The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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What a Mother Gives You
My foster mother guides and inspires me
Victoria W.
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I have no memory of my mother being able to speak or get out of bed. In her late 20’s, she developed a terrifying sickness called progressive MS. Over time her body shut down and she lost the ability to walk and talk. She was 28 when she had me, and I was 12 years old when she died.

For as long as I can remember, we had home attendants—some to take care of her and some to take care of me and my brother. Our father was not around. None of the attendants stayed long; I probably had 20 different home attendants since birth. They worked in two shifts, day and night. They came from different races and cultures and taught me different things. There was nothing consistent in my childhood. Some of the attendants were nice, and some of them weren’t.

When I was 7 years old my night home attendant Gail took my brother and me to the park every other day to eat dinner. She would meet two older men named Santiago and Gilbert there. Gilbert would have me sit on his lap.

One evening after dinner Gilbert took me away from Gail, Santiago, and my brother to the last bench in the park. He unzipped his pants and took out his private part, pulled down some skin and pushed my hand on to it. I ran to tell Gail and told her that Gilbert tried to have sex with me. Instead of a devastated reaction from her, she laughed in my face.

At that point I felt like I couldn’t trust anybody. I didn’t tell anybody about what Gilbert did to me. And later, when my grandfather molested me, I kept that to myself, too. I never told my mother because I didn’t know if she would understand what I was saying. I needed someone to talk to and she couldn’t talk.

A Dangerous World

When I was 8, Children’s Protective Services (CPS) placed me and my brother with my grandmother, who is the ex-wife of the grandfather who molested me. She has a gambling problem. She would spend all her money on lottery tickets and she wouldn’t have enough money to buy me and my brother shoes, clothes, or sometimes food. I got tired of wearing flip-flops to school so I informed CPS of her behaviors. I told CPS that I didn’t have any clothes to wear to school and that she sometimes locked me out of the house overnight.

CPS then placed my brother and me at my aunt’s house. I was 9 and my brother was 12. While I was living there, I told my aunt about Gilbert and that my grandfather had touched me. My aunt didn’t seem surprised. She explained that my grandfather (her father) had also sexually abused her and raped my mother. Yes, his own daughters!

She talked about her experience and my mother’s experience, and didn’t make it seem like a big deal. In this conversation my aunt didn’t comfort me at all. I got the sense that a lot of girls have had this experience or worse. I felt like I had no support and that nobody cared about me, and that the world was dangerous for a girl.

I’ve wondered whether my mom would have protected me from Gilbert and my grandfather if she had been healthy. I also wish I could ask my mom, who had experienced what I experienced, to tell me how I should cope with being sexually abused and how I could prevent it from happening again.

After a year and three months with my aunt we moved back to our grandmother’s house. My grandmother would lock me out of the house for days and hit me with cans, extension cords, and wooden sticks. She would hit me any time she was in a bad mood. I guess it was her way of taking her anger out.

Desperate To Be Liked

All of the abuse and chaos made me feel worthless and like nobody cared about me. I needed a friend badly but wasn’t sure how to get one.

In the 8th grade I stole my grandmother’s food stamp card and bought snacks to share with the students in my class. I thought the snacks would stop them from bullying me and get them to be my friends. But they didn’t really talk to me or hang out with me after school. Desperate to be liked, I then stole my grandmother’s money and handed it out to kids in my class.

When my grandmother found out what I’d done, she locked me out of the house for four days with nothing to eat or drink. Her abuse continued until I was 12 years old. Finally, my aunt called CPS on her and I was placed with a woman named Ms. Baker. I’ve been with her ever since, for the past two years.

In Ms. Baker’s house, everyone gets along. Having someone who actually cares about me and understands me feels good. Sometimes she gets on my nerves, but that’s just her being a mother figure. When I do something that makes her mad, she’ll talk to me for hours. It’s annoying, but I know she’s looking out for me. Ms. Baker treats me like everyone else in the house. I feel part of the family and I love her very much. Being loved by Ms. Baker gave me more confidence and the belief that I can do anything I put my mind to.

image by YC-Art Dept

After I moved in with Ms. Baker, I still visited my mom every Sunday at her nursing home. It felt really good to go see my mother, but it was sad seeing her sick in bed.

When my mother passed away. Ms. Baker helped me through the grief and helped me feel better about the situation. She said that my mom is probably singing and dancing with God and that maybe she can do things in heaven that she could no longer do here, like walk and talk.

Guidance

I’ve gotten some of the guidance I never got from my mom from Ms. Baker. When I first lived with her, she told me that my body language and facial expressions sometimes offended people. And she was right; people often did look at me funny or change their tone of voice after I spoke to them.

So I tested what Ms. Baker told me and looked at people differently. Instead of a scrunched facial expression I would relax my eyes and my face, and people responded to me better. Instead of turning their backs on me, they’d ask if I wanted to sit with them at lunch. I feel like if I had a healthy mother, she would have helped me with my body language earlier.

Not having a mother who could pay attention to me causes me to seek too much attention sometimes. One time, my foster brother Kevin was recommended to be in a movie and I kept saying, “I write too. Can the director read my script so I can become famous?” I didn’t even tell him congratulations.

I felt really bad when Ms. Baker pointed out the way I was acting because I didn’t realize what I was doing. I didn’t mean to try to take the attention off of him when it was his turn to shine. Later that day I told him how proud I was of him and that I was sorry I acted that way.

Because no mother protected me from Gilbert and my grandfather, I am still uncomfortable around men and don’t trust them. I avoid situations where I’d be alone with a man in a room. I have been able to date boys so far, but only if they’re around my age (I’m 15). In the beginning of a relationship I put walls up until I know the boy’s intentions. I don’t want to have sex until I’m married, so a boy has to accept that if he wants to date me.

Ms. Baker is like a counselor to me. When I told her what Gilbert and my grandfather did to me, she said that the only foster child she’d had who hadn’t been sexually abused was the one she got as a baby. That made me feel comfortable enough to tell her about the rest of my life. She talks with me every day and helps me with my problems.

She Stopped the Rain

Though I’m grateful I have Ms. Baker now, having a disabled and sick mother helped me develop my coping skills by writing. I’d get home from school and there was nobody to talk to, so I would pull out my notebook and write poetry about my life. Writing helps me clear my mind of negative energy and focus on the positive.

I didn’t realize that I could write well until I went into foster care. Ms. Baker read my poetry and told me that I have a gift and that I write like a college student even though I’m in the 10th grade.

My bad experiences make me want to go somewhere in life, but I wouldn’t be able to think like this if it wasn’t for Ms. Baker. She has helped me discover some of my talents and she showed me how smart I am, which inspired me to do better in school.

My grandmother only told me what I couldn’t do. When I lived with her, I wanted to become a fashion designer. I would draw outfits, and she would say, “You can’t make it in the fashion industry; it’s too hard for you.” She never encouraged me or supported me.

In Ms. Baker’s house I want to do well in school and strive not merely for a good job but for a good career. I also want the happiness that comes from meeting the love of your life and making a family. It would make me happy seeing my kids grow up with a mother and father and not go through the pain I went through. My mother being sick taught me that life can be short, so you should try and do the things that matter to you.

Life gets stormy, but it never rains forever. I feel like it did rain an awful lot in my life until Ms. Baker. It gets frustrating at times having to fill in those missing spaces of not having a mother figure—or any parent—in my life till the age of 12. It’s hard trying to fix the broken pieces of myself. But I am moving forward now with the help of my amazing foster mother.

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(FCYU-2015-07-09)

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