When people think about foster care and adoption, they tend to have a picture in their minds about what that process looks like. But in most cases, there is often so much more to the narrative than they realize.
This is my story.
It starts long before I was born. My birth mother was born into a poor and divided family where alcohol addiction was prominent. Her upbringing was turbulent and difficult, with many moves among family members and no feelings of belonging. At 18, she met an Airman in the US AirForce and became pregnant with me. They married and tried to make it work, but after 3 years they eventually divorced and my mother became a single parent to me and my younger sister. She worked multiple jobs trying to make ends meet: waitressing, bartending, and dancing.
Life was stressful, and we were often unsupervised with me as the caretaker of my sister, providing food and safety for both of us. This was my life for approximately two years. Then, just after my fifth birthday, my mother decided she was no longer able to care for us. Our father refused to take us, and ultimately, we were placed in foster care with Gene and Charlotte Snyder.
We stayed with the Snyders for three months before they had to return us to our mother’s care. This back and forth between my mother and the Snyder family happened many times until our mother made the decision she was leaving Pennsylvania and moved us back to her home in Alamogordo, New Mexico. She then met a man who bought her a house in Lubbock, Texas and we moved there. I attended school and stayed in 24-hour daycares with my sister, often spending the night, going to school, and returning there afterward for days on end. Life was very difficult there. My mother’s boyfriend did not like my sister and was physically abusive toward her. I continued to supervise and feed her when we had food to eat.
Eventually, my mother asked me if I wanted to go back to Gene and Charlotte. I told her that they said their heart couldn’t take us leaving anymore and they would not be able to take us back again if we left. (I had heard them say this on one occasion in the car when I was pretending to be asleep – a skill I learned to keep us safe.) The next thing I remember was her crying and asking me if I would call them and ask them to adopt my sister and me. She told me that it meant we would stay with them forever. I was almost 7 years old when she put me on the phone to make the call. I remember crying when I asked them, and they both start crying too. Within a few days, Charlotte and her father
flew to Texas to pick up my sister and me.