2009 FosterClub All-Star Kita Anderson had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for Annual Boulder County Foster Parent Banquet on October 16, 2009 and, by all accounts, stole the show. Here's a transcript of her speech:
Thank you for having me tonight. It is truly an honor to be here in the company of so many wonderful foster parents. Your commitment to helping a child when they need it the most is an inspiration. My name is Kita Anderson and I am one of those children.
I have always dreamt of a perfect family, but I never knew what “perfect” meant exactly. I knew that running up the stairs with my birth dad chasing me with a belt was not normal. I knew that my birth mother leaving my siblings and I for days at a time was not normal. I knew that my oldest sister who raised my younger siblings and I, made sure we had baths, fed us the only food we had in the house, and tucked us in bed at night was not normal for a girl who was still a child herself. That was all I knew.
I entered the foster care system right here in Boulder County when I was 5 years old. Two years before I went into care, my two older half sisters were taken away by their birth father and I didn't see them again until my senior year of high school.
My younger brother who was born with Fetal Alcohol Effects was placed with an amazing foster family that later adopted him. I couldn't ask for a better family for him.
My younger sister and I went to a newly licensed couple who saw an ad in the local paper looking for more foster parents. Entering a new home and family was hard for me especially after I had taken on the responsibility of protecting my younger sister. I didn't want us to be separated from each other; my younger brother was already in another home. I made sure to protect my younger sister no matter what, even if that meant being emotionally distant from my new foster parents.
I vividly remember the ride to their home with the caseworker. My younger sister asked what we were supposed to call them and he said anything we felt comfortable with, as long as it was appropriate. Her little 3 year old self said she would call them “Mommy” and “Daddy”. I felt like she was already betraying our birth parents and I deliberately said “I'm going to call them by their first names because that's what I want to be called”. Little did I know, I would soon be calling them “Mommy” and “Daddy” too.
During the two years that I lived there, I experienced true unconditional love and I was able to be a real kid without any worries. Our new home was clean and inviting. I was relieved to be welcomed by a warm, loving face. I felt safe for the first time in my life. I liked Denise right away and knew immediately that my sister and I would be happy. And we were happy, making forts in the living room, and coloring in our room, surrounded by the beautiful pink carpet that enlivened it.
Dennis and Denise provided a wonderful home for my sister and I. I remember going to Garden of the Gods, camping in the rain, riding in the wheelbarrow while Dennis pushed us around the back yard, Friday night spaghetti dinners, celebrating birthdays with my friends from school, decorating our room with our drawings, and watching our favorite TV show, Sesame Street. Even as a young child, I loved books and Denise always had the best voice and patience reading to us at anytime of the day. Education was important to them and they showed this through the many experiences we shared as a “family”. To this day, I cherish these everyday childhood memories in my heart.
Dennis was the one who always played with us outside and he taught me how to ride my first bike. He climbed on the small bright pink bicycle and rode around our cul-de-sac while I chased after him. I was already afraid of any two-wheel contraption because of a nightmarish accident I had of falling off of my birth dad's motorcycle. But Dennis had the patience, understanding and love to teach me how to ride my own bike. That meant the world to me.
Unfortunately, our happy life was interrupted two years later by Social Services. My birth parents would never be able to care for us again and the next best option was adoption. My little sister and I were being sent to two different adoptive homes. I was terrified, not so much for myself, but for my little sister who would have no one to watch out for her. After all, it was my duty as the big sister to protect her.
Leaving Denise and Dennis was the hardest thing I went through. I thought I had found a permanent family and I was perfectly happy to grow up there, but Social Services believed that growing up in a permanent home instead of staying in long-term foster care would be better for my sister and I. So I was to be adopted by a single mother and change schools again and would need to get use to a new family.
The day I left the Segers' home, I felt like my heart was being ripped in pieces. I was desperately trying to tell my caseworker that I wanted to stay and that my sister and I needed to stay together, but the words never came out. I resorted to a quiet goodbye and later that night, I cried my heart out for my parents and the home that I thought I would have forever.
The Segers' had provided a new life for me and I was scared for a new beginning. I didn't think I could survive another transition and learning to be a daughter to another person. But I had persevered thus far in my young life and I decided if I couldn't be with them I would make them proud by being the best daughter to my new mom that I could be even with the hurt.
Even though my adoptive mom wanted us to become a family as quickly as possible, she also recognized that the Segers' had been such a prominent part of my life that the transition would have to be gradual. She allowed us to have contact to ease the adjustment I had to make to be comfortable in my new home.
We would have dinners once a month and I was allowed to sleep over every now and then. But eventually we both got used to the fact that living with her was my permanent home and the visits with the Segers' grew less frequent. I felt that I needed to be a good daughter to my adoptive mom and I learned to move on.
Meanwhile, my sister was living with her new adoptive family who somehow thought it would be best to cut the biological tie from our brother and me completely in order to create their perfect happy family. My adoptive mom fought hard to keep us in contact and only after a couple of years of sneaking visits, did her family finally give in and accept that we had a sister bond that no one could break.
While I still stayed in contact with the Segers', my adoptive mom became resentful that I still loved them as my parents. I tried to hide it the whole 8 years I lived with her, but I think deep down both of us knew they still had a big place in my heart.
Whether it was that she knew I still wanted to live with them or that she knew she was not a fit mother for me anymore, she decided that it would be best for me to no longer live with her. This surprised me and I was shocked that I would be moving yet again for an unknown amount of time. She explained to me that this would be better for me in the long run, but I didn't see how. Immediately, I felt like I had betrayed her by still loving the Segers and I begged her to let me stay, promising that I would be a better daughter and do anything she asked. She said that even though this was the hardest thing she had to do and she still loved me deeply, she was doing this for me and I would thank her later. Ironically, or maybe not so, she said I was to move in with the Segers again and they would figure it out.
As much as I was happy to be “reunited” with them again, I was extremely sad to be leaving my adoptive mom and I didn't understand why this was happening. Denise came to pick me up with 2 full suitcases and tears gushing down my face. Denise also did not understand why my mom had suddenly decided she was an unfit mother, but she knew this was a traumatic event for me and was emotionally there for me. We later found out that my adoptive mom suffered from schizophrenia and she had done me a favor by placing me back in the foster care system.
However, I couldn't stay with the Segers because they had 2 teenage sons living with them and I would be sleeping on their couch. As much as they wanted me to stay with them, they decided to find another place for me. I reached out to a couple in my church who immediately took me in and became licensed foster parents for me. During the next year that I lived with them, I continued to stay in contact with the Segers who lived across town from my new foster parents.
But in my heart, I knew the new couple were not my parents and were never going to be my “real” parents. The Segers were still in my life, but they didn't want to overstep on my current foster parents. So we spent time together doing fun miscellaneous activities. Every time I went to their house, I felt safe and memories flooded my mind. But I never thought I would live with them again. They were just supportive adults in my life.
Meanwhile, school became my escape from my hectic home life. I thrust all my energy into my studies and concentrated on my scholastic future. My new foster parents were very helpful in keeping my grades high and also gave me the spiritual support I needed in this difficult time.
At the end of my junior year of high school, I felt that it was best to move on because my foster parents were about to have a baby. I just thought they needed a quiet home to raise their family in and I didn't want to be a burden. Despite my beliefs, my foster parents supported my move and said they still wanted to be in my life.
My next stop was a girls group home 30 minutes away. This placement allowed me to grow to my fullest potential and I learned a lot about myself. I lived with 10 other girls and I learned to share a room for the first time since I was 5 years old. The couple that owned the group home, Papa and Mama Bear, opened their hearts to me and for the 3rd time in my life, I felt like I belonged and was loved. Although I was still in touch with the Segers, I knew this was the best place for me to be at that time in my life.
I still called the Segers when I wanted some time away from the chaotic house and some parental love. Denise would drive up in their BMW Z3 convertible and we would cruise the distance back to their house. I still had to request passes from my caseworker to spend time with them but I needed their support and would go over to their house as often as I could.
During this time, I was applying to colleges and reconnecting with my older sisters and biological grandmother who lived in San Francisco. Finding my oldest sister again was the last thing I needed to feel complete before I aged out of the system at 18 years old. The Segers had known of my older siblings but I never got to see them while I was in foster care because Social Services didn't know where they were. They paid for my flight to California to see her after 13 years of separation. They supported me when I needed to talk about my memories of my older sister and helped me deal with my emotions of the reunification.
I was accepted into the University of San Francisco to earn my degree in Psychology, I was ecstatic to move to another state and start a fresh part of my life where I was making the decisions and doing what was good for me. At the same time, I was sad to leave my home state, where all the memories, good and bad, had taken place. The Segers put me on a plane to my new home and said they would be there for me whenever I needed them and to call them for anything.
All four years of college, they stuck to their word. When I was stressing about finals, I called to get some studying tips. When I had roommate or friend trouble, I called them to vent and get advice. When my birth mother was in a hospice in Colorado, they flew me out to say goodbye and forgive her for choosing booze instead of the love of her own children. They were there for my emotional breakdown and gave me the unconditional love and hugs I needed. And when I had to make one of the most difficult decisions this past summer whether to defer graduate school at Columbia University or not, they helped me weigh the pros and cons and fully supported me, offering to let me live with them and take a year to deal with my long ago suppressed issues in therapy.
Today, I owe my values and positive view on life to the Segers. I know that I deserve to be loved and that I can be happy despite my past because I had such great role models to look up to. I realize that they saved my life when I was in dire need and I always had a place to go or someone to call when I needed parents. They are my permanency. I know I would have made it through the system even if I didn't have them, but they made all the difference. I finally found my perfect family.
Three of the foster parents that I mentioned in my speech are in the room right now. Please stand up so we may applaud you for your love and dedication.