This essay is the college winner of The Nation‘s Third Annual Student Writing Contest.
Some contend that before I was born, my future was predetermined. My mother met my father in a mental institution where she was being treated for schizophrenia. I was conceived at that institution. By one year of age I would be in my first foster home placement.
My sister was born a year and a half later; she too would enter the foster care system. We would be placed back with our birth mother several times a year, she would have a mental breakdown and we would be thrust back into yet another foster care placement.
There is a scar that remains above my left eyebrow that reminds me of the inadequacy of state oversight and concern. My mother, having a psychotic episode, thought I turned into the devil and slashed me with a butcher knife. I was young, but understanding something terrible had happened, I ran for my life.
A police officer found a bloody 6-year-old running down the road and rescued me. The state returned me to her home several times after that, and it wasn’t until she had failed to show up for court that the judge had had enough and terminated her parental rights. By then, my sister and I had been placed into other foster homes, where we would eventually be adopted separately.
With my exposure to forty foster homes, three group homes and finally adopted parents, I would ask this president to focus resources and attention on improving mental health services for dependent children in this nation.
The Sacramento Bee reports, “There are more than 500,000 children and youth in foster care in the U.S.; approximately 20,000 youth ‘age out’ or emancipate from foster care each year.” Most of these children will not receive the counseling, guidance or training that young people need to survive in the world. They will rely on what is instilled in them in the “system” and will end up in jail, sometimes after committing terrible crimes.
That system raises children to become criminals without access to the basic common-sense knowledge necessary to succeed at work or school. They have no foundation to build solid family values, but they procreate, and when they bring their own children into the world the cycle remains unbroken. They will be the responsibility of the state from birth to death. These are humans who, given half a chance to live a good life, could flourish. All they require are resources and training to save them before they turn to a life of crime and drugs. We fight wars on drugs and terror; we have task forces, raids and immense resources to apply to our problems. We have to attack the source of violence against children in society.