Posted tagged ‘foster care’

Margaret Smith Touches Jamillah’s Life

September 25, 2008

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1298297&dest=-1]

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.

Teenagers Need Adoption Too – 25 to 30 Foster Homes

July 2, 2008

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.”

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

Heart Gallery of New Jersey – Aging Out

June 18, 2008

While building towards a comprehensive thesis on “aging out” I’ve been weaving my way from the Heart Gallery’s premise, professional photographers donating their time taking photographers of children in foster care in New Jersey, believing that those photographs would draw interest from prospective families.

That’s been true from day 1. More than 25 million hits on our web site:

www.heartgallerynj.org

Thousands of email inquiries and phone calls to 1.800.99.adopt from people reaching out to help and adopt these kids. More than 130 kids adopted and still more adoptions to be finalized. This is what we dreamed of but never fully comprehended how great the impact would be. Our first shoot of more than 350 kids took place in 2005 with the second shoot in 2007, the “100 Waiting Children”.

The “100 Waiting Children” project, spotlighting those orphans who have been in dyfs foster care the longest, sparked the interest in “aging out”, kids turning 18 without ever having been adopted.

After spending the past two weeks at Covenant House and Raphael’s Life House, I’m seeing statistics and white papers on aging out played out in real life.

Approximately 20,000 youths nation wide age out of foster care each year. According to Mark Courtney, “With the exception of incarcerated youth, foster youth are the only group that is involuntarily separated from their families through government intervention. “

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FACTS

  1. 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed high school degree
    or received a GED.
  2. They more often suffer from mental health problems.
  3. They more often become involved in crime or are victims of crime.
  4. They are more frequently homeless

1 On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations, edited by D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster,
Constance Flanagan, and Gretchen Ruth, is forthcoming, University of Chicago Press in fall 2005. The volume is a product of the Network on
Transitions to Adulthood, funded by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation (www.transad.pop.upenn.edu).


2 F. Wulczyn and K Hislop, “Children in Substitute Care at Age 16: Selected Findings from Multistate Data Archive” (Chicago: Chapin Hall
Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 2001).

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A lot of the kids at Covenant House have mental health problems. Hard to know how much of what they are telling me is the truth or just what they think the truth should be. The majority have no high school diploma, encounter problems with the law, are homeless and move from shelter to shelter. Without a place like Covenant House and the life learning programs they offer, I cannot imagine where these children would be.

This project has to focus on FOUR aspects.

  1. Covenant House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths
  2. Integrity House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths with drug and/or alcohol addiction
  3. Rafael’s Life House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths who are unwed mother
  4. Caregivers, counselors, advisor’s and others who mentor and help these youths

Jamillah, Aged Out, Homeless, Unwed – Raphael’s Life House

June 18, 2008

Made my first trip to Raphael’s Life House, transitional housing for homeless, pregnant women and their babies.

http://www.raphaelslifehouse.org/

MEET Jamillah Williams and her three month old son, who has been living at Raphael’s Life House for several months.

Former foster child, aged out and homeless, now living at Raphael\'s Life House

According to Jamillah:

  • Her father sexually and physically abused her from age 5 to age 16
  • At age 16 she went to the social worker at her high school and told her story about her father’s abusive relationship. The worker called police/dyfs who took Jamillah and subsequently her two siblings and put them in dyfs custody
  • Says her father was an unregistered sexual predator who is currently in jail
  • Her biological mother is living in a shelter with her younger sister and her brother is living in a separate shelter

She’s unclear as to whether she was ever “legally free” for adoption. She “aged out” of foster care although has not signed herself out of the dyfs system ensuring her services until she’s 21 years old.

She seems to be advocating for herself in terms of receiving services. She has a CASA – court appointed special advocate – who she calls for legal advice but says that no dyfs worker has ever advised her as to any service or assistance that might be available to her.

One of the really interesting parts of the three hour audio taped interview was learning about how foster and homeless kids communicate with each other. My Space seems to be a lifeline. They used it to keep in touch with biological family members as well as other foster kids they meet as they move from home to home. Somehow they seem to always have internet access and utilized My Space as a way of updating each other.

Many also have cell phones cards with minutes to use the phone since they have no credit and cannot get an account.

I need to explore the whole idea of using My Space to track each other.