Posted tagged ‘dyfs’

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.

Never Met my Parents, Physically Abused, Step Father Raped Me

June 25, 2008

STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet James Robinson, 18 years in and out of foster care, never adopted.

“Never met my parent’s. Don’t know anything about them. I aged out. I never did get adopted. I’m not exactly sure 100% why. But I do know out of 1,972 different foster homes (he claims he lived in), 1764 of them I was physically abused. Out of that much, it was only four homes I was molested.”

“A case worker of mine in New York told me, my dad had never appeared in the hospital and my mother had just left and never returned. And I believe someone was trying to fight for custody for me and that’s my step father, James Robinson. What got me in trouble is my step father had raped me 37 hours in less than six hours.”

He says his step father dropped him and his half brother Lewis at DYFS in New Jersey.

“DYFS sucks man, that’s all I can say. DYFS really sucks.”

James clearly remember his past in a way that helps him to cope with his present. He admits to years of therapy and embellishes every aspect of his life. What is the truth? Probably no one really knows. The present truth is that he is a young homeless man with a lifetime history of foster care, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment and despair.

His future? Only he can change that. James currently lives at Covenant House New Jersey

Victim of Child Neglect & Malnutrition – Days Away From Dying

June 25, 2008

STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Willie Jacovra Harden, a victim of child neglect & malnutrition. DYFS removed him from his mother who was neglecting and starving him. He says doctors told his grandmother that he was days away from dying of malnutrition.

DYFS removed him from his mother and placed him in kinship care with his grandmother but never closed his case. There was also sexual abuse by his stepfather. He lived with his grandmother until 18 years old. His DYFS caseworker told him about a program, Urban Youth Development Corporation, a program for transitional living.

http://www.uydc.org/

Their mission:

Our mission is to implement, advocate for, train, and provide technical assistance to programs geared towards youth ages 5-24 years old and parents.  Our programs are all research-based models formatted developmentally correct, cognizant of their impact on children and their families, foster clear beliefs and standards, offer opportunities and skill building to participants, and recognize the accomplishments of youth so that healthy behaviors can be adopted by participants; thus making a substantial impact on communities, families, and children.  The primary issues the agency addresses are problematic teen behaviors, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, school failure, violence, juvenile delinquency, and homelessness.

He was 18 years old, his case was closed and soon after he was thrown out of the program for behavioral issues ending up homeless. He found out about Covenant House and is living there now.

Interviewed on the streets of Newark during a night of Outreach to the community.

First Meeting with Covenant House

June 10, 2008

After spending the last three years immersed in the Heart Gallery project and learning about foster care and adoption, I realized today how little I actually know about what happens to kids who “age out” or those children who reach 18 years old and choose to sign papers giving up services from dyfs and releasing themselves from dyfs care.

The focus is constantly on helping youth get adopted prior to their 18th birthday and not on those who “age out”.

The big question is, what actually happens to these kids when they “age out”? What resources are available to them? Are they kicked out of their foster homes on their 18th birthday? How do they support themselves? The questions never seems to end.

One of the startling things I learned today is that Covenant House Newark, NJ, a haven for homeless kids between 18 and 22 years old, often get phone calls from dyfs case workers asking to “drop off” these kids. Covenant House won’t accept a child directly from dyfs, it has to be the child who makes the choice to come to Covenant House, change their life path and follow the rules of Covenant House including saving 90% of their income and learning basic life lessons. What often happens is that the worker drops off the child a block from Covenant House and tells the child to walk in on their own. (This according to Covenant House officials).

The other shocking thing I learned today is that there is some sort of legal form these kids sign to release dyfs of their obligation to offer services to the kids until they turn twenty-one. After years and years in foster care, many of the kids jump at the chance to leave their foster or group home and start life on their own. In that zeal, they don’t realize that by signing this release, what it actually does is hurt them. They lose services that is due to them. Officials told me that many workers come in with the form to be signed without explaining to the kids that they will lose those services and several times Covenant House employees have stepped in to tell the kids of their rights.

It seems that dyfs wants to get these kids “off their books” and by signing that release, their cases are closed. No matter that most often it is to the child’s detriment. This is stunning to me. Isn’t there a law that forces dyfs to reveal that the children will lose all services by signing off on this release?