1. We arrived Friday night and checked in.
2. Then we ordered our coffee from Jericho Java.
3. We had assigned seats. Hah! Another couple was forced to sit with us!
4. Dinner. Holy moly! Do they feed you!
5. Met Ross. <-- This was probably by far one of the most coolest things ever. Why? How many CEOs are right there beside you walking through a process and actually takes the time to get to know you? Not many. This was HUGE for us knowing the kind of support we'll be getting while fostering. Here were learned about the HEART behind Hope & Home. Every word that came from him and the staff reassured us that this is where we were supposed to be.
That was just Friday night. It may not seem like a lot, but the content that we left with was worth more than any dinner they could have provided. Also, the staff and the teens were there volunteering their time providing us an environment that showed us just how they do life with the foster families. It was again shown to us that they will be supporting us through it all.
I thought Friday night was awesome, but Saturday just blew me away. There wasn't a dry eye to be seen. It was there that our hearts began to change. We knew we wanted to add to our family. So the next logical thing to do would be to incorporate a baby or someone younger than Buddy, right? "You have to maintain the birth order or everyone will be screwed up." Well, that's what we thought, too. But after thinking about it, Mark comes from a blended family where the first-borns are now somewhere in the middle and everyone turned out great. Things change, but everyone is still themselves. So no, I don't think birth order will be a huge thing, especially if the child that comes into our home is a developmental stage or two ahead of Bean. We won't have to worry about competition or jealousy on that level. So needless to say, after hearing about the stats of teens in the foster system and seeing and talking with the teens, our hearts did a 180. But THIS is what did me in: Audrey shared her story with us. I am unable to post the link due to formatting, but I have put it here for you to read. She is such a brave, young woman. (Disclaimer: Remember the disclaimer above.)
I Am a Human Shield -- June 2, 2014
In my Mother’s Day blog post I mentioned telling my mom about a trauma I had gone through. I want to go into more detail about that incident. I want to share this because I feel people know only part of my story. I want to share this for all the teens being a mother to their siblings, to the teens that would jump in front of a bullet for their siblings but in my case to jump in front of a predator. Also, the parents reading this, I cannot express enough how important you are to teens that have suffered through so much trauma. A simple hug or just listening to your teen/child can make a great difference in their path of healing.
Christina (my biological mother) had four kids by the time she was 20 or so. I was 10, Gabriel was 8, Desiree was 6 and Isabel was 4. Christina and Gabriel, my siblings’ dad, were together at that time. Gabriel used to hit and beat the life out of Christina, to protect my siblings I would take them to another room and pretend nothing was going on. Before he went to prison, Christina sent the four of us to Mexico to stay with my aunt and uncle for a few weeks because she couldn't afford taking care of us. I HATED it there. We ate the same meal three times a day due to poverty. My siblings and I shared a room with my uncle and aunts roommate. There was only one bed and a mattress on the floor. One night I told my siblings to sleep on the mattress and I would take the bed. As I was sleeping I quickly awakened. Someone was touching me. I felt really uncomfortable. He placed his hand over my mouth as I tried to scream for help. He was raping me. The pain finally stopped and I went to the bathroom and held myself. What just happened to me? The next morning I was reserved but kept my siblings close. Do not dare touch my brother and sisters, I remember thinking. That night I made sure my sisters and my brother did not sleep on that bed and I stayed awake to protect them. I am a human shield.
At age 11, I lived with my grandparents. My siblings and I were playing with toys in our room. All of a sudden we hear loud screaming and pounding. I stepped out of the room and looked in horror at what was happening. My grandfather, my savior, the one who had protected me was being arrested right in front of my eyes. I ran back to my room. “It’s a nice day out who wants to go to the park?" I asked my siblings. I lead them out the back door and took them to the park. That was the last time I saw my grandfather. I am a human shield.
When I was 13, Christina had been seeing a man for two years. This man, Timothy Garcia, used to touch my sisters and me. I tried my hardest and my best to keep him from touching my sisters. I trained my brain to wake up at 10pm every night to be awake and fight him off. Christina came into our room one day and I told her everything he was doing. "No, he wouldn't do that, I know him" she said. I cried and plead, screaming “You have to believe me, I am your daughter." She walked away. If she isn't going to help me I’m going to scream until someone does believe me, I thought. I went into the bathroom, squeezed through the window and ran away. Tim and Christina found me 15 minutes later. They strapped me in the car and took me to a hospital. “She is making things up; put her on a 72 hour hold.” they both said. I screamed at the social worker that it’s her job to save kids in my position. I went back to the house that day and looked at my sisters as they slept. I am a human shield.
One day, when I was 16, my sister was taking a shower and I saw Tim go in the bathroom. I ran and banged on the door. He came out and walked away, I asked her what he did. "He touched me". I waited for Christina to return from work, and told her about the incident. She rolled her eyes. My brother and I had to walk to the store and buy milk. On the way there he said he hated Tim and wished he would die. He looked at me and said, “We need a plan.” I looked at him with determined eyes. "I'm going to get us out of here, whatever I have to do I'm going to do it I promise he's not going to hurt us anymore." I am a human shield.
My whole life I suffered through trauma. Even before Christina met Tim, she used to hit me, and pull my hair- even hitting me with a bat. I was young but I remember everything. I remember every time she hurt me, every time she was being abused, every time she chose a guy or drugs over us. At a young age I was forced to process everything on my own. For the teens out there taking care of their siblings, you are strong. I know it’s difficult to talk about what has happened it’s a big step to healing, let safe people in. I can sympathize- it’s hard to trust adults. For the parents out there, give your teen/child space. Actively listen to your child/teen, they need you the most. We have been through trauma; you can’t expect us to be happy, social and joyful. The biggest way my parents impacted my life was just listening and making sure I felt safe at all times.
Every time I look at my sisters and my brother I remember the love I have for them. I think of how many bullets I would jump in front of. I would jump in front of hundreds of predators to protect them. This is only the beginning to my story.
I am a human shield.
We wrapped up the day and everyone had to make a promise to the child we have not met yet. After hearing Audrey's words, I know that they were resonating with everyone as we declared out loud our promises. There were so many promises that were made that day and I stood in agreement with every single one of them. But the one that I made reflected what I do when my kids are scared.
"To the child I haven't met yet, I promise to hold you when you are scared."
Thanks for walking alongside of us as we enter this season. We are currently raising money to support this ministry. If you would like to support this cause, please click here.