Former Oklahoma Foster Youth Shares Her Story of Abuse and Neglect to Help Others

Bethany Loerke went from living in a filthy trailer with neglectful parents to bouncing between 10 foster homes to being adopted into a family with a sexually abusive father. She is using her story to educate the world on the challenges kids face in foster care. The Tulsa World’s Ginnie Graham has more:

“This fight isn’t for me anymore,” said the 20-year-old. “I fought my battle, I played my role. Now, I’m fighting for all the victims who didn’t get to come forward. It’s for those people who were victimized and didn’t have to be. It’s for kids who died because no one came forward and no one was there to help.”

Despite the trauma she experienced, Bethany still had her adoptive mother, Beth Loerke, in her corner. Beth reported her husband for sexually abusing Bethany, moved the family into a new home and started supporting them on her own. Bethany remains grateful that she finally had someone who would stand up for her, even after she started acting out:

“I always remembered that no matter how bad things got, it’s better than what it would’ve been,” Bethany Loerke said. “For parents or foster parents or anyone taking care of the kids, you have to stick by them no matter what they do. They will put you through hell sometimes. There will be times they’ll put you through the ringer. It’s not going to be easy.”

Bethany remembers years spent instigating fights, disrespecting authority figures and overreacting to everyday situations. Still, Beth never gave up on her and has this to say to anyone who may face the same situation:

“There is hope,” Beth Loerke said. “I want to encourage people to report abuse. Don’t worry about what others will think and the financial support you’ll lose. Your priority is the best interest of a child and prevent other children from getting hurt.”

As for what Bethany wants people to take from her story and the stories of other abused kids, the message is simple:

“Those kids aren’t bad seeds,” she said. “All they need is someone to stick by them. It sounds so basic, but it’s easier said than done. They need someone – like my mom was for me – to be constantly wrapped around them and who won’t let go.”