By the time you finish reading this blog more than three children will be abused. Depending upon your reading speed, between five and twenty children will die at the hand of their abuser before you finish reading Rag Dolls: Callie’s Story. Every ten seconds in the United States, a child is abused; every day, more than five children die of neglect or abuse. More than eighty percent of those who die will be under the age of four. Of the approximately 425,000 children in foster care at any given moment, only about 50,000 will be adopted. Roughly another 27,000 will “age out” of care on their eighteenth birthday. Those who do age out are often ill-prepared to survive in the world; nearly half don’t even have a high school diploma! These are the statistics according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
Sadly, there are a few people who become Foster Parents only for the monthly check they receive from DHS. These people will not spend one extra dime on the children they take into their homes. Some of these people will take in as many Foster Children as possible, using the children as a form of income. Because there are so many Foster Children and so few Foster Parents, Social Workers often have no choice but to place children in these less than desirable homes. Children who end up in homes like these are often treated as an inconvenience. Some are used as household servants. Some are verbally, mentally and sometimes physically or sexually abused. Often, in homes like these, the children are made to feel unwanted. They are given only the basic necessities of life, and at an age where style matters and acceptance is important to psyche, they are given the bare minimum in school clothing-a factor which further diminishes their already damaged self-esteem. These children are often forgotten on their birthdays and Christmas; many of these children don’t even have winter coats!
Because there are so many Foster Children, Social Workers are often too overworked to make the needed visits to ensure the child’s safety. Children in care often go months without ever seeing their Social Worker, so they have no chance to report that they are being neglected, mistreated or abused. Additionally, since DHS will not pay a Foster family for a child that ‘ages out of care’(a child who turns eighteen years old) there have been instances where the Foster Parent forced the child to leave on child’s eighteenth birthday, even though that child may have had nowhere else to go.
Fortunately, most foster parents become foster parents as a labor of love; not as a form of income. These selfless souls spend their own money to meet the needs of the children they take into their homes, knowing that the small reimbursement check they receive from DHS each month will not even begin to cover the child’s expenses. They supply school clothes and winter coats, money for incidentals, rides to school, rides to court appearances, and visits with parents and even birthday and Christmas presents for these children. I believe that these people-these Angels-have a special place in Heaven.
A child entering Foster care is traumatized. That child has lost more in a single day than most of us lose in our lifetimes. The child has been separated from everything familiar to him or her. Imagine suffering the death of the loved one who takes care of you, or being assaulted physically, sexually or both, and then being taken from your home without even being allowed to pack your clothes or grab your purse or wallet! Imagine further that you are then taken to a stranger’s home and left there without the ability to contact a single person you know. Even if the stranger’s family welcomed you, you would feel very awkward-and you would still be trying to deal with the situation which caused you to be there. You would miss your familiar surroundings and you would long for a single familiar voice. You might begin to feel that you were being punished because of something which happened to you over which you had no control. You might become depressed or even angry. Imagine that just as you finally start to become comfortable at the stranger’s home, you are moved to another home. You might become withdrawn, trying not to form bonds as a way to protect yourself from the pain of yet another loss. It is not uncommon for a child in care to be moved six or seven times in one year! No wonder so many children in care age out without achieving their high school diploma. How could anyone be successful in school while being moved from home to home and school to school several times in a single school year? Often, children in care have been molested and abused sexually, berated verbally, abused physically, used as servants and mistreated in as many other ways as could possibly be imagined while they are in care! Imagine that after you were traumatized and then taken from your home, you were placed in another abusive home without the benefit of familiar surroundings or even a visit from a Social Worker you could tell. You might learn not to trust anyone. Rag Dolls: Callie’s Story is the story of one girl’s journey through foster care.