Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew we would have struggles. After all, we were going to be living with the hurt, the broken and the abandoned children of the world. I knew there would be challenges, and I was prepared for them. What I was not prepared for was the mis-information we would receive about the job we were expected to do. In the job interview, I asked the administrator of the home if our children would be safe, because, while I wanted to help other children, I did not want to do so at the expense of my own. He assured me, with a straight face, that the kids would be safe. I should have checked to see if his fingers were crossed. I even went as far as to ask him if we would have felons living in our home. “Oh, no, no, no,” he said, with laughter. Little did I know that at that very moment, he was in the process of making a deal with the George Juvenile Justice Department. We’ll get to that later.
Once we were hired, the home wanted us right away. My dog, my turtle and I headed to Georgia while Mr. Everything stayed behind to pack up our belongings and take care of the kids. The fact that he had become the sole care-taker of our kids was definitely foreshadowing of things to come.
I was in training for a week. I shadowed the other house-parents to see how they lived day to day. Then, I got to sit in an office while a social worker read to me. It was the most useless training I have ever experienced. In their defense, I’m not sure how they could adequately train people to handle what they were about to hand me.
A few days after I got to Georgia, my mother, bless her heart, came up to clean the house that we would be living in. On the surface, the house looked clean, but as she dove in, it was Nasty with a capital ‘N.’ While my poor mother worked tirelessly, I went to “training” every day. (Notice the quotes.) About a week after I started, Mr. E arrived with the U-Haul truck and my kids. He had unloaded almost all of the truck before I was released from “training.” I immediately grabbed him and pulled him into a room of our house and closed the door so no one could hear. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Please. Please. I beg you. Put my stuff back on the truck and take me home.”
Mr. E: “What?”
Me: “I’m telling you. We need to get out while we can.”
Mr. E: “You’re just nervous. It’s going to be fine.”
Me: “No. It’s not. These people are crazy. Please. Please put my stuff back on the truck. We don’t need money to pay bills or buy food. We’ll be fine. We can stand to lose some weight. Please take me home.”
Mr. E: “You know it’s always scary when you start a new job. It will get better.”
Me: “No. You’re wrong.”
Mr. E: “Let’s give it a little time. It will be okay.”
Me: “Okay. If you say so.”
But, I knew better, even at that point. For a rare occasion, I was right and Mr. Everything did not know everything. Two and a half short months later, we loaded up the truck and moved back to Florida. I considered kissing the ground when we crossed the state line.
For those two and a half months, I lived in Georgia while my family traveled back and forth from Georgia to Florida. Smartly, we did not close our pottery business, so Mr. Everything and the kids went back to fire pottery and keep things running in Brandon. Meanwhile, I was trapped with other people’s horrible children, who actually weren’t children.
I had been told that I would have a week after the training was completed to get settled before children were placed in my home. A day after my training ended, the social worker called me to her office and said she had some news. Not only was I getting one child, I was getting two, and they were moving in that day. I had thirty minutes to get prepared. No problem, I said, as I was eager to start my new life as mother and friend to all. The children I was given were not actually children. They were both 18 years old. The state of Georgia has a plan that allows foster kids, on their 18th birthday, to sign themselves back into the foster care system. By doing so, they forfeit their rights as an adult until they turn 21, and the state helps them transition from childhood to adulthood. These two girls had signed themselves back in, and they would be living with me. Lucky me.
During training, I was talking to one of the house-parents. She was a single mother who had two girls of her own. Hers was a home for teenaged mothers and their babies. She told me about a night when one of the foster kids got sick and had to go to the emergency room. She said, without batting an eye, that she left her eight year old and her six year old at home, alone, while she took the foster child to the emergency room. When I acted shocked and asked why a worker had not been sent to the house to stay with her two children, she said the state did not pay for services for her kids. We’ll just call that “red flag number one.”
I quickly learned that the children’s home actually only wanted my services. Mr. Everything was never allowed to be alone with the girls (understandably, since these children knew how to work the system by making up lies about things people had done to them). I was expected to handle all interactions with the children, and Mr. E was supposed to be my silent, trusty side-kick. I was also expected to put my own children’s needs on the back burner, and I was to always put the foster children first, no matter what. We had been told that our children would have the same benefits as the foster kids, including gifts at Christmas, baskets at Easter and season passes to a local amusement park. They got none of the above. Mr. E and I were given season passes to the amusement park so we could take the foster children. I guess we could have let our kids sit in the parking lot while we went in with the others.
A month after we got there, the Goose had to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. We had this done in Florida, because that was where our doctors were. The children’s home “graciously” let me trade one of my so-called weekends off for a day and a half to go to Florida. I was there for the evening before her surgery, and I was there for the surgery. Then, I had to leave my sick child and drive back to Georgia to take care of the adult children living in my house. I added that to my list of reasons why I deserve “Mother of the Century.”
My weekends were not actually weekends. I got off at about 5:00 on Friday evening. Then, I had to be back by 5:00 on Sunday evening. That meant I got one whole day without having to see those lovely people who were living in my home. Since I had to see them on Friday and Sunday, those days didn’t count as “off” in my mind.
I want to tell you all about both girls and the third one we had living with us, and I will, soon enough. For now, let me just say that, I experienced new and interesting things in the two and a half months I was in Georgia. In that time, I visited the sheriff’s department, a rape crisis center and a mental hospital (twice). I also watched someone get arrested (which is not nearly as dramatic as it looks on TV), and I went to juvenile court. I learned enough lessons for a life time and then got out of there as quickly as possible. My mama didn’t raise no fool.
Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about our first little darling. She was a real peach. -Al