Friday, September 18, 2009


Sometimes the truth I see is hard and painful. I wouldn't change seeing it, though I sometimes wonder how I've come to be doing this work that has found me somehow, wrapped itself around my intentions these days, and keeps a hold on me that I can't say I mind at all. I'm honored, actually. And I hope you don't mind sharing some of the hard and painful too. I think it's worth it....
These are the tales of an urban warrior. Not the kind who suits up with armor or compass, but one among many who drives the blighted streets and looks for openings. Looks to bandage wounds that shouldn’t matter—shouldn’t even exist, but there they are: cuts from neglect and abuse and opportunities that never come. These are the tales of children who learn to wait forever, and finally stop waiting because no one comes through. They stop waiting but not longing, sometimes knowing and sometimes not that they are getting a raw deal. They go to bed at night without a tuck and they get up each morning in crammed apartments where somebody they’ve just met commits to their safety, assures their cereal and clean clothes, but can’t offer the hearty hugs and hungry hearts that feed and clothe them in different ways.
These are the tales of children in foster care, and I can tell you now, without ambiguity, the tales suck.
She’s four years old, this little girl named Angelina. She has a mother and a father and two small brothers, an uncle Teddy and an aunt ZZ. But one day, now ten months ago, the police brought her back from North Carolina, arrested Teddy and ZZ for kidnapping her, for molesting her at least once and maybe dozen of times, perhaps over days and perhaps over months.
“They touched my pee pee and my behind,” she told me, finally, months after she could not answer the district attorney, months after the charges against Teddy were dropped, months after her sexually transmitted disease was treated, she looking at me with caution, not fear, not anything in that moment, until she added that her foster mother told her only the doctor or a mommy should touch her there, and she asked me if I was happy she told me and when I responded I felt sad , she stared straight through me for maybe ten seconds before she began to cry, before couldn’t catch her breath, when she crawled into in my lap, this child four years old, sobbing, we two with nothing more either of us could say.
She’s too young to have a context for any of this. It’s been months since she and her mother and her brothers huddled on the front porch of the green house while the sheriff supervised the angry removal of all their possessions to the front lawn, months since the state social worker took her brothers to one foster home, she to another, months since the last time she saw her mother, who no longer visits, who is pregnant again, who’s newborn will be taken from her the same day the hospital notifies the state she has delivered.
Angelina. She is a beautiful child. She runs to me with a huge smile and her arms in the air as soon as she sees me at the day care door. We hold hands and walk to the little teacher’s lounge, where we sit on a small grey couch, we color, I show her how to use my camera, we play hide and seek. Most weeks she tells me she is still peeing on her clothes and I ask her what she thinks about that. We sing twinkle twinkle little star, the song we’ve chosen for the moments she is alone and she feels afraid, and I remind her she can tell a grown up if she wants to talk to me if she’d rather do that than pee on herself. Most weeks she wants to kiss me on the lips and I tell her, no, let’s kiss on our cheeks, and she throws her head back and says, “I like your shoes.” When I got new glasses, she was the first to notice, she laughed and told me, “Oh you changed your circles” and I cannot help but tell her she is a wonderful little girl and I ask her how is she doing and most time her huge brown twinkle eyes just look straight at me, no words, just those eyes saying she is hopeful and alone and goddammit, doing her best.
She and her brothers will go into the adoption program this month. The court is terminating her mother’s parental rights and her father, who sees his children once a month at the local state office in a room with folding chairs and a few old board games, is an illegal alien who cannot care for or have status to influence what will happen to his children. He is trying to find a godmother or a family friend who will take his children, but that will not happen and you can see the sadness in his eyes.
Myself, I love her and I am good for her and she trusts me and I am an anchor but I am not enough. I cannot fill what she should not lack. I find myself looking at the faces I see every day, women and men and families like me and mine, and I wonder, “Can you? Can you take this child? Please,” I think, “It would matter so fucking much.”
please pray for Angelina, and with all your heart for Renee and her family.


  1. So sad. This is the worst. Poor child.

    Your last sentence upset me a bit....just kind of bothered me. Hope it is okay to tell you that.

    It was so powerfully written up to last sentence.

  2. Oh KJ, you've shared stories of this little girl with me before and each time I want to rescue her. I see so much of my own history in her short 4 years. I know the scars she'll carry.
    Thank God for you. I know you'd adopt her in a heartbeat if you could give her all she needs.
    I can tell you this. She'll never forget you. She'll remember every kindness and every verse of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and God willing she'll live to tell people why that song helped save her life.
    How sad for her dad who truly cares but whose hands are tied.
    Just that. Shit.

    I'm glad you keep getting up each day to continue this important work. And I know why you wrote the last sentence the way you did. Sometimes you just have to let it fly and an expletive is the only thing that can make you feel better or get a point across.
    I'm right there with ya sister.

    love you,

  3. It's a good thing you do kj when others abrigate their responsibility and rely on abuse to wield their power. She deserves a loving adoptive family and I'm sure she'll find one. And lets hope by the time she's 10 this will not even be a distant memory but your kindness will remain a subconscious revelation that not all people are evil. That some are indeed beyond good. And you are!

  4. I'm learning more about what a wonderful person you are...
    In 2000 my husband and I went through our state's courses of training to become adoptive parents. My husband earned $30,000/yr less than he does now, I'm older than my husband, neither of us ever had children...we think these things combined to freak out the woman who was assigned to our case. She was Hispanic and I think it was a cultural bias that she had about our age difference (didn't present a macho enough version of a family for her).
    Also, my mother died in October that year. We withdrew our application in order to undergo many months of probate and mourning. I think the case worker thought we wouldn't be back. When I called to reinstate our application she was really cold on the phone. She made it so difficult for us that the day prior to when our home visitation was FINALLY scheduled we talked it over and decided to not put ourselves through more shit.
    I'm 58 now and wouldn't even consider it. But if we'd been allowed to adopt a child 10-14 years of age as was our hope, we would have attended a high school graduation by now and helping him/her to make decisions about the future.
    Sorry to go on and on, but this post certainly did bring up some feelings I've yet to totally deal with.
    I will think of this child daily now and hope/wish/pray for a loving family to bring her home.

  5. angela, yes...

    readingsully, thank you for your comment. i know my use of the F word is not for everyone. the truth is, i'm using it more as i get older, and with greater emphasis. in this case i thought about it and it just seemed an apt choice.

    lo, you are the best friend a girl could have. thank you for believing in me, defending me, protecting me. i adore you!

    baino, don't be sure she'll find a good adoptive family because she probably won't. i wish i could tell you otherwise. i know i will make a good and real difference. i just know it's not enough, and that makes me pretty sad.

    oh lydia, your story is so sad. i would use the F word again toward that case worker--what a damn shame. i'm sorry to say i can understand her judgemental indifference toward you and your husband. so wrong! i hope you know your intention counted then and it counts now. btw, nice to see your comments here anytime.

  6. I have been thinking of all the lost children this week and of all the homeless animals and it breaks my heart that the innocent and trusting are not looked after and cared for, by all of us, but then the problem seems so overwhelming!
    Each of us can do what we can do, I am so glad she has you. I was molested when I was a child, for years, and I know that she can become a strong, happy woman, because I did :-). xoxo

  7. annie, we do what we can do. and you are living proof that even the worse can be healed. thank you so much for sharing. xo

    mim, i know.... xoxoxo

  8. Really moving post, you left me thinking about good and bad things in life. Important and not so important ones. Pain, the kids who need somebody till they are old enough to be able to survive in this world.
    Great text KJ.

    No more words

  9. hmmm... careful KJ... some assumptions made here about adoption and adopted kids and about biological parents...

    don't know that some things aren't for the best... and don't know how the story is told and from whose point of view...

    not saying that this is a happyy story (for surely it is not)... just that this issue is close to my heart... my tales you tell...

    sometimes, it seems to me, that the best thing is to know that you would hurt the child... that it is best to let go...

    know what i mean? there's ambiguity in all these stories...

    have something I'd like to share with you one day soon...

    but I do want to thank you for writing this... it's too often swept under the rug...

    you're a gem... talk to you soon... eh?


  10. Heartbreaking stuff. You do such an important work. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is such a peaceful song for ch'n - I find it never fails to settle them when I sing it to unsettled little ones. You have a gift for doing healing work. Bless you. Will definitely pray for wee Angelina.

  11. i am sitting here with tears in my eyes kj, as i work around this kind of thing in my teaching life too. god damn them to hell! we have a new little girl starting on monday who we believe has been abused by mum's boyfriend, we went to the home to visit (we did this with all 26 kids), and were told things by mum and and... and... and... but no actual proof yet... the child is precocious, flirty and sexual (at 3 years old) shit!!! SHIT!!! F SHIT!!!!

  12. i hope you won't mind (i know you won't), me linking this post to my post today. xxx

  13. *sigh* Prevalent reality for to many in this world.

  14. thank you as always, mariana. xo

    jon, i mean no judgement in this tale. in fact angelina's mother was my client for a time, and her story is just as sad. it seems you understand this from your heart. of course i welcome your sharing.

    thank you kay. important work indeed. xo

    soulbrush, the behavior you describe at age 3 is not surprising when you think about it. angelina was not made afraid--she was told it was a game--so at that little age there is no context to understand differently. ...yet. you'll make a difference for the children in your care. just believe that and know it will be so. xoxo

    i know, mark, and it just sucks. we've lost the roots that protectd. used to be if you weren't lucky enough to have a loving family, you had a church or a school or a community that pulled you in somehow. i blame ronald reagan's elimination of truant officers for alot of the woes.... !

  15. Fuck!

    Sometimes you have got to swear because polite words do no justice to how you feel - and because you feel.

    So yes... “It would matter so fucking much.”

  16. Ahh poor girl, this makes my heart so sad......
    I just hope she gets a second chance for happiness, which started by meeting you, but now a good family to take REAL GOOD care of her.
    I could cry for all those poor children and people leading a life full of abuse.....O my.....
    I will keep them in my thoughts!!!
    Wish I could take her.....

    Thanks for making a difference for her!
    hugs >M<

  17. dear miladysa, my breath=of-fresh-air friend: amen sister!

    marianne, i know. i hate to make anyone's heart sad from visiting my blog, but sometimes i just have to share what i see and know...

    xoxo everyone

  18. Beyond sad. Tragic. I can pick any age and see my children at that age. There is evil in this world. Thank you for being one of the people who try to make it right.

  19. deborah, yes, me too. i can see my children at any age also, and to tell you the truth, this little girl just as well could be my child. and yours...

    i can't blame this on evil in the world, though i know what you mean. angelina's mother had the same fate as a child: neglect, abuse, foster care. still, i hold her accountable, but i wonder why in the hell we as a people haven't figured out how to protect our children when protection is needed. :( always nice to hear from you deborah.

  20. HA! You must be looking at Manon's arms...mine are the flappers on the left!!!

  21. What a tragedy Karen, hopefully somehow someway somewhere there may be a happier future for her... and thus for you too...