Error message

User error: Failed to connect to memcache server: :11211 in dmemcache_object() (line 415 of /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/contrib/memcache/dmemcache.inc).

Header

A Letter From a Former Foster Child

Donna Ennis
2/9/13

I have worked with over a thousand foster youth in the past 20 years. Thanks to Facebook and other social media sites I am able to stay in contact with them after they have left foster care and moved onto other settings. I recently connected with the first child that I placed in foster care. She is 33 now and has two children of her own and she is doing very well.

It is always difficult when our youth are returned to situations that appear to be unsafe. Many times our foster parents don’t believe that a youth’s family has made the necessary changes it takes to be a good caretaker to their child. At those times we hope for the best and try and stay connected to the child after their return home. We try and teach the children survival skills including how to keep their selves safe. We teach them a strong sense of cultural identity which can be a great predictor of resiliency to trauma. We teach them to use their tobacco in a good way. We praise them and tell them of the great things that we hope for them and their life.

The following letter was written by one of these children that went home to her family where changes had not happened but there were fiscal restraints for the continuation of foster care and so she was returned to the Reservation home with her family. Let’s call her Harmony. A few months later her foster mother received this letter:

Hey ***,
how you been doing? man I really miss you. But me im doing okay. im in treatment because I got a minor and they want to put me in here before I got into any more trouble. But it’s ok im doing fine! Just really lonely. And really homesick. But I don’t know I just wanted to see how you are doing. Hows **** & all the girls? they doing good. Make sure and tell everyone I said hi & I miss them. But I just need someone to talk to im really sad and emotional because *****(sister) got beat up by her boyfriend now she’s living with her dad and baby ******* in ******** and told me she’ll come see me every weekend but I don’t think that’s going to happen. right when me & ***** become close something always has to ruin it! im scared. i have to be here with other people i don’t know. i know it’s my own fault I got myself here. But i mean why did my life have to end up like this? What did i do wrong? *** to tell you the truth my life is bullshit. But that’s life right? But i never pictured my life to be like this at the age of 14. The Res is so bad i got to worry about getting beat up if i walk around because that’s how people are around here. Sometimes i think about running away from home but i don’t know where I’d go. And I’d never have enough guts to anyways. Me and my moms boyfriend don’t get along. He treats me like im nothing. And now I’m starting to think im nothing. this Res ruined my whole life well my childhood. i miss my brothers especially ******* he’s in treatment too. at ****. But *** please tell me you wont tell nobody about me being here i don’t want them to think of me as a bad person. It’s funny because i still remember your address, house phone & your cell phone if you still got it. But yeah i miss you so much ***. i don’t know if i ever got to tell you but i thank you so much for taking care of me & my sister. i love you. your like another mom. a mom that’s been there for me & always will. You & **** i respect you guys! But hopefully you’ll write me back that’ll help me lot to hear from you. but i love & miss you *** tell **** I miss him too & all the girls. especially ****. Well ok! love you.

Love always + Forever
Harmony

A few weeks after she wrote this letter she was again returned to her mother’s care on her reservation. Shortly after her return home, Harmony was killed in a motor vehicle accident and she had been under the influence of alcohol. She was 14 years old.

I have read this letter many times since the day she was killed. I read her cries for help. How she blamed herself for her lot in life when in reality she had very little control over her life’s circumstances. She worries about her safety on the Reservation and worries about the safety of her sister who is in an abusive relationship with her baby daddy. Harmony fights with her mother’s boyfriend and needs to worry about that as well. She wants to run away but has nowhere to go.

This is a true story and there are countless other stories that I could share with you about how the child welfare system is not protecting our Native children.

Donna Ennis is currently the chair of the Minnesota Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council, as well as the eastern regional director and cultural director for North Homes Children and Family Services, a professional foster care agency.
 

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

13

POST A COMMENT

Comments

Anonymous's picture
Thanks Donna! These stories need to be told.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
So, are you saying the State or ICWA, or both are failing our children?
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
As a foster child myself, I can say that there were good things and bad things, the worst was being moved from home to home, the abuse suffered in at least one of those homes. The best was routine, meals, bedtimes and activities. For my family, I was sad being separated away from them, that my parents still struggled with addictions and all that went with it, the fighting, the abuse, being unstable and always being caught in the crossfire. I remember one of my moms boyfriends trying to throw me out of the care going down the highway when I was 10. What did I learn from all of this from both foster care and my parents? grownups were not to be trusted, I needed to take care of myself and not let any grown up ever have any power over me. Iam now 46 years old, I have grown up, but I learned through a parent aid I had while raising my own kids, that Iam the parent I never had, I would make it different for them and change as much of the abuse I had for their sake. I have forgiven those that abused me and gave them back all the bad stuff they gave me, I have kept the good and all that I have learned I have passed on to my children and grandchildren. For those of you who are struggling remember to be good to yourself and reach out to healthy people and heal for your sake and for your kids. Its not easy but it is worth it. For the systems and parents who are suppose to protect the children, please do what is right for them not your selves, the children need a voice that loves and protects them.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
My Heart is in pain,reading this letter from a child living in an adult world with no direction, no place to go....How can the system cheat the kids like this? and how can so few try to save so many with no help?I am heart Broken that this child has died....The richest country in the world with the best of the best and all good things and we can't take care of our main people the future...God Help us. Thank you for posting this and I will pass it on, at this moment I am at a loss as to what I can do , how do we help stop this tragedy from happening again?
Anonymous
Two Bears Growling's picture
In some of our reservations it's a sad place to be due to the violence in homes, drug & alcohol abuse as well. So many have lost hope due to their circumstances so early in life. We can change this all if we start in the home. Where there is chaos & the kids are not the priority then it is at that moment that problems start. Parent's need to realize the Creator has granted this precious gift to us for just a short time. It is a great responsibility raising a child to become responsible adults who make their family proud & their people to shine with pride in a good way. You have to put yourself last & your child first. No more time goofing around with your friends, no time to party anymore, no time but being a parent 24/7/365. We as a people need to return to the good ways of the ancestors that trained a child from birth till the time they took a mate to start their own family how to live in an honorable way, how to care for children, how to keep a home clean, how to cook, mend clothes, etc. Boys were mentored by their father, grandfather, uncles & men of honor who took this boy & taught him for years how to be a good man, a good father & a good mate to their woman. Where is this mentoring in this day & age? Too many times it is not there in that young one's life. We have to go back to the ways of the ancestors if we are to have hope, train our children in what is right & wrong, how to be a good man or woman & a good parent. We need to let go of the washichu's ways, music & culture that is harming our native communities & people in so many ways. Pray to the Creator to open the eyes of our many peoples to start living in a good way, start being good parents who place their child's needs & learning above their own needs & wants. Pray to the Great Spirit to bring back the goodness that our many communities had in the days of the ancestors. Pray to Man Above to bring the peace & harmony back to our people, keeping our people safe from harm & keep evil ones away from us. Let the tears of the ancestors be replaced with tears of joy once more rather than those of sadness, shame & hopelessness that they see among so many of our people on Turtle Island. Hoa! Two Bears Growling Buffalo's Thunder
Two Bears Growling
Two Bears Growling's picture
In some of our reservations it's a sad place to be due to the violence in homes, drug & alcohol abuse as well. So many have lost hope due to their circumstances so early in life. We can change this all if we start in the home. Where there is chaos & the kids are not the priority then it is at that moment that problems start. Parent's need to realize the Creator has granted this precious gift to us for just a short time. It is a great responsibility raising a child to become responsible adults who make their family proud & their people to shine with pride in a good way. You have to put yourself last & your child first. No more time goofing around with your friends, no time to party anymore, no time but being a parent 24/7/365. We as a people need to return to the good ways of the ancestors that trained a child from birth till the time they took a mate to start their own family how to live in an honorable way, how to care for children, how to keep a home clean, how to cook, mend clothes, etc. Boys were mentored by their father, grandfather, uncles & men of honor who took this boy & taught him for years how to be a good man, a good father & a good mate to their woman. Where is this mentoring in this day & age? Too many times it is not there in that young one's life. We have to go back to the ways of the ancestors if we are to have hope, train our children in what is right & wrong, how to be a good man or woman & a good parent. We need to let go of the washichu's ways, music & culture that is harming our native communities & people in so many ways. Pray to the Creator to open the eyes of our many peoples to start living in a good way, start being good parents who place their child's needs & learning above their own needs & wants. Pray to the Great Spirit to bring back the goodness that our many communities had in the days of the ancestors. Pray to Man Above to bring the peace & harmony back to our people, keeping our people safe from harm & keep evil ones away from us. Let the tears of the ancestors be replaced with tears of joy once more rather than those of sadness, shame & hopelessness that they see among so many of our people on Turtle Island. Hoa! Two Bears Growling Buffalo's Thunder
Two Bears Growling
Anonymous's picture
its sad to see, to hear is depressing, to witness forehand has no definition. I alone cannot change the world, I reach out to children, young and old. I mentor the youth, here on a reservation, by far different then mine... yet the story/letter that I have come to read has its significance. todays generation still has their doubts, in what to believe. I treat these people as if they were my own, I seen domestics/abuse victims come and go. Back home, I still read the tragedies in the paper, I wonder in what ways has our tribe done something to protect those, who's innocents have been hurt or misguided. obviously nothing. to read a letter such as your reminds me of what faith I have bestowed upon so many children myself.... such letters keep me inspired o keep on reaching out.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I totally agree. I worked in the child welfare system for years and witnessed many of the same. I worked both on and off the reservation. However, we must also hold the families accountable. The system can do only so much. There are not enough foster homes. Some are better than others. We as a society, both on and off the reservation have to look at what caused these children to be in care. What are we doing about the violence, the addictions, the gang activity? The children learn the same life style and we have another generation of adults having children they do not care about. The only way I can see a difference made is to actually go back to teaching the traditions, the values, respecting the elders again. Teaching pride in who they are !!! To teach honor and respect for life-not just in words, but by example. That is needed both on and off the reservations, but the adults have to make that commitment and stand up for what is right. I also acted as a ICWA liaison to ensure the law was respected and because of this many children were returned to the tribe and family members, which in itself would have been great. However, in many cases it hurt the children more because they did have to go and live in fear. It is sad and I felt helpless. We all have to take responsibility for what our children have to go through--it is adults allowing society to get that bad by our finger pointing, expecting others to fix our problems and playing political blame games.
Anonymous
ppmickey's picture
It's a sad story to read, but I've seen this happen time and time again when a mother gets a boyfriend and the family unit goes to hell in a handbasket. I don't think mothers are getting the message that their children come first. Their boyfriends come second, a far second. If they can't live with that reality and take care of their children, then someone else should be caring for them and we wouldn't have tragic incidents like the death of Harmony. It's not just Native children that this is happening to, it's all across America. Due to children being on reservations, which are harder for social workers to get out to, they are similar to areas of our country that are equally hard for social workers to get out to as well. One of the most common causes of death of children in our country is the mother's boyfriends, either by directly killing the child or driving them to risky behavior that ends in their death. The cycle needs to stop everywhere, but where do we begin? How do we convince young and lonely women that their children are first? I ended up medically retired after working as a social worker for a county children's services unit, closely working with parents after 14 years. It really took a toll on my health because I really cared about the children and their families and had a hard time putting work aside when I went home. I don't know what the answer is other than Parent Education being required before graduation in high school and parent education being required before a child is born and at different stages in a child's life. Perhaps we need certificates before parents can become parents, indicating that they are worthy and capable of taking care of children. I am an example of a Mom who was a foster child, orphaned and then adopted, who put us kids first and boyfriends second. Then she found a boyfriend who really wanted to be our Dad and was the best Dad we could ever have asked for. We didn't know until a few days before my Mom died that our maternal grandparents we'd known were actually her adoptive parents. Thank God for people like them. If not for them, I really wonder how our lives would have turned out. My Mom did what she needed to do to take care of us on her own after my birth father left her for another woman. She was a secretary, got no child support, even though it was ordered by the court, and put food on the table and took great care of us kids. I never knew till later in life all the sacrifices she'd made before she met and married my "Dad". We were really lucky kids and lucky to have been so close to our parents throughout our adult lives. They are gone now and we miss them dearly. At one point, as an infant, I was a failure to thrive and children's services nearly took me away from my Mom until they found out I was an organic failure to thrive and gave her some help in getting special formula and medicines that would keep formula down since I was found to have an immature digestive system by a very noteworthy children's hospital still very busy today. Another answer would be by example. I never had children, having found out I was in menopause when I was 24 and had not found Mr. Right. I didn't find Mr. Right till I was 29 and was 30 when we got married. My brother had no children because his wife had a hysterectomy like I'd had because of such severe endometriosis. Even though I never got to parent my own children, I had been given a great example of how to parent by my parents. I used this to help the parents I worked with. Even a few small changes can work forward to others. At least I'm hoping some of them will be successful and pass their knowledge on to others that they have learned.
ppmickey
Anonymous's picture
It's not just the native children they aren't protecting. They aren't protecting anyone's children the social service system is beyond flawed and filled with apathy.
Anonymous

Pages