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When I was eight years old, my sisters and I were removed from our home and placed in foster care in the Utah state system. Our home environment was unsafe and unstable. The idea was that we would spend temporary time in care until my mother could be named suitable. There were three of us. My time in care was a brief one, but I remember fully the impact it had on my life.

The three of us girls were separated when removed from my mother's house, two of us placed in foster care, the third in a children's center alone because my foster mother could not care for all three of us. I was very fortunate to be placed in a loving young family while my mother jumped through the hoops to regain her parental rights. I was able to experience normality, a real normal for the first time in my life. I had clean clothes, new toys, and after-school snacks. I remember being helped with school work and playing in the backyard pool. During the separation, my mother became pregnant with her fourth child. In turn, she was back on track for a bit. She got a job, began dating a good man, and rented a house on a quiet suburban street. We bought a dog; his name was Morgan. He was very cute.

Things were great during the honeymoon period, as we call it. We all got along; we went to daycare and spent time in the kitchen together. After being reunited, I don't remember ever seeing a caseworker or social worker, and all of the counseling that we had went through ended as soon as we exited care. The happy, healthy suburban life didn't last long.

Eventually, we were back to only eating at school, nothing in the refrigerator. My mother was back to using drugs and we'd moved to three schools in one year. I remember many nights waiting for my mom to come home, many times wondering if she would come home and pack us up so we could move again. Her cycle of drug use and rotten boyfriends had come back full swing, and it seemed the only thing that changed for us was that now there were four of us girls.

The PTA mom had again become a party girl.
I know that the same resources that could have kept us out of foster care in the first place could have saved us after being reunified. My mother needed addiction treatment, parental classes, and job-skills training. We all needed family counseling. My story could have ended with a new dog on a quiet suburban street; it didn't have to end the same way it began. My story is just one of thousands like it: children removed from unsafe homes, separated from each other and placed in care, handed back with hopes of impossible promises of how it will be different this time. My mother is not a bad woman. She's just another young mother that needs support, wants change, and doesn't have the resources to do it.

Jennifer Gibson, entered the Utah state foster care system when she was 8 years old, after having been removed from her family as a result of abuse and neglect. As she was growing up, Ms. Gibson found refuge through her acting. With the support of her grandmother, Ms. Gibson has starred in several community theatre productions and participated twice in the Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant. Through sharing her story, she has been an advocate for abused and neglected children.

Location

Utah
8 Comments
Mar 10, 2009 By FC Steve

Comments

MarksonJulian's picture

MarksonJulian said:

It was definitely a touching story. I also write blogs and sometimes I also share my experiences. I really see it here to like your work and I think you would like mine to, for my site and blogs.

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified) said:

As a Foster Carer (not in the USA) it's interesting to read how similar humanity is across the whole world. The ways parents stray off track through drugs and alcohol addictions, the effects on their children.

As our children are not fed at school, (they take their own sandwiches),not being fed at home becomes very obvious to teachers and they are required to report neglect cases to the authorities.

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified) said:

Thanks for posting your story. I work at a school and will be showing your story to the kids here. May the Lord bless you and keep you safe.

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified) said:

I am a foster mom of neglected children and everyone of the thirty two kids I have cared for over the last 15 yrs were all the same. Damaged,neglected and didn't know what true love was. Now I can see each one of them today as well as the ones in my home and I know they know in their hearts that they are loved.

I am soo sorry that kids have to go through things like this but I am also proud to say that I am one of these people that welcome them with open and loving arms and they know they are safe.

manoble's picture

manoble (not verified) said:

So many times we have watched children go back home before everyone was truly ready - our prayers go with them along with our 800 number so that they can reach us whenever they need to. Some of them use it - Thank God! Our hearts break every time a child comes (because of what they went through) and every time they leave (because of the love and the hopes we have that things will be better for them). I'm sorry that someone wasn't there for you.

manoble's picture

manoble (not verified) said:

Mary from Ohio
Foster mom for 10+ years

gailfrost's picture

gailfrost (not verified) said:

I'm glad this story turned out good for this young girl

Misunderstood's picture

Misunderstood (not verified) said:

wow this sound so much like my story did not lnow that many people are out there with identical stories almost