In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
“I Finally Found My Perfect Family”
by Kita Seger, former foster youth
I had always dreamt of a perfect family, but I never knew what “perfect” meant exactly. I knew that running up the stairs with my birth father chasing me with a belt was not normal. I knew that my birth mother leaving my siblings and me for days at a time was not normal. I knew that my oldest sister who raised my younger siblings and me, made sure we had baths, fed us the only food we had in the house, and tucked us in bed at night was not normal for a girl who was still a child herself. But that was all I knew.
I was the third child born into a family of seven; I have two older half-sisters on my birth mother’s side, Taña and Mariah. I was followed by a little sister, Geneva, and little brother, Josiah. My birth mother, Terri, was Mexican, African American, and Choctaw Indian; my birth father, Bruce, was German. My two older half-sisters are half Colombian. My birth mother was an alcoholic, which caused my brother to be born with Fetal Alcohol Effects and to have multiple surgeries during his young life. Her addiction also caused all five of her children to be removed from her care and placed in separate foster homes. My older sisters went to live with their birth father when I was four years old. This was very traumatic for me because Taña had taken the responsibility of caring for us younger siblings while our birth mother was on her drinking binges and my birth father was away on his truck driving job. I didn’t see my older sisters again until 13 years later. Josiah went to a special foster home for his medical needs and was adopted by them when he was three years old. Geneva and I went to a foster home for two years and then were adopted into separate homes when I was seven years old.
Most of my earliest memories while living with my biological family are disturbing and heart wrenching. The first home I remember was a big green house with a cul-de-sac. When it rained, a million worms came out and filled the street. My older sisters and I grabbed a big pickle jar and collected all the worms and brought them inside. We got into serious trouble for that and my birth father chased us up the stairs with a belt. I also remember living in a station wagon for three months when I was three years old. I only remember the smell of the rotten upholstery and the cramped space for a family of six, my younger sister only being a baby. The last home we lived in together was in a small basement apartment. My birth father owned a motorcycle that scared me to death. He sat me in front of him on the two wheeled contraption and rounded a curve, causing me to slide off onto the rolling pavement and I needed stitches on my chin.
I only have negative memories of my birth mother; leaving us for days at a time, us crying for her at night, and wondering why she never protected me from the sexual abuse of my birth father. Taña tried to tell her that he was abusing me; I was too young to know the difference, but my birth mother thought my sister was making it up and did nothing. Once my sisters moved away with their father, my family fell apart and that’s when Social Services got involved.
I vividly remember the night that my siblings and I were taken away from our birth parents. I was at daycare with Geneva, listening to the childcare worker read a story to us and eating leftover grilled cheese sandwiches from a snack earlier that day. This was not the first time that our parents had neglected to pick us up from daycare and the worker had already called the police. I remember being very scared to get in the police car, because my only interactions with police had been because of domestic disputes between my parents. When we arrived at the police station, the policeman put Geneva and me in a conference room, gave us each a teddy bear and a soda to share. My three-year-old sister spilled the Coke a few minutes later and a different policeman came to clean up the mess. Geneva was crying and I was trying to comfort her but I didn’t know what to do; after all, I was only five years old myself. After what seemed like hours, a policewoman came to retrieve us from the cold, white-walled room and brought us to say goodbye to our birth father. I knew it was goodbye because he was caring a small suitcase and he was crying. My birth mother was nowhere to be seen; I later found out she had been picked up for a DUI earlier that evening. I numbly hugged him goodbye and a social worker strapped us in the backseat of her car next to our toddler brother. I had no idea what was happening or where we were going, but I was too afraid to ask questions and I kept squeezing my sister’s hand.
The woman dropped us off at a house that smelled of dirty laundry and old food, and screamed of what sounded like a million children. The foster mom and dad brought Geneva and me to our own room and locked us in. My brother was taken to another home and I don’t remember being able to say goodbye to him. The first night, my sister was trying to play “monkeys jumping on the bed” with me, but I told her it was a bad idea. She decided to jump anyways, and the foster dad barged in, furious because she was not sleeping. He grabbed her tiny arms, shook and screamed at her, and threw her on the bed. Geneva was crying and was calling out to me. I was deathly afraid that if I moved from my bed, he would come back and hurt both of us, but I crawled to her and held her until she fell asleep. I made a promise then and there, that I would always protect her and never let her get hurt again.
I don’t know how long we were at this foster home, but it must have only been a few days. I remember fighting for a small piece of pizza from all the other scrambling hands and never letting my sister from my sight. I believed that it was by the grace of an angel when a man in a suit, a caseworker, came to take Geneva and me away from this horrible place. I ran out to him and hugged him for saving us because I didn’t know how much longer I could protect her from the angry foster dad.
In the car, the caseworker told us that we would be living in a much better place and we would be the only children. Geneva asked what we were supposed to call them and he said anything we felt comfortable with, as long as it was appropriate. Her little three-year-old self said she would call them “Mommy” and “Daddy.” I felt like she was already betraying our birth parents and I deliberately said, “I’m going to call them by their first names because that’s what I want to be called.” Little did I know, I would soon be calling them “Mommy” and “Daddy,” too.
Kita’s story will continue on May 21, 23, and 24.