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
Adjusting to a single mother after experiencing a solid mother-father family was foreign to me. I didn’t understand how I could benefit from just a single parent family. I was also angry at Social Services for separating me from my younger sister. No one explained why this happened and they probably thought I wouldn’t be able to understand because I was only seven years old, but I had lost my only connection to my birth family. And there was no way that could I protect her if she was in a completely different family. Her new adoptive family thought it would be best to cut the biological tie from our brother and me completely in order to create their perfect happy family. Fortunately, my adoptive mom fought hard to keep us in contact and only after a couple of years of sneaking visits from her adoptive dad, did her family finally give in and accept that we had a sister bond that no one could break.
During the eight years that I lived with my adoptive mom, I experienced many highs and lows. I tried to love her as my one and only mom, but I don’t think that I ever let go of my love for my foster parents. I had already come to terms with the fact that my birth family was just never going to be a big part of my life, even though I missed my siblings terribly.
My adoptive mother was loving and she tried to buy my love with gifts for extravagant Christmases and birthdays. But she also gave me many positive growing opportunities and memories, including dinners at expensive restaurants, road trips to see her brother’s family in Arizona, and most importantly, introducing me to her church. She was Buddhist and this spiritual community was a big part of our lives. They were extremely welcoming to me and because I was one of the few children in the church, I was given a lot of attention from the adults. This spirituality provided something new and comforting to me, and through the teachings at a child’s intellect level, I finally connected with a religion that made sense to me that wasn’t strict and conforming, like my previous church. There was a little baby boom in our church which gave me the responsibility of being the designated babysitter every Sunday starting when I was nine years old. I thoroughly loved my role and I became very close to the young kids. I also felt appreciated and important because the parents trusted me. For the second time in my life, I felt a part of a large extended family and knew that these families loved me, even though I wasn’t related to them.
One significant experience that exemplified their care for me happened when a large group of us traveled to Nepal for a reincarnation ceremony of an important religious Buddhist figure. I was 10 years old and in fifth grade. During the year prior to this trip, my adoptive mother experienced some abdominal pain and went to the doctor repeatedly. However, no one was able to find a reason for her pain. The night we flew into Kathmandu, Nepal, she was rushed to the hospital and had emergency surgery due to an ovarian cyst. She had to remain in the hospital for a week, during which time, my church members took care of me and became my surrogate parents. This was a very scary time for me because we were in a foreign country and my adoptive mother almost died. I remember hearing the adults whispering about who would become my legal guardian if anything were to happen to her. This was when I truly felt that everything would be okay because I had not only a few, but many adults who would make sure that I was taken care of.
As much as I was grateful that my adoptive mother survived, because I didn’t think I could handle getting a new family so soon, I couldn’t help feeling a little hope that I would be able to go back to my foster parents. My adoptive mom knew that I had a special connection with them and had allowed me to stay in contact with them over the years. This probably inhibited my ability to completely assimilate into my new family with my adoptive mother, even though I tried my best.
However, there was always some other barrier between us. We didn’t have any post-adoptive supports, like therapy, which I think was a big aspect of the end of our family. Because it was just the two of us, I think there was a sense of perceived equal power on my part, which made it hard for her to establish normal parental control of me, causing her to be extra controlling. Looking back, this was very unhealthy and she simply did not know how to handle a child that had been through so many traumas in my young life. Being a single mother on top of adopting an older child (as opposed to a baby) must have been extremely stressful for her.
During my sophomore year in high school, our pet basset hound suddenly died of liver failure. This was so unexpected and caused me to shut down emotionally, because I didn’t think I could experience any more loss. About a month later, my world flipped upside down yet again.
That night will stay with me forever. I came home after school to find her home early from work. She said that I could go watch TV in the living room while she made an important phone call. I was excited because she rarely let me watch TV, but I didn’t think much of it and turned the channel to my favorite show. About two hours later, she came out of her room and said that we needed to talk. She looked like she had been crying and I anxiously held my breath. My mother sat down next to me on the couch and reached for my hand. Because she wasn’t saying anything, I blurted out “Mom, you’re scaring me. What is going on?” She replied that she was very sorry, but I was going to move away for a little while. She said that she couldn’t be a good mother for me anymore and this would be better for me in the long run. I was dumbfounded and immediately became angry with her for her lack of explanation. I asked her where I was going and how long I would be gone. She replied that my foster mom, Denise, was already on her way to pick me up and that I might live there until I graduated high school. At that point, I stood up and started crying. I didn’t understand why she was doing this to me and I felt like it was my fault for not being a better daughter. I promised her I would do anything she asked if she only let me stay. She said that even though this was the hardest thing she had to do and she still loved me deeply, she was doing this for me and I would thank her later.
I decided to play her game and go along with it just to make it easier. I thought that she would change her mind and I would be back the next morning. My adoptive mom had already pulled out two suitcases for me to use. I thought this was excessive but didn’t say anything. However, when she started packing things from my bathroom cabinet, such as a bright pink bottle of Pepto Bismal, I told her I wouldn’t need it because my foster parents would have all those kinds of things. That’s when I realized that she was already planning to completely move me out of the house and I felt completely heartbroken. My foster mom arrived and I dragged out my two heavy suitcases, loaded down with emotions I didn’t understand. I gave my adoptive mom an obligatory hug goodbye even though I felt betrayed and lost.
Kita’s story will conclude on May 24.