Foster Home

Mid-March of '84, my social workers, Ruth and Dot, took me to a new foster home. It wasn't too far away from my previous "home," but I still had to change schools. This trip took me to Marshall County, Kentucky. I was totally unfamiliar with the area, so I was apprehensive about the new living quarters. I had been moved around so much by this point, I had gained a great mistrust for these so-called "charitable" foster parents. Number one problem? Most of them didn't have enough money to raise their own kids, let alone some child of criminals.

Around this time, foster parents were getting paid about $400 a month to support me. The state paid for my medical care; there were tax breaks for having foster kids, too. So most of the money sent by the state to my foster parents went to either them or their kids. As we were driving to my new home, I was checking out the scenery. Pretty rural . . . no, make that very rural: farms, trailers, cow pastures, woods, gravel roads . . . sheesh, back into the boondocks again!

I guess I had gotten pretty cynical and pessimistic. I knew that I was really in for it when we pulled into the driveway. Long, white, ranch-style house with evidence of a resident "shade-tree mechanic" scattered about the yard. Sagging roof on the house . . . untidy lawn . . . falling fences.

A man and a woman stood on the front patio, grinning and squinting into the sun as they waved at us. The man had shaggy hair merging with a beard and grease all over his clothes. The woman was missing some teeth, wore a "holey" flannel shirt, an "I'm a Pepper, too!" T-shirt, and no bra. I don't like to be judgmental, but these two didn't exactly look like "winners" to me. Hell, I was eight years old and I could see that. Ruth and Dot left after the introductions and I braced myself for the interrogation to come. It was the routine . . . you get dropped off by the bureaucrat and left there for "hell knows what or how long." If they do tell you a date when you'll be leaving, they're lying. I got my chain jerked by a lot of people.

The worst part is, you don't know how much these strangers know about you. The only way you can tell are if: 1) You find part of your "file" in the house, or 2) They ask really obvious, leading questions about your past. It's gossip heaven for these people to find out the crimes of the fathers and the sins of the mothers. That way they know exactly how to lie to their friends and relatives about your past . . . until you get older and finally prove yourself to them. Then they say, "See what I turned this bastard into? She wouldn't be shit if it weren't for me." And so on.

 
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