Leaving Petaluma, California to be taken away from my home and my family, living with individuals who owned a honeybee business in Ranchester, Wyoming. Initially, using me for child labor while working, until I came home from school going straight to work for the honey bee business and a nanny for their first grandson, before entering the foster system in Dale County, Alabama.
The middle of March 2004, I decided it was in my best interest for my health and safely to leave a toxic environment I wasn’t meant to be in, specifically I ran away from certain unnamed individuals at this time, who had illegal guardianship of me from May 2001 until the middle of March 2004, until I entered the foster system in Alabama. For three years I spent having an illegal alias, working for their business until I was too exhausted to receive a proper education, spending a portion of six months in Milestone Group Home in Sheridan Wyoming, while I was in the care of the individuals.
Originally, my aunt (my biological fathers sister-in-law) had gained custody of me when I was six years old, I was taken into the foster system in Sonoma County, California, my aunt was known my next of kin to obtain legal Guardianship. My father had granted her permission for me to be in her care, indefinitely. His paternal rights were still in his favor until the day he passed away. He struggled with addiction, in constant pain from his prosthetic leg. He spent most of his life in and out of the California prison system.
Meanwhile, my last day year of sixth grade in May of 2001, still in the legal care of my aunt in Petaluma, California, my fathers whereabouts were unknown as were my mothers. Unfortunately, the last year of staying with my aunt hadn’t been the happiest in my case, I felt like there was a gaping whole inside my heart, with suppressing my feelings about the relationship I had hoped to have with my parents. I have been told most of my life, “You’re going to be just like your mother, pregnant at thirteen and sleeping with everyone!” or “You act just like your father, you’ll end up just like him, a drug addict.” or “You’ll never be a good mother!” Having the sense of always having the feeling of owing my aunt back for taking me in from being in foster care for six months, the thought of her letting me into her home, life, I believe she cared for me the way the best way she thought she could. Her and my father had a non existent relationship because of the hardships he faced.
One thing I will never understand, leaving California in 2001, my aunt never filed a missing persons report, therefore it makes a case nearly impossible against the people who took me. My aunt believed, that I was old enough, at twelve years old, to make a decision that would change my fate. It still hurts to this day of the fact that, my father was not notified of my whereabouts. My aunt had made the decision of telling me while I ended up in the care of the people that took me, “I’m never welcome to come back home and I will never see my family again.” They did not fight for me to come back.
Somehow, my aunt originally granted them permission until the end of extracting honey from the hives (the end of the season) I ended up going with them for the summer to help with their honey bee business. I never thought I would return home to my bed, belongings, family or my fiends. Why would my aunt feel sure on the fact, I would be safe in their care? I was not her child to make that kind of decision. She had just met the individual for the first time upon granting them permission for a few weeks, why would she trust them, someone who she is supposed to protect like their own?
Before leaving California, I was in sixth grade, I had established friendships, including a decent education. Living in Petaluma, where I was born and partially raised, I had my last day of sixth grade, the elementary school I attended had a sixth grade graduation ceremony, after the last day of class, I had officially met my aunts new brother and sister in law. They drove a semi truck around the nation, dropping off semi truck loads for a company. In their othertime they had to spare, they owned and operated a honey bee business in Ranchester, Wyoming. When they came to visit us in Petaluma, they made a stop before having to pick up a load of beef to transport back to Wyoming for summertime.
While I was staying in Ranchester, Wyoming, I was twelve years old at the time, in the care of my aunts new brother and sister in law. They quickly learned my history, I was abandoned by my parents, my aunt and I had a rocky relationship, by being mistreated at times, in certain cases. They knew of my parents addictions and strived on the fact of them hoping my parents would die so they would gain and collect social security benefits. I felt I was brain washed into thinking I would live a great life with the individuals, needless to say, I started my seventh grade year in Ranchester, Wyoming. The school I enrolled in never questioned why my name was different on my birth certificate, they had me under a fake alias, they never received any legal documentation stating they were the legal guardians by my father nor by the states of California, Wyoming and not by my aunt.
Meanwhile, a half a year into staying with the individuals, they intercepted any sort of social life I could sustain, I was depressed, full of anxiety, my time was to be devoted into staring at a book or helping with daily chores, or their honey bee business. One day, I was lucky I was able to stay with a friend from the school I was attending. I stayed with her for the weekend, when I was being picked up from that friends house, I knew something was going to happen by the sound of his voice and his body language inbetween the fifteen minute ride from Dayton to Ranchester.
Returning to the place we had called home, in a metal shed, also where we extracted honey for the business, I put my backpack on my twin bed, in the same room as the living room and their room. We stayed in one big room together. They had made a coal fireplace and an area for the heat to enter our room during wintertime. I sat on my bed, emptying my dirty clothes to be washed. Sitting down in what was known as our “living room,” telling me to sit down there was something they needed to discuss. They became furious, when they saw I had notes from my friends telling them about how they had treated me, going through all of my belongings. The anger grew and intensified in the room. While having a screaming and shouting match at me, their anger bursted out, that escalated into child abuse, mentally and physically.
Between the false guardians keeping me from attending school, being absent for nearly a week, I went back to school. First thing that morning, a couple of my friends saw the quantity of bruises on my body and the emotional pain they afflicted upon me. Having the strength and courage to tell our school counselor, he took the allegations seriously, filed a report, I went into the child welfare system because of child abuse allegations towards these individuals. Spending my fourteenth birthday being a ward of the state living in a group home in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Having to spend six months in a group home, made me focus on myself more than what made other people happy instead of my own happiness. While in the care of the group home, focusing on my education, my mental health and track/field became a new priority for my focus and time in the group home. Discovering I had to attend extensive therapy, the state believed it would be in my best interest to have the individuals who kept me, attend some of my therapy sessions, in order to be released back to them. Specifically telling staff and whoever I could get to listen, feeling unsafe in a toxic environment and I don’t want to go back with them, fearing they would hurt me worse next time. Seeing a therapist, she suggested for me to be prescribed Zoloft, an anti depressant. She stated, it would help my mood swings and depression, among other things as well.
The court released me back into the care of the individuals, who kept me illegally, physically and mentally abused me, abdonded me at times when they needed to make a quick haul in their semi truck. After exiting the group home, the individuals over medicated me, when it was convenient for them. It continued for the remaining of my time with them.
While back in the care of them, they pawned me off to their daughter and son in law who was stationed on Ft. Rucker, Alabama, he was attending Warrant Officer Candidate School. The couple had a year and a half old son. I stayed with them, until the end of my ninth grade year of high school. In late November of 2003, they received word that my father had passed away from a heart attack and an expected overdose. Having an expected reaction and heartbreak from the most tragic news I would receive. I had a feeling it would happen someday, but not when I haven’t had the chance to make my peace with him. The moment I was shared the information of my fathers passing, falling to the freshly mopped floor I had cleaned after dinner. My exact thoughts replaying in my head of my father not being able to walk me down the isle, be there for his future grandchildren, or being there for me when I just need my parents to hold and hug when things get a little tougher than normal.
After I heard the news of my fathers passing, I went to school the next Monday, from thanksgiving break, I went to the school counselor, to confide in him, I begged him not to call the people I was living with, specifically because I was in fear of my mental and physical safety. The school counselor, then called the people I was illegally in the care of, told them what I had confided in him about my father. Initially, I asked them, if I could go to his funeral, I was denied seeing or taking any part of my biological family. Having my depression and anxiety hit a little deeper, at this point.
The middle of March 2001, I was advised by a former classmates mother ,who was an attorney who believed in my case, to run away if I felt my life was in jeopardy in any way shape or form. So, the day I ran away, I got off the bus, came home to do my daily chores and to make dinner. Finishing my chores with the upmost of perfection, I went out the back screen door, took one last look around, had nothing but my sweatshirt tied to my waist. Opening the gate from the chain linked fence, I ran as fast as I ran in my whole life, making it to the next block over from the house I was staying in. Being in the amount of distress I was in, I was able to get the attention from someone. They came out of their house after seeing the man run after me, yelling my name asking the near by neighbors of my whereabouts. The neighbor, called the Military Police, on Ft.Rucker, Alabama, I stayed the night at the station, while they could find a placement for me.
Ending up staying with my classmate and her family, the one who advised me to take action by running away. Only staying with them for a couple of weeks, I was able to receive a placement in a Children’s Home in Dothan, AL, until I was able to transfer the last nine weeks to a new school. When transferring to a new school, I was placed into the foster system, I was able to be placed with my first foster family in Jack, Alabama and entering Zion Chapel High School at the end of my ninth grade year in 2004.
In conclusion, enlightening my community that when entering the foster system in Alabama with nothing but the clothes on my back. My personal feelings towards The Department of Human Resources in Dale County is very concerning. The basis of protecting foster youth who are in and out of the foster care system. Its a continuous issue that our court system is not listening to our foster youth, former and current. Protecting vulnerable children and youth of our state should be a concern to our public, nationally and locally. My goal is to help be part of a Foster Care Reform Council for Southern Alabama to better the lives and rights for foster youth in Alabama.