In the beginning

The first intervention dates start in November of 1977. I would have been two and my brother just a small baby. The ministry was heavily involved for the next two years with reports on a numerous reports on nearly bi-weekly basis from multiple agencies. They debated apprehension quite a bit. I had a penchant for wandering the neighbourhood sometimes taking my brother with me. We were reported begging food off the neighbours, being left with babysitters for days on end and, when our mother was home, we weren’t supervised very well by the sounds of things. There are repeated reports of a worker doing a surprise visit and either myself or my brother being missing and the worker and my mother wandering the neighbourhood trying to locate us. I was not older than four at the time. By the time I had my fourth birthday our stays in foster homes had begun. A mix of our mother signing us over for weeks at a time so she could have a break from parenting and the Ministry taking us to try to force her to rethink her lifestyle.

My first real memory of a foster home was Judy. I assume that is her real name as most foster parents go by their first names. She had a cocker spaniel named Lady and hated my little bother with a vengeance. Her choice punishment was to lock him in a room in the dark in the basement. Some sort of storage room with a bed and jars of canned food in it. He spent a lot of time in there while I got to be the darling. At the time it meant nothing. Now it breaks my heart to know I did nothing.  I didnt even turn on the light for him although the switch was outside. I remember that switch well now. I dont know why that what stuck. I cant remember anything else about the layout of that house except that grey wall and door and the little white light switch. That was our first taste of what the government considered to be a better option than the woman who gave birth to us. We were back and forth between our birth mother and Judy a lot.

I want to say the Ministry should have tried harder. Now it’s easy for me to look back and make that judgement. I know nothing of the numbers of kids or the severity of what they were dealing with. It’s easy to judge without all the information and pretty hard to be impartial when you’re right in the thick of it. I like to think they had our best interest, even if those attempts failed miserably and repeatedly.

From Judy we moved on to the Morgensterns. Once again we were in the basement. Two beds pushed into the corner of a bare basement. They disliked us both equally. We learned the sting of a belt, learned to stay quiet in our little corner of the basement and especially not to upset their teen daughters. Dont touch anything and stay out of the way were the orders of the day. They are lessons children learn very well. We carried the experiences of these first few homes, and the lessons we learned, into each home after.

We were back and forth a lot in the beginning and we moved a lot, evidenced by repeated file transfers. The Ministry tried to help my mother keep her children, offering courses and money and doing what they thought might help. It didnt. Eventually they gave up helping and started the process of claiming my brother and I.  There were allegations of abuse, never quite substantiated. Lots of neglect and a final refusal to get it together enough to keep her children. The police had tired of interfering, workers had tired of having us turned in by babysitters after our mother didnt return from partying. Enough became enough. I believe the final straw was a series of house fires, neither of which our mother was home for and an eventual wandering off during which our social worker found us before anyone else. We were loaded up into his brown sedan and not returned again. It was now 1981, I was six.

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