Societal Debris

Saw a meme today about foster care, a quote from a foster kid that read: “Ive had 23 foster placements which is really a dressed up way to say Ive left everything and everyone 23 times” I was at 34 “placements” before I even reached adulthood. That is the rule not the exception. Nearly 30 years later Im still wrestling with the damage that caused.

I cant help but think there’s a whole generation of kids churned out by this same system all across North America. Now these are mostly US stats as they are easier to find than Canadian ones but either way something has got to change:

Up to 80% of those incarcerated spent some time in foster care. 25% of foster kids end up in prison within 2 years of emancipation. 65% of kids in care experience 7 or more school changes. Children in care are four times more likely to be abused and between 25% and 40% of all kids in foster care report abuse. Those are just the survivors.

In my province alone, Alberta, 741 kids died in care between 1999 and 2013. An additional 100 have died from 2017 to 2021. These kids were beaten, starved, neglected and abused TO DEATH in a system meant to keep them safe.

These same victims of a system that shuttles them around like cattle also disregards abuse reports. Foster kids arent believed. Instead they are removed to another home with potentially all new abuses and a different kid is put in their old placement to face the same stuff they tried to report.

Eventually you give up trying to change it, give up trying to save yourself and just accept that’s the way it is.

So you have a government system created to get these kids to adulthood however it can be done with little to no regard for the condition with which they arrive just so these same institutionalized beings can finish their adulthood in prison.

Whole generations of humans growing up believing they’re unlovable and flawed somehow. That no one cares, no one wants them and no one will save them and we wonder why these same kids end up in gangs as a surrogate family, abusive relationships or go on to abuse their own kids.

No one taught them differently. They have no idea what love is or what it feels like to be the recipient of it. They had no good examples and no one to convince them they had any value other than the body parts they could offer up, the work they could do or the cheque they brought in every month.

Im not even touching on the racial overtones. Natives in Canada and Blacks in the US are both far more likely to end up in and age out of this system.

This is not ok. It has got to change.

Humpty Dumpty

I watched a documentary the other day about broken children. I think it was actually called “Broken Child” and it’s gotten me thinking, stewing really, as I tend to do whenever I cant figure something out. Why arent I much more screwed up than I actually am? Or at least than I appear to be?

By all accounts, according to that documentary, I should be a drug addict or in jail, or homeless. Thus far Ive managed to become none of these things.

Thus far.

Ive been to jail, sort of, on a traffic issue, so I dont think that counts.

Ive dabbled in the drug thing but Im too control freaky to let it consume me. Im also kind of poor and have responsibilities that just arent very drug friendly.

I live in an RV. By choice. Not sure if that qualifies as homeless or not. I think Im probably closer to this qualification than any of the others. Ive never been one to put down roots, I have no intention of ever owning a house and tend to freak out if I get trapped in any sort of seemingly permanent situation.

That extends to living situations, relationships and jobs. The second I feel locked into anything I get very antsy and it takes every bit of control I can muster not to literally tuck tail and bolt. No particular destination, I never really have a plan but I bolt all the same as fast I can manage it.

Still Im a little perturbed as to why Im not a whole lot more screwed up. The fight or flight thing seems pretty minor in the grand scheme of all the stuff that could go wrong.

As usual Ive put far more thought into this than a normal human being probably would.

This is what Ive come up with:

Ive never been a victim. I always refused to acknowledge that part of my history, or rather Ive never accepted the victim role as being my defining characteristic. For the most part Ive tended to move on with life and forget things, repress them I guess. It works, mostly. I think because of that Ive never really felt like I was damaged. I know I am damaged, pretty heavily, but it doesnt seem to impact my ability to function.

It comes back to “if you never tell a child they’re screwed up are they actually screwed up?” question that I asked in an earlier post.

I was told I was screwed up. A lot. That I was damaged, broken, unloved, unwanted. That I would never be loved or wanted. That I was so horribly broken that I debated even continuing my existence a couple of times as a teen. My foster care file is riddled with those terms and all the examples that go with them.
The same things that got me labelled as ‘broken’ are the very same things I now view as strength. I was rebellious. Not in a teen partier sort of a way, but somewhere a long the line in my pre-teens someone told me I was smart and had me IQ tested. Twice. I took that one good thing and ran with it, clung to it as though it was the only thing keeping me alive and armored myself against the world with it. That became who I was. I wasnt a victim I was the smart kid. I buried myself in academics, joined (was invited into) Mensa, and devoured books on any subject I could get my hands on. The adults that labelled me as broken were viewed with contempt and only useful in that they kept me fed and housed.
The best way to get me to do something is still to tell me I cant. Tell me I’ll never be worth anything and I will spend my life trying to prove you wrong. I might not succeed but I’ll die trying.
As a smaller child, when the opinions of adults mattered, I still tried to prove them wrong. They wanted a broken little mouse, scared of the world, of grown men and unable to interact normally. I was outgoing bordering on obnoxious and not even aware I was supposed to be scared of men until I was told by a camp counsellor when I was 14.
I spent five years of my life labelled as ‘terrified of men.’ I had no idea and, as far as my memory serves, had no issue with them.

Someone had forgotten to give me the memo.
That seems to be a common theme in my life.

The strangest part about being ‘broken’ is all the people determined to fix you.
Even now, as an adult, I find people fall into three distinct camps. They avoid you as though they’ll catch it or you’ll rob them blind, they pity you and want to fix you and baby you like some bird with a broken wing or they dont seem to know exactly how you’re broken either so ignore it and carry on like normal. The last is the rarest and Im fortunate to have managed to surround myself with that group at this stage in my life.
They dont want to fix me. They like me fine just the way I am.
Scars and all.