FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

The Foster System Community Failed Us

That stay in jail, although 36 hours long, felt like an eternity. Not once did anyway ask if I was okay. While at the hospital, jail, and psych ward, I felt so isolated, and no one tried to help me or understand what it felt like to have your children taken. I was just a crazy, angry black woman to the mental health community and to the police. Everyone thought I deserved to be there and that my children were being saved from me. DCPP and the Court Did Not Help Me or My Family After the arrest, hospital stay, and release, I couldn't get in touch with my mom or my children. So, I headed back to my home in the suburbs. Once there, I called my mom, and we eventually went to the DYFS building where I briefly saw my children. They were taken because I was believed to be mentally unstable. There were no efforts or attempts by DYFS to help me stop the separation. After they were taken, I was asked to do a million things from getting to therapy, to getting a restraining order and filing for divorce, to securing housing and getting a job. I was asked to be “less crazy” and “less angry.” DYFS never took time to understand me. They thought, if I was being abused, why didn’t I leave my husband? If I was depressed, just be strong and get therapy for your children. I was expected to be well and strong but without anyone trying to help me get there. At the court, I felt like the judge hated me. He was mad that I was still married and not divorced. He thought I was trying to get back with my husband. He was mad that I wasn’t in all the therapies ordered (I couldn’t go because there were waitlists or they were too far away). I wasn’t allowed to talk in court. If I talked in court, the judge would roll his eyes at me. He didn’t see me as a mother fighting for my children—he saw me as an angry and crazy black woman trying to get my husband back. I was so ashamed and felt like I was nothing every time I went to court.

I found out that DYFS split my children up. The boys were placed with an older woman. My girls were placed in extremely traumatizing situations. The first night my middle daughter was placed in a very nice home, but she wasn't with her siblings. She spent the whole night crying. It still breaks my heart when I think about what the situation has put her through. My oldest daughter was placed with her baby sister in other homes. The girls were eventually reunited, but the foster homes that they were placed in, which totaled about three, were constantly a problem. Since my oldest was about 13, she was overprotective of her siblings and fought with the foster family to ensure that they were treated well. In one home, my girls were exposed to other girls around their age who used vulgar and explicit language, especially in reference to their body parts. I was very upset with the system, not only because they took my children away from their family, but because they put them in unsafe homes. My girls never felt like they were part of the foster home’s family. They were never truly accepted or loved by these strangers. They also took my children away from all their extended family—their aunts, uncles, and cousins. They were separated and disconnected. T.S., A Friend Who Became a Foster Parent to Save Us The children were still attending school in their hometown. I was still allowed to speak to them on the phone and visit with them two days a week at a parenting facility provided by DYFS. My son’s friend’s mother, T.S., found out what was happening to me and my family. She fought and asked to be the foster parent for the whole family. She reunited my sons and daughters into one home. Although I was extremely embarrassed that the whole town knew my business, I was very grateful that I was getting the help that my family so desperately needed. I had almost lost all hope in humanity, but this woman literally saved my family's lives and well-being. T.S. was my hero. She became my children’s biggest

22 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

Powered by