

Jamillah has the courage that most of us could only dream of. She endured a decade of physical and sexual abuse starting at five years old by her own father, a convicted sex offender. She speaks in a monotone voice as she describes the abuse never wavering even once when she says, “he raped me”. To her, it is a fact of life. Emotion never enters her voice and her story rolls off her tongue as if she were describing what she ate for breakfast.

“The first person I told was my mother but she didn’t believe me so I went to a social worker in school and told her like some things that were bothering me at home and she felt like as though DYFS should step in.  DYFS came to school and removed me. They went back to my house and arrested my father and removed my sister and brother”, Jamillah says. “I was just tired of living in a house with somebody I feared. I felt that I shouldn’t have to fear somebody that lives in my house.” Anger, hatred, despair, none of these emotions creep into her voice or mannerisms as she continues her story.

“I was mad because I didn’t want to be removed from my house. I just wanted my father to be removed and I wanted to be home with my mother. But they (DYFS) felt as though if I told my mother and she didn’t do nothing about it she’s just as wrong as anybody else. I was upset. I lost a lot of weight. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to be bothered,” she says. “I wanted to drop out of highschool. I was just going through a lot”.

“My mother, she’s actually doing ok. We still talk from time to time but it’s not like it’s a strong relationship”. Her mother was lost her section eight rent subsizided apartment not long after her father was arrested and moved into a homeless shelter with her sister and brother. “The judge said my mother couldn’t take us because my mother was working only one job that wasn’t paying enough. She couldn’t take care of all three of us if we was living at home.  (DYFS) asked us did we had any relatives at first. I gave them my grandmother name, I gave them my aunt name. They said every name you give us, they have to do a background check and if it comes back negative you can’t stay with them. When my grandmother got back she took my sister instead of me. Ten they contacted my aunt, they told me I couldn’t live with my aunt because she lives in a bad neighborhood. I couldn’t live with my other aunt because she had a record. I was basically stuck in the foster system.”

Jamillah moved to numerous homeless shelters and at least five foster homes before landing at Raphaels Life House in November, a home for unwed mothers affiliated with Covenant House. With the help of Raphaels Life House and Covenant House Newark, Jamillah moved into her first apartment with her son last week. A rent subsized apartmet though the section eight.

It was one of my fears to be homeless

Posted September 7, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: STORIES FromHomeless Former Foster Children

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STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Taquaan Peace, turning 20 years old. 16+ years in foster care, group homes and hospitals, never adopted.

“I came into DYFS when I was 2 years old.  My mother, she got caught with robbery trying to take care of us. I’ve been in over 60 places; in foster homes, group homes, hospitals, it’s just been hard,” Taquaan says.

Taquaan is a solemn young man. He speaks softly and hangs his head low as he recounts his life story. “I remember some foster families to be real nice people and then I remember some of them to be evil, no other words to explain. There was some instances where it was my fault, things that I did wrong but I was young and I didn’t know better but I didn’t deserve to be beat and not fed.

I was physically abused. I was a young child being beat like a grown man. I was skinny and I was being beat like I was nothing.  I told my case worker every time and they eventually took me out of the homes but there were some instances where I wanted to stay in the home so I kinda took the abuse a little bit. Some times the DYFS worker’s didn’t believe me. They thought I was making it up myself, I was lying, I was inflicting the damage upon myself.   I would have bruises, I remember my nose was broken one time and basically marks all over my body,” Peace recount.

From home to home, hospital-to-hospital, group home to group home, more than 60 in all Peace remembers, it was always the same. “You have an incident, they talk to you, put you in a van, they find some garbage bags, they pack all your stuff up throw it in a couple of garbage bags, put it in a van, they bring you to a DYFS building office, call some people like a respite home or something like that. They put you in there for the weekend or a week then you find a new family and you go live with them.”

I asked him, so how do you feel to have all your belonging put into a garbage bag?

“That was the least of my worries really. My worries were, where am I going now, who are gonna be these people, are they going to treat me like the last?

I wish I was mature and I wish I was more intelligent back then because I would have been able to change things and make thing better by myself but I just didn’t know certain things and I was just a little kid so I really was helpless and I hate that I was helpless.

There was an instance I was being abused for two years straight. Abused by the same people. I was scared, I felt like I was gonna die. I sat down with DYFS, with every worker I could possible get and told them, I was scared, I was abused, look I’m being abused, look I have marks on my arm, look my tooth is broken, look, look, look. And they did nothing for me. They never took me out of that place. They sat there and let me get abused for two years straight and I resent them for that, I really do. That’s something I will never forget. They never listened to me, they never made a change. I tried everything in my power to tell them, look I’m being beat and I fell like I’m gonna die. I’m lost. Help me, please help me. Crying to them, everything.

Then they wonder why when I move on to my next place I’m so angry, I’m so violent. I was being beat, they weren’t doing anything, I was so young.”

A long silent and uneasy pause fills the air until I ask him to tell me about his mother.

“The last time I seen my mom was when I was five. It was Halloween night (she visited him at his foster home) and she just told me that she’ll be back because I wanted to go trick or treating and she said she’ll stay there. When I came back she was gone.

That’s my dream is to find my family. I know my mother is in Clinton State Prison, my father just got on parole. They say I have 26 relatives but I don’t know where any of them are.

Never in my life, it was actually one of my fears to be homeless like this is not a good feeling at all. It feels bad I feel like I’m at my lowest point. I feel angry, I feel lost, I feel helpless again it’s just that, I don’t know, I feel really bad. It’s not a good feeling at all.

I always try to help people that are less fortunate on me so for it to happen to me, it’s like, I really see what they’re going through and I’m really glad I helped them.

DYFS plays a role on me being homeless. Most of it is my fault but they play a part. Look at the places I’ve been to, look at what DYFS did for me. I can count it on my fingers what they’ve done for me my whole life, my whole eighteen years. “

Peace has been living at the Covenant House Crisis Center for the past few weeks. His future is uncertain.

UPDATE – Premature Birth, Mentally Ill Mother – 50 Foster Homes

Posted July 11, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: covenant house, STORIES FromHomeless Former Foster Children

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STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

AN UPDATE on Jonathan Norman Huges:

A little over a week after profiling Jonathan, there is an update. Jonathan is currently in the county jail for stabbing another teenager.

According to a According to the Child Welfare League of America, 27 percent of male children who age out of the foster care system end up in jail. Jonathan has quickly become another statistic.

Read the Aging Out of Foster Care interview on PBS at:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/youth/jan-june05/foster_care_5-19.html

Meet Johnathan Norman Hughes, born at 6 1/2 months to a mentally ill mother. DHS – Children’s Protective Services in Michigan removed him from his mother after his sister reported neglect. After living in more than fifty foster homes, he ran away from his last foster home at sixteen years old. He says, not once did the police, his case worker or foster parents come looking for him. “If she (foster parent) reported me, then she wouldn’t get the money no more. She didn’t report me. She got the money and I didn’t want to be there and that’s a fair trade. She got what she wanted and I got what I wanted. She wanted free money without the responsibility and I wanted to be the heck away from this place. We both got what we wanted.”

Teenagers Need Adoption Too – 25 to 30 Foster Homes

Posted July 2, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: covenant house, STORIES From Care Givers of Former Foster Children, Uncategorized

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STORIES FROM CARE GIVERS OF HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Gwendolyn Ross – Mama Gwen – Career Development Specialist – Covenant House New Jersey – Crisis Center

The teenagers need to be adopted to.

“I have seen scars on their body. They’re just chopped, chopped.”

When Mama Gwen tells you stories about her students, you have no choice but to site and listen intently. Her emotions boil over. Tears well up in her eyes. She’s feels their pain and you can’t help but feel it yourself.

“When you hear young people tell you I’ve been in 25, 30 different foster homes Mama Gwen, nobody really cares about me and this is why I’m homeless today.

Because if they cared, even if my grandmother would have cared, or my auntie or uncle but no, they don’t care so they’re homeless. Once they become a teenager seeing like they want the little children. They won’t want a full grown teenager.. They feel like they’re already set in their ways,” Mama Gwen says as she breaks down in tears.

“They want to be adopted as well and they’re labeled. And that’s why you find them before they get here (Covenant House), they’re in the street, they’re sleeping at the train station, they’re sleeping under the train station. They’re sleeping wherever they possibly can because there is nobody, once they’re 18 and it’s ok, you’re case is closed, where do I go from there?

Once they turn 18 years old they don’t even want to hear the word DYFS, they don’t want to be bothered no more. They can only think about what they’ve been through with the state. They have an attitude, they’re angry, they’re hurt and when you say things to them, well DYFS can do this for you now, please Mama Gwen, I don’t wanna hear nothing about DYFS. That is the bottom line. They have to go through anger management. They have to go through all different types of skills to bring them back as a whole person. They’ve just been chopped, chopped. Literally. I have seen students shown me scars on their body.

And I’m thinking to myself, well if you’re with DYFS, why didn’t somebody do something about this? Because, Mama Gwen, (the students tell her) they don’t care and that’s the bottom line. There has to be a change.
If you can’t give them type of foundation, that type of love, don’t take it for the money because in the long run you’re hurting the children.” It’s takes only an instant for the phone to ring and Mama’s back on focus. “He didn’t show up for his interview? Well don’t worry, I’m back and he’s show up this time.” Mama looks up, “Gottta stay on top of these kids all the time.”

Mama Gwen Loves All The Homeless Children

Posted July 2, 2008 by najlahhicks
Categories: covenant house, STORIES From Care Givers of Former Foster Children

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STORIES FROM CARE GIVERS OF HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Gwendolyn Ross – Mama Gwen – Career Development Specialist – Covenant House New Jersey – Crisis Center

Everyone loves Mama Gwen. Former foster children, runaways, drug addicts, homeless kids, case workers, office staff, it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone loves Mama Gwen.

“Since I’ve been here,  I’ve been here eight years, and the students gave me a new name. They call me Mama Gwen.

I’ve asked some of them (homeless kids taken in at Covenant House) why do you wanna call me Mama Gwen?”

The students are quick to answer.

“Mama Gwen, you can take the place of a mother to us.

A lot of people never had a mother figure in their life and people see you as
that person. I’ve grown to know you and have major respect for you. You treat me just as my mother would treat me, with respect. I honor you. Like I really do bow down to you. You are Mama Gwen, you deserve that name.

You show love to everybody,” one of the girls said.

Mama Gwen greets everyone she passes by but make no mistake about it, Mama Gwen’s no push over. Tell Mama Gwen the truth and all will be good. Lie to Mama Gwen and she’ll call you into line. She’s there to help the kids, help them find employment, follow up when they don’t show up for work, teach them how to dress for an interview, build their self respect and that’s only the beginning of what Mama Gwen does for these kids.

“Yes we’re here to teach job readiness skills but most important are life skills, how you can survive out there. Social skills, how you can take directives from your employer because sometimes we’re so angry inside we don’t even want to hear the employer tell us ok, right now you’re not busy so we need you to go over there and sweep.” She belts out a big, “SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP, what you talking about sweep? I didn’t get hired to sweep no floors!”, mimicking the kids.

“I really wanted a lot of kids but I only had one. But I didn’t know that there was a plan that I would have 45. So I have a lot of kids in this world and we are all family. That’s how we work together. Family have to reach out to one another and help each other grow and develop. Don’t you think you can’t teach me,” she says lovingly.


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