Foster Care & Family Restoration

This heart-felt post is from guest blogger Sean Mitchell, current 3L and Regent Family Law student, in light of a FamilyRestoration post at http://regentfamilyrestoration.blogspot.com/2014/02/gimme-shelter-based-on-true-story-with.html :

I remember thinking, "This woman is saving our lives." Later, I had a new thought: "This woman doesn't care about us at all." Living in foster care was a dichotomous experience.

I was in the first grade when my brother and I entered a foster home. There were other children there, so I think it was an orphanage. Our mother was hospitalized and no one knew when she would be released. We had not seen our father in years. I hoped that my grandmother would take us in, but she had two children to care for and one of them had special needs. So my brother and I found ourselves in this place where children like us ate and cried themselves to sleep.

One day we received a visit from our grandmother and a woman who could have been her twin. In fact, they have the same first name and had been friends for years. We all sat at a table and listened as my grandmother explained that this woman would take us in as foster children. I was never told that she was paid to do this, but somehow I knew. Later, I saw an item of furniture that was full of photos of her prior foster children. My grandmother "sold" us on the idea by also telling us that we would now be living down the street from her. Soon thereafter, we moved out of the orphanage and into her home.

There are two positive things I remember about my foster care experience. The first is that my brother and I were given a place to live. I was so grateful for that. Second, my foster mother made us go to church. Though it was directly across the street from her home, she never went with us. I remember reciting poems at Easter and Christmas. Most importantly, I remember my baptism. My foster mother made that decision. Through this act, my soul has been secured. I am eternally grateful for that.

I have a lot of negative memories. I will share one. My foster mother was diabetic and had what I thought was a very strange diet. So we often ate whatever she ate. Many times she fed herself but did not feed us. In an effort to care for himself and his little brother, my brother took a can of Vienna sausages from the kitchen. We ate them all and hid the empty can behind our bunk beds. We apparently did a poor job of concealing the can; she found the can and beat us both. My brother was beaten first. While I stood in the hallway and waited for my turn, I noticed that the 23rd Psalm was framed and hung on the wall. I thought that repeating it would save me from the beating. It did not.

When I think about my foster care experience, I am not quite sure whether I should be sad or happy. I applaud those who serve such an important societal role. In Professor Kohm's Family Law course, I learned that foster parents are agents of the state and that they lack parental rights. This may contribute to unwillingness on the part of some foster parents to remain detached from the children whom they care for. As is often the case, my mother regained custody of my brother and me within a year or so. Foster care is often a temporary solution. After leaving our foster mother's care, we never saw her again. Did she ask about us? Did she care how we were doing? Or did she simply start over with a new foster child?


Law is more than a profession - it's a calling. 

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