Foster Culture

October 16, 2007


G had lived at Kids House, a group home for girls, for almost 2 years. She had run away a total of 5 times from there already. She wasn’t leaving this time because she got beat up again by another resident, or because she had gotten in trouble. She was running this time cause Rachel, a girl only two years older than her promised her the big city, a place to stay, food to eat and a job. How could she refuse. Afterall, that’s where Rachel lived before she came to Kids House. Kids House was in Jefferson County, Pevely Missouri to be exact. It was lame. There were trees everywhere and hoosiers, lots of them. No creativity, no real fun, no diversity. Every other time she ran away from the Home she hadn’t really gone anywhere or done anything exciting. Had her friends pick her up at the bottom of the hill from where Kids House stood out, embarrassing is what it was.

Everyone at the local high school knew when one of the foster girls was living at the house, there was no way to even pretend, pretend to be normal, pretend to fit in. G tried to be normal, she even joined the basketball team. Towards the end of the basketball season, the coach announced that one of the team had witnessed another team member buying weed from the known dealer at school. G was perplexed, what the hell, they better not be talking about me G thought. Sure enough, as the coach drove her home, like she did after every practice and game, G was kicked off the team. They lied about her, G hadn’t even smoked pot at this point, she knew those chicks had it in for her. Whatever.

Rachel had been trying to convince G to take off with her. It was the being a part of the team that was keeping her around, but since she was no longer part of that, she had no reason to stay. A week later they were hitchhiking on 55 north towards st louis city, the big city.

“You girls want a ride.”

G normally would’ve been scared to death of doing this, but Rachel was well versed in the art of hitchhiking.

“Sure, were going all the way to the city, how far are you going”, said Rachel confidently, not a hint of unsurety in her voice. Rachel was white, although she wore her hair in stacks like all the black girls they lived with at Kids House, she even talked sorta like the black girls, but G thought she sounded more like the rednecks.

They got in, G sat in back while Rachel and Al chatted up front. G watched as all the familiar bluffs and exit ramps flew by, McDonald’s at every exit. Al had a bit of suspicion in his voice, but he was more interested in our ages, G thought, she knew his tone of voice. Rachel wasn’t shy about being feminine with the balding middle age man. He kept looking in the rear view mirror, sizing her up, trying to make small talk. G wasn’t having it, uninterested in what a man picking up a couple of teenage girls hitchhiking on the highway had to say.

“Why ya so quiet back there darlin?”, asked the pervert. No answer.

“Oh, she’s just quiet sometimes, she just can’t wait to get back home to the city. My car broke down back there in Festus and she’s sorta mad that I made her come down here all the way to the country.” That was Rachel’s story, practiced and perfect before they left.

The next 30 minutes seemed long, drawn out. Finally Rachel instructed Al to get off at the Bates street exit, which he did. “Are you girls gonna be Okay, I just live on on the other side of the [Mississippi] river.”

“Yeah, we’re good, my momma’d be bad if she knew we caught a ride, so I’m just gonna tell her my boyfriend in Festus loaned me money for a cab, I don’t want her seeing someone else droppin us off. Thanks though.”

“How could you talk to him like that, he thought you wanted him, he’s so gross,” G made a face.

“Whatever, he wasn’t gonna do anything to me, of course he wanted me though, he wouldn’t have picked us up if he didn’t think I was fine as hell, so it was my fine ass that got us a ride up here in the first place, you should be thanking me.”

“Well where are we going?,” G asked. What was the plan, where were they sleeping tonight, was happens next. Had they stayed in the country, G would’ve had someone to call, but this time there was no one.

“We’re gong to my friend’s house, it’s just around they corner.” They started walking, through south st louis, at night.

Cars rolled by, pumpin bass, tinted windows, loud. G almost didn’t care, she had that nothing can happen to me attitude, it felt true. She’d run away a total of 13 times from various foster homes and group homes, so far, nothing had happened to her.

Finally they were there, a warm meal, a place to stay. They approached the door of the two family flat. The building next door had tons of people hangin out on the porch…bottles in paper bags, children playing, loud laughter, crips, bloods, this was the day.

Knocking. No answer. Great. What now. Wonderful plan.

“Didn’t you tell them we were coming”, said G, frustrated, regretful.

“Yeah, of course I did, don’t mess with me girl, I’ll ditch you if you become all smartass on me.”

Trust gone. G knew she couldn’t depend on Rachel, she can’t say stuff like that. G decided to deal with this herself. She hopped off the side of the porch, the neighbors all stopped talking for a minute and stared at them. What the hell are you looking at, G thought as she entered the gangway of the building. She opened and walked through the rusted gate and into the back yard. Junk, everywhere, it seemed to G that there were actually rednecks in the city as well. You can’t get away from them, they follow you.

She walked up the stairs to the back doors. “It’s the door to the right”, said Rachel.

G knocked, no she banged, hard. “What the hell are you doing, if they’re in there, you’re gonna piss them off.”

“I don’t care, what’s it matter anyway, if they don’t answer, we don’t have anywhere to go anyway.”

They heard movement, Rachel jumped up on the front porch in front of G, G preferred to step back and be the shadow, afterall, this was Rachel’s game.

A tiny thin Asian man opened the door with a look of surprise when he saw Rachel. “What awe you doing hewe, I thought you move?”

“Yeah, I did, but I’m back, what’s goin on, are you gonna let us in or what?”

“I don’ know, who this giwl you brought, is she for Phong?”

Rachel gave him a look of annoyance, a side glance that told him to shut the hell up, that he jsut said something he wasn’t supposed to say. G felt uneasy, she knew Rachel wasn’t telling her something and from the look of acknowledgement on the little guys face, she was right. She knew Rachel’s story, or at least she thought she did, it was the same old story of all the kids in foster care…abused by the natural parents, put in foster homes with foster parents that either wanted to save them (Jesus style) or that wanted the money from the state, but maybe there was more, maybe Rachel was hiding something darker, darker than mere abuse. Mere abuse, sounds nonchalant, but again, after a lifetime of hearing the stories, they all begin to feel normal after a while.

“Huy, this is G, G this is Huy, there now you know eachother, can we come in or what?”

Come in, come in, Phong not home yet, but he will be soon. You hungry, I made noodles, you can have some.”

The apartment was dark, brooding, posters hung on the wall with tape, holes in the wall, dirty floors. The livingroom was a bedroom/kitchen/hangout mess. Plates of food everywhere. Immediately, Rachel began picking up and then ladi down on the bed. All G could do was sit there and watch the nothing T.v, surreal. They ate, watched more t.v., it got later and Rachel and Huy started cuddling, which made G very uncomfortable. She thought to try to break up the gross couple with conversation.

“So where are you from?”, she said directing the question at Huy.

“Vietnam, my bwotha and I been here now for 7 yeaws, he wooks all the time. He’s gonna like you. Let’s go in hewe Wachel, I want to show you something fo a minute, we gonna be back in a minute, okay.”

“Whatever.” G knew they were gonna do it. She was still a virgin, but she wasn’t stupid.

g sat there by herself for a while before Phong came home, walk in the front door, throw keys on the floor with everything else, scratch at his balls and stopped short when he saww G.

“Who awe you, what you doing in my house? Huy!” He then proceeded to yell in a foreign language across the apartment. From the back room, Huy answered back in the same language and after a second, Phong’s face lightened.

He introduced himself and his honey sugar darling baby was about the same as any redneck she’d ever met. He sat down by her and asked her name, how old she was and where she lived. G answered reluctantly.

He finally left the room for a minute and G decided to find Rachel. She found her way to where Huy’s voice seemed to be coming from and knocked on the door. “Rachel, are you in there?”

“Dammit, I’ll be out in a minute, damn, why you always got ta be in my business.” That was her answer, G knew she was in there doing it with the little guy.

Back in the livingroom, Phong was eating noodles, slop running down his chin, greasy hair, noodles hanging out his mouth as he smiled at G. There was no where to sit except the bed, so G had no choice but to sit in too close of proximity to him, everything would’ve been too close at this point. He finished and put the bowl on the floor, with everything else and scooted closer to G and laid back on the bed.

“You lay back with me, you can get comfowtable, it’s okay, you tired?”

“No, I’m not tired, I’m jsut waiting for Rachel to come back out.”

“Come on girl, it’s okay, you lay down now, okay.”

“No thank you,” G tried to pretend to be watching the television, she wanted to keep it on, it was the only light in the room. She got up to turn up the volume, taking her time to sit back down. As soon as she did he inched closer to the tiny corner of the bed where she was sitting. G tried to play cool, but she was losing, he kept inching closer and now she could smell him. He touched her and she jumped up.

“What the hell are you doing!”, she yelled, hoping Rachel heard her.

“Calm down, honey, come hewe and sit down, it’s okay, I’m not doin anyting to you now, just bein nice.”

He stood up and put his hand on her shoulder, come on, sit down now.

“Don’t freakin touch me you loser idiot!”, G jumped back. He threw himself forward at her and grabbed her hard and started shoving his face into her neck. G was only fourteen and very petite, but she’d had her ass kicked by girls in group homes that were twice his size, she knew she could take him. She pushed him back and punched him in the stomach.

Unaffected, he reached up and punched her across the face, threw her down and pushed himself on top of her in one swoop. G underestimated him. He shoved his face into her neck and chest again and G looked over and saw a steak knife from a plate that had been left on the floor. She grabbed it and stabbed him in the arm. He screamed out and G jumped up and ran for the room Rachel was in and ran threw open the door.

“Hurry up, we gotta go now!” Rachel was half naked and didn’t question the urgency in G’s voice. She pulled herself up and began sifting through the bedroom rubble for her clothes. G ran back to the livingroom, grabbed the keys Phong threw on the floor and towards the front door, Phong wasn’t in there, drops of blood trailed out of the room toward the back of the apartment. G was out the door and started frantically looking for which car belonged to the set of keys she had just stolen. Rachel ran out of the door with a naked Huy yelling after her. G didn’t know what she was saying in less than a minute she had almost gotten raped, stabbed some guy, stolen his car keys and was about to steal his car, oh shit, she forgot she couldn’t drive.

“Which car is his.”

“It’s the little one over there.” They rushed over, G shoved the keys at Rachel. It seemed to take forever for Rachel to unlock the door through the Huy’s yells and then Phong came out came out holding a dirty towel over his arm in disbelief.

They got in the car and Rachel started the engine.

“Oh shit, G, I don’t know how to drive!” she yelled as she threw the car into gear, bump the car in front, bump the car in back, pull out, head straight down the street towards the dead end and crash into a building at the end of the street, whoops. They frantically jumped out of the car and took off running with all of their belongings. This sucked, it really, really sucked. No way were they gonna have the police called on them though, they were teenagers, what were a couple of runaway teenagers doing with two thirty something men.

Diversity. Excitment. Life. Fact or Fiction?


An email I’m sending out to retrieve information on foster youth

I’m concerned about the number of youth that refuse to “work the programs” and are emancipated at 18 because of that. I see them as being emotionally immature because of traumas in their life, disabilities and normal teenage rebellion. Isn’t their some sort of studies that have been conducted on the psychology of foster youth that will keep judges for emancipating an unruly foster teen? If we just let them all remain in care until the age of 21 regardless of their behavior, my feeling is that they will begin the mature and take advantage of the resources available to them.

Can you direct me to studies or documents that investigates this specific issue?

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