My Eleventh Foster Home Experience

This is a chapter from my book, which is no longer in print, I wish to share. The book is available in its entirety on my web site for anyone who wishes to read.

This is the story of “My Eleventh Foster Home.” It covers a mere eleven months of my youth (from May 15, 1960 to April 16, 1961). It was the worst year of my life as least as far as my memory serves me:

The stability of four years came to sudden end in May 15, 1960, when I was abruptly removed from the Monshor’s home. I was placed in the Wayne County, Michigan Youth Detention Center. My crime: at age ten I was guilty of not having a family to claim me as their son nor a place to call home.

The Detention Center was to be my home until a new foster home was found. Here I was placed amongst youth offenders who were charged with a wide assortment of crimes. My bed, to start due to overcrowding, would be a thin mattress in the open area of the block.

I am the youngest boy on the block, as well as the smallest. Though I attempted to fight as best I could I was unable to overcome the attacks of older boys. I was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

One day after being assaulted and left naked in a cell, I felt my life, at age ten,  was no longer worth living and attempted to hang myself with a belt. I was discovered before the act could be completed and placed in an isolation cell, where I would remain for two months.

Those responsible for the repeated rapes were never charged or held accountable in any manner.

In late July, another foster home was found…the eleventh in ten years. This is the only foster home experience I have any memory of, other than the three times with the Monshors.

The two homes were as different as night and day. How this home was ever approved as a foster home, I will never know. With the Monshors I was made to feel a part of the family, whereas at this home I feel I was considered a monthly stipend.

My bedroom was a cot out on the enclosed back porch. Because this was also the laundry room it was important that I put everything away first thing each morning. I was actually allowed to sleep in the house one night, when I got sunburned. I slept on the kitchen floor with a fan running to keep me cool. I was given an extra blanket during the winter months. However, it was still cold and most nights I also slept also in my clothes to keep somewhat warm.

I was given one meal a day. This was dinner and it was expected to last me until the following night. I was not allowed to eat this one meal with the family. A plate was prepared for me to take out to the back porch to eat alone.

I was also expected to do my homework out on the porch after dinner then go to bed. The only time I was really allowed in the house was to use the bathroom facilities. I made sure I used them and would be out of the house before others began rising.

When school began in the fall I was expected to walk about a mile to and from school each day…and not through the best of neighborhoods. This was also despite the fact that both their son and daughter had cars and could have driven me to school.

I arrived at school most days quite hungry. This was in the days before school lunch programs. Here, I learned how to steal to take care of my hunger. I was going to a Catholic school and each school day started with mass. I began to arrive at mass a little later than the other students. Most left their lunches in the outer lobby. Because I didn’t want anyone else to go hungry, I would sneak around to different lunches and steal different items so I too would have something to eat during the day. I never got caught. After all these years I still feel bad about having done this.

There was a Catholic church also close to this foster home. I went to mass one Saturday morning. An elderly priest offered the mass. I was the only boy in attendance. The priest stopped me that Saturday and asked me if I lived in the neighborhood and if I would like to be an altar boy for Saturday mass. I answered yes to both questions. Father took me out for breakfast after that mass and each and every Saturday thereafter. I now had a second meal on Saturday and didn’t have to steal it.

I soon developed a habit on Saturdays where I would leave Father and find a way to run off to the Monshors to spend the rest of the day. They welcomed me with open arms. I would leave in time to get back to this home before dark. After a few weeks it was arranged with the Monshors to pick me up after breakfast with Father and then drop me back off at this home, parking a couple blocks away so no one would know. This foster family never asked where I spent my Saturday, though I would be gone all day. They didn’t seem to care.

I remember Christmas 1960 with this family. A few weeks prior to Christmas, I was taken to St. Vincent de Paul Center to get my semiannual allotment of clothes. Those clothes were what I found under the tree for me that Christmas morning; there was nothing from the family.

I do not remember ever having a tender or loving moment with this family. I was not a part of it. I was just the foster care system’s kid for whom they were providing a bed and a meal a day…that was the extent of it. I was to spend 8-1/2 months in this hellhole.

On the night of April 15, 1961, I was told to pack my paper bag, and that I would be leaving in the morning. All I could think of was, “Here we go again.”

The final insult of this foster home came on my final night there. Their son, seventeen at the time, came back on the porch late during the night. He nudged me roughly. When I opened my eyes, light was coming through the porch windows so I could see him. He was standing over me, exposing himself, close to my mouth saying, “Take care of this for me.” I remember kicking out at him and then wailing away at him. I hit him everywhere I possibly could creating noises as he crashed into things. All the time I was yelling to arouse the rest of the house.

Finally his Mother came out to see what was going on. I yelled out, with tears rolling down my face, “He tried to force himself on me sexually.” He called me a liar and said he was just checking on me.

His Mother believed him and not me. She said, “You are a rotten no good for nothing boy, a dirty little boy, a liar. No wonder no one wanted me as I wasn’t fit to have anyone to want me. Good thing you will soon be out of our house, you ungrateful little bastard.” At least she got the bastard part correct.

I sat there in stunned silence and pain with what I heard, while crying now uncontrollably. Then I had my chance. I stood up and decked her son. I got a good hit in as I knocked out one of his front teeth…not bad for a scrawny eleven year old.

Dawn was soon approaching. It couldn’t come fast enough for me; I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I remember being slapped hard across the face and told to go get my bag and get out of their house…to sit on the cold front porch until the case worker came for me. That suited me just fine! When the case worker arrived I ran for the car.

Unbeknownst to me, sometime during the fall of 1960 the court must have determined that my constant moving was proving to be detrimental and that they needed to get me out of Detroit. They realized that wherever they sent me in Detroit, I would find a way to run away and go back to the Monshors.

Maybe they just wanted to admit they had failed me.

Eleven years old and I had already been moved in and out of homes fourteen different times…eight of those moves in just the first five years of life.

Another sign of their failure was that as far back as I could remember, each time a social worker came to where I was staying…it was a “new” social worker. Seems to me first the social workers gave up on me and finally the system.

Dawn April 16, 1961, I was taken from this foster home and placed on a plane with a social worker, not having been told where I was going. After a plane transfer in Chicago, we landed in Omaha, NE and were met by a priest. It was then I learned that I was going to Father Flanagan’s Boys Home; better known as Boys Town, Nebraska. I had never been on a plane before, never been out of Detroit and now I was in some place called Omaha and I was scared to death. The picture taken of me upon arrival at Boys Town I believe clearly shows the unhappiness and fear.

I was so ashamed of what had happened that previous night that I did not share it with the social worker. I have not shared it with anyone as I have remained ashamed until now…forty plus years later. I also have never shared the experiences of the Detention Center until I wrote this book…it has taken this long to heal the shame and pain.

I always felt I needed to keep it as my dark, dirty secret. As I thought of writing this chapter, I finally came to realize I was not the guilty party that night; I was the victim and thus could now forgive myself and let it go. I still obviously remember that woman’s final words to me. I still shudder when I think of this foster home.

I have tried to get as many records from the court as I could. Most of them are stored on microfiche. What has been stated here and the previous chapter was obtained from the application the social worker filled out for my admission to Boys Town.

However, back in 1986, a then current administrator did go through some of the microfiche to see if she could find any behavioral or medical problems on my part which may have precluded me ever being adopted. She found none. She also could not find any reason for so many moves. The only thing she could figure out was that as I grew older I became less acceptable to couples looking to adopt. This problem continues to plague older, foster care children today.

I have very few vivid memories of my childhood. It mostly seems a blur to me except for what I have shared or I have been able to totally block out many experiences.

The move to Boys Town would be the fifteenth move in my eleven years of life.

My web site: http://www.larrya.us

3 Responses

  1. Your story is heartbreaking. I am concerned that too little about what you experienced nearly 40 years ago has changed. We still here about children caught up in the foster-care system who are moved about arbitrarilly and have multiple case workers – many who rarely return calls or keep children or families informed about what is happening. The one thing that has changed over time is the apparent ease and frequency of child removals from their natural homes – always citing the state’s concern for “best interest of the child.” As I have often said: The state cannot nurture children. It can barely even manage placement of them. Do you know anything about your biological parents and/or why you were removed or ended up as a state ward? I am the exec. director of a group of families calling for a different approach to family crises than forced child separation from natural homes, and for system accountability. I am interested in. Interviewing former and current foster children/state wards for our efforts toward reform, and you may be able to help w tour own experiences. Our site is http://www.FamilyAdvocacyMovement.com.

  2. I too grew up in the care system in the UK, I had 9 foster homes until I became pregnant with my first child at 15 and was able to get married at 16. I am now 53 but I still remember the empty feeling of living with people who were simply paid to look after me. Big love to you xx

  3. You can certainly see your enthusiasm in the work you write.
    The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.
    Always follow your heart.

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