We all ran away to our grandparents’ house because they were the only stability we had. Ever since my grandparents and my aunt made that commitment to take four kids into their house at the ages of 72 and 62 and 26 it has been one struggle after another, most of which have been financial struggles. My two younger brothers and younger sister and I lived with the people who were supposed to be our parents. My mother’s drug habits when she was younger caught up with her. One day she had a mental breakdown, later on she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar, manic depressant and a dozen other mental illnesses.
My father became overwhelmed with the burden of raising four kids on his own so he turned to alcohol to numb his pain, just like his father had taught him. He instigated fights every single night, being the oldest I felt it was my duty to protect my younger siblings therefore I took on the brunt of the physical abuse; but nobody could escape his verbal abuse.
Soon after the divorce we moved to a neighborhood close to my grandparents’ house. One by one we moved out, starting with my sister when she was just six years old. It took my dad a couple of weeks to realize that two of his kids were no longer around before he showed any concern at all. One day my dad came to bring us to the place he lived. Since we didn’t want to go we called the cops, the cops called protective services. We then had a conversation that ill never forget; either permanently live with our grandparents or be split up across the state in group homes, foster homes, basically anywhere they had room.
Once the commitment was made then the challenges began. First our house was too small the meet the state foster care requirements, so we built a larger one. Grandfather built this house with his brothers and father, all which are dead now. Then it didn’t fit regulations, handrails had to be up, rooms had to be painted etc. We pulled all nighters in order so it would be finished in time, so we wouldn’t be split up. Then they drove us an hour one way to school, because we had switched schools four times before we entered foster care.
On average we spent $500 more per week on groceries alone. We spent $1500 on gas each month. My grandfather retired from Daimler Chrysler and my grandmother still works as a manager at taco bell. They actually had to file bankruptcy last year because we were spending more than what we were making. I remember there was a time we were 6 months behind our house payment and we were going to get evicted. That is scary. We all felt responsible for that, it ruined our grandparents’ credit. From one struggle to another we somehow made it by. My aunt stopped going to school and put her life on hold, and took up a management position at Arby’s in order help with the financial burden. As a result of all of this I think it brought us closer than the average American family.
I’m 20 now but we used to do movie nights every Friday. My grandpa calls me the “poster boy” of foster care. But the only reason I am that poster boy is because what they have done for me. They sacrificed for us because nobody else would. I don’t want to leave you all with on a bad note! I am doing well for myself only with the help of my grandparents. I am wrapping up my second year at Oakland University and majoring in public administration and policy. I work on a local level with DHS as an advocate and I work with a non profit called FosterClub as a national advocate and resource. I have just received a summer internship here in DC working on legislation.
The list can go on and I can keep you for the rest of the afternoon. The truth is none of this would have been imaginable if it weren’t for the loving and caring support of my grandparents and aunt. Kids are waiting…”
2006 FosterClub All-Star JJ Hitch was placed in foster care when he was fourteen years old along with his three younger siblings. He has struggled with many tribulations associated with balancing and maintaining his busy life beginning at a young age. JJ has been an active advocate for the past three years; obtaining three internships, trained social workers, and hashelped plan local and national conferences