I was just an infant when my mother put me in foster care. In a few short months I was adopted. As a young child my life was great, but as I got older, my adoptive parents, the Fergusons, soon became my worst nightmare.
They would beat me and my five adoptive siblings with anything they could get their hands on–belts, baseball bats, two-by-fours, shoes, fists, hammers. We were burned with clothes irons, on the stove, with a curling iron. They would beat us while we were naked, duct tape us to a chair or our beds for days, and hold us over a banister by our feet–then drop us. Sometimes they starved us. We were forced to drink urine, hot sauce, drink from the toilet. They pushed us into the clothes dryer and turned it on. A few of us were held under water. They even urinated on some of us and forced us to eat our own excrement.
My brothers and sisters were my best friends—we took care of each other, and I hated seeing them get hurt. Two of them managed to run and never look back. I was sad they weren’t with us, but happy that they were able to go before someone was killed. Because if we didn’t get out when we did, we might all be dead.
When we were finally removed, I spent my first two months in foster care with my four siblings. It was the best two months I’d had in a long time. Then we were split. My older brother Jermaine went into one foster home, and my other siblings and I into another.
I was ten years old, scared, confused, and most of all lonely. I wanted so much to belong with a family, but how do you trust people when you’re sure that they won’t stay in your life? I rebelled because I feared being let down by those who said they loved me. What made it worse–I had three different counselors to help me address my trauma. Every time I finally felt like I could open up, I was moved to someone else.
I had my last chance at adoption when I was 15, but my fear took over: They were already abusing an adoptive child. Not wanting to experience the same thing twice, I purposely sabotaged my chances of adoption. I was sent to another foster home where I waited to be adopted; however, I ended up aging out when I was 18.
It felt like I was thrown to the wolves, not having parents to rely on. I had to figure out everything myself, which ended up backfiring. I purchased a car, but since I didn’t have my license, I put it in the name of the person I was living with. When I eventually left–it was no longer a healthy environment–I had to leave my car behind. I just didn’t have the support I needed to make sound decisions. Even now it can be hard. I recently had a handsome baby boy. I wanted mothering comfort and answers for all my questions, but I didn’t have anyone to turn to.
At one point I envied my siblings with families. Two of my siblings had been adopted and my brother Jermaine was with foster parents who acted like he was theirs. I knew I should be happy for them, but felt like I deserved to be happy too. Sometimes I blamed Jermaine. I told myself if he was here looking out for me like he used to, I would be okay. I know it’s cruel to think that way. I realized that I wouldn’t want anybody to not have parents, because it is the hardest thing. I’m now very proud and happy for all of my siblings; we have all come a long way.
Some things could have been done differently in foster care. All teens should get Driver’s Ed and get licensed before they age out. And we should be taught me the basics. I never learned how to do important things like schedule a doctor’s appointment, write a check, pay bills, cook, call in prescriptions or file taxes properly. My foster parents helped me with some things, but overall the foster care system could have done a better job.
Still, foster care was a blessing. Everyone who was on my team–caseworkers, lawyers, and judges–all wanted me to succeed. They got me the help that I needed in school so I could thrive. They encouraged me to get involved in sports and school activities. They taught me to be myself–that no matter what anybody told me in my past, I could be anything I want.
Now I’m twenty years old and have my son. I don’t have my own parents, but I do have family. I will fight to ensure my son grows up with both of his parents because of the toll it takes on someone who doesn’t. Life has been difficult, but I’m surviving because I’m a survivor.
Stay tuned for Jermaine Ferguson’s blog tomorrow. You can read more about the Ferguson siblings here: http://bit.ly/1NEVYcz.
Published on May 22, 2016 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.