Overcoming My Broken Childhood

By Julius Kissinger

Julius Kissinger-largeI was just 6 weeks old when I was adopted from foster care for the first time. Life with my adoptive family seemed okay, until I got a little older. There is a fine line between discipline and abuse, and that line was constantly crossed in our home. For ten years, I was tortured day in and day out, and I saw no end in sight.

I specifically remember being beaten by my father one evening. At the end of the night, I looked out my window, up at the night sky, and prayed to God that I would somehow be saved. But that didn’t happen right away. In fact, those nights of being beaten, sometimes with a baseball bat or a two-by-four, went on for a while. I grew up in the church and although I didn’t completely understand God, I knew in my heart that He was real. He is what I held onto, and He is what got me through the hardships. I knew that even if nobody else loved me, God did.

My five siblings were treated the same way, and we tried to protect each other. As we got older, some of my siblings ran away, but I was always afraid to pull something like that. When they got caught, they would answer to the belt, the iron, or whatever else my parents had in mind. Two of my siblings managed to run away and never come back.

When I was about 9, our home burned down, and we moved to a small rural town. Shortly after, something unexpected happened. Within one day, my life completely shifted. My mother called her doctor, and when she was finished, she didn’t completely hang up the phone. Her voice – threatening my brother – was recorded on the doctor’s voicemail. A few hours later Children Services workers were on our doorstep, removing us from our home.

I will be honest. I was scared. Even though my parents beat and tortured me, I didn’t want to go into foster care. I was afraid that I would end up in another abusive home. The social workers tried to keep my three remaining siblings and me together, and for a while we went from home to home because no one wanted four kids. Consequently, we were split up. I spent six years being a ward of the state. The homes I went through were fine, but I never attached myself to them. I knew they were temporary, and to me they weren’t worth investing in. I just wanted to serve my time in whatever foster home I was in and move to the next one.

My life changed when I was sent to a new home for a weekend, and ended up staying for two years – the longest I had been in any placement. This family was different. I trusted them because they genuinely cared about me, advocated for me and supported me. I didn’t have to do anything to earn their love. One day my foster parents sat down at the dinner table and asked me, “Julius would you like to be part of this family?” And I simply replied, “I thought I already was.” Both of my foster parents smiled from ear to ear, and I knew I was theirs and that God had placed me with my forever family. At 15, I was officially a Kissinger, and no longer a Ferguson.

I testified in the case against my abusive parents, and finally felt like I had closure after they were sentenced to life in prison. With my family’s encouragement, I decided I wasn’t going to let my past determine my future. I worked hard through school, and even though it wasn’t easy, I graduated from high school at the top of my class, earned varsity letters in cross-country and track and am now attending Ohio State University. I have also shared my story to help kids all around the world. Last year the Huffington Post broadcast an interview I did for National Adoption Month, and I also spoke at a fundraising event hosted by The Dave Thomas Foundation and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.

I have gotten to where I am today with amazing support from my family, social workers and some of my closest friends. My experience in foster care made me a stronger person. For the longest time, I didn’t know who I was other than some broken child. But I have realized that everyone has his own cross to bear, and that I was given this life because I was strong enough to live it.

Published on May 3, 2015 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.