Our first home right out of the Raines residence is barely a notation in the file and I dont remember it at all. Apparently it was a brief 10 day stay in a temporary, emergency, placement. Other than a small, two line reference, there is no other info in the file. I dont know what the emergency was or why it all seems to have happened overnight. I remember very little of our surrender back into care by Caroline.
The second home was a level two home, special needs. I still dont know how high the levels go but a level two home translates into children that are damaged in some way and need special care. It also usually equals more money. Our first home was meant to be temporary, I have no bad memories of the two months we spent in the Nelson home. It was over a summer and we were registered at Bishop Cridge summer day camp which I loved. Ironically, Bishop Cridge is a former orphanage in a magnificent old manor home in the heart of Victoria. We ate a lot of spaghetti at the Nelson home and shared a room with bunk beds in the basement. This parent cites us as normal, well adjusted, kids with no issues other than regular nightmares. It’s strange now to see the difference from one home to the next in the assessments of our attitudes. The next home was not as forgiving.
To this day I call her the Dragonlady: the matriarch of our next home. She embodied everything that is evil about foster care for me and she was awful to my little brother. Ive wracked my brain now to try and figure out why he had so many more problems in homes than I did and I cant think of a single thing he did that was bad.
He wet the bed. Given the trauma we had both just been through, I found out later that he too had been abused in the Raines residence, I think bedwetting is pretty minor but he was punished for it. Constantly. Belittled and berated. Forced to stand at a washbasin in the basement and wash his own sheets. Once again I did nothing to protect him. Nothing to save my own flesh and blood from further horrors. That single fact breaks my heart. The Dragonladys punishment of choice was a wooden spoon to the palms. If that failed, two encyclopedias held over the head for hours on end or extra chores. Nothing that would leave evidence or that a child could prove. It was her word against those of her wards. Ive learned later just how much she lied about us when I finally went line by line through my copy of my foster care file. I assume she did it to increase her paycheque. She still represents for me the worst foster care has to offer.
He endured that for a year and a half during which he developed more behaviour issues. He started to poop his pants resulting in further punishment. I see now the monster she worked hard to create. Through all of it my little brother, two years younger than I, endured. She caught him masturbating while going pee one day. Again he was punished. That moment stuck in my head and one of the most dramatic of her reactions. Ive often wondered now if he took to messing his pants because he wasnt allowed out of his room? We werent family members in that home. We were commodities, we were animals, cattle she was paid to feed and house. It was there I started to learn the real process of foster care. My brother wasnt allowed to eat at the table, he ate at the counter alone. His bedroom was in the basement. Alone. We walked to school together and home together and occasionally played in the backyard but I dont really remember where he was most of the time. I played in my room alone and assume now that he did the same. I made a box of paper horses that I had drawn or traced. Those were my toys. I dont even know now what he had, if anything, to fill his days aside from an empty room. His bedding removed as he wet the bed and she was tired of washing it. I remember going by his room one day and seeing the bare blue striped mattresses on his bunk beds. Bare panelled walls. I dont remember where he was when I walked by, or even why I walked by. That site strikes me now as heartbreaking and it’s burned into my brain.
Ive learned now, in my file, that I apparently used him as a scapegoat according to the Dragonlady herself. I dont remember him ever actually doing anything bad other than the behaviours mentioned so Im not sure exactly what I scape-goated him into being blamed for. Im torn by trying to process that I may have been the cause of his mistreatment and the fact that I did nothing to protect him. I try to quantify what I remember and compare it to what is reported by the various workers and the Dragonlady herself and cant seem to get the two to line up. Of course there is no mention of his almost constant punishment in the file. Only repeated references to us being unruly and defiant. Especially me, so it strikes me as odd that he is punished. I also struggle when comparing the foster parent report to the school ones. They don’t match and almost speak of totally different children. I often wonder why no one questioned this fact so clear in black and white. Was no one actually paying attention?
I had nightmares almost constantly for the first while at the Dragonladys. I didnt sleep well. It took years for me to be able to sleep near a doorway. I had therapy sessions with a child psychologist on a continuous basis but wasnt ready to talk about anything they wanted me to talk about according to the reports in my file. I remember not liking Dr Crawford much but I dont remember the specifics of our discussions. My IQ was tested and they discovered I was freakishly smart, with an IQ that rivals that of Einstein. I still pride myself on that one fact, something they can never take away or diminish. I think that’s why I bury myself in knowledge and books so much. It’s the only thing that has ever been truly and untouchably mine.
I wonder now if my brother had the same nightmares, alone in his basement bedroom. If he too saw a therapist. If he had help.
I took my brother and ran away from the Dragonlady once too. I dont remember what spurned that action or where I planned to go but I remember walking for hours. We arrived at our social workers in the middle of the night and she promptly took us right back to the Dragonlady. That was how it worked. Every time. We’d run, complain, take a stand and be completely ignored. My brother began his stints in institutions from the Dragonladys house too. I remember visiting him often and hope now that his time in E.M.I was better than his life outside it.
How he turned out so well is beyond me. He had it so much worse at a younger age and has it so much more together now. The resiliency of some people is astounding.