She had glossy black hair nearly to her waist, mocha skin, big dark eyes and her fist in my face. This was a new younger sister, who I met at 12 years old. Bigger than me in stature but equally confused, sitting on my bunk in tattered clothes. Lisette was new to the foster care game, and far older than I was when I first left my mother. She was taken from a very violent mother, who had several children she unleashed rage upon.
I hadn’t seen my real mother in two years by the time Lisette came to live with me in my foster home. Lisette’s scars were quite new, and visits to her mother were making things worse. Eventually, Lisette’s mother’s violence won out, and Lisette was murdered by a family member, after leaving foster care for reunification.
Lisette’s image has come to my mind more and more recently. She always wanted to fight, and we had the scratch marks on both our arms or legs to prove our strength, quite often. We were out to prove a lot to each other. We had a lot in common, Lisette and I. We were children displaced and abused by those we trusted, but we were also just girls; wanting to fit in, wanting to marry superstars, sometimes playing house… which for us was a very distorted idea of what that meant.
I had been adopted by a foster-mother and her husband and when both died, Lisette being a foster child with no adoption in process, was sent back with her “healed” biological family. It was a year later I heard of her death. At the time, grappling with my own uncertainties after my adoptive parents death, it shook me but in a different way, as I too was still a child.
At that time, I was still secretly hoping to be reunited with my abusive mother, and had grand fantasies, sometimes reinforced by her own words in court visits, of reuniting and running into the sunset as mother and daughter. Those things never came to fruition. I realized later that I was fortunate.Fortunate that I was able to stay in one home after my adoptive parents died.
I was fortunate I took the chance to get an education. Later on, I ran off into the sunset with a daughter of my own, and I enjoy all of her little moments and protect her from life’s harshness. My “mini me” laughs and calls me a “helicopter” mom, hovering constantly. I am protective, maybe too much so, but I also have a daughter who knows she is cherished by me and that is all that matters. I will take that label gladly.
Sadly, I truly had not thought of Lisette since my childhood, until this past year. I am ashamed to say I focused on my own attachment and emotional challenges through those years. Still, her absence becomes more present when I feel unsettled in my heart. The news recently of “Baby Hope’s” murder and the disgusting line of murdered children headlining the news lately, is and should be a wake up call.
The hurting of any child is an unforgivable act of such low moral distinction, that I cannot fathom any empathy whatsoever toward an abuser. It is not in me, and never will be part of me. Lawmakers should have the same intolerance.
While I do know that there are well-intentioned parents who lose their children due to situations that can be corrected, and that reunification with safe family members is crucial, I also know that abusers are abusers. Any parent that can physically, sexually and morally abuse a child, letting them ride the ride of promises to physical atrocity is someone who cannot and will not change. I advocate the placement of children in foster care under direst circumstances, but if abuse and severe neglect is present, the child may be safer in state care.
I read recently on a blog post, that foster care is like “chemotherapy.” It is sometimes necessary, true indeed; it has its side effects. Reuniting children with abusive parents is not an alternative treatment, and never
should be one.
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I still have several pieces on groups working to make a difference to post and the next few weeks will be profiles of encouragement.