Archive for September 2008

Ejetta Harvey, Homeless, Unwed, Single Mother, Abused

September 25, 2008

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Margaret Smith Touches Jamillah’s Life

September 25, 2008

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

September 9, 2008

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

September 7, 2008

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.