My name is Robert Hamelin and when I was 4 years old I entered the Foster Care System. My stepmother began to physically and mentally abuse me. I was taken out of the home I lived in, with her and my father and moved into the first foster home. When I was 9 years old my father was killed. He was the only good memory I had left. His loss had such a deep impact on me. I knew now that I was completely alone. By the time I reached the 6th grade I began acting out for attention. My behaviors became worse. The abuse had continued worse than ever, as now, I was being sexually abused. By the time I was 18 years old I joined the Marine Corps. I needed stability but even more important, I needed to find out if I could overcome my past and succeed, despite 14 years of violent child abuse.
The system failed me but it did not beat me!
Today I am a successful Regional Vice President for Transamerica. I have raised 5 beautiful daughters, 4 of which have already graduated from college. What is disheartening is 32 years after I got out of the Child Protection System, it continues to fail children and the abuse, still all too common. We need to come together to fix a broken system.
Each year, about six hundred thousand abused and neglected American children are removed from their homes, placed into group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes with minimal mental health counseling and often not much history or training provided to the new care giver. These children are expected to adjust well into society, succeed in school and with their peers
Children in child protective services are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. These children are often returned to their homes by Child Protective Services if changes are made. Many children are returned to abusive homes, with little to no follow-up.
My name is Kristin Rode and my siblings and I were placed in the Foster Care System just before my 5th birthday. We were in and out of this system until I was 11 and placed in a home that would eventually adopt the three of us. Much like Robert, prior to being adopted, the horrific abuse my siblings and I endured, no child should. You think it will be better with each new foster home you are placed, but that wasn’t the case for us.
The system failed the three of us but it did not beat us.
We did not let the abuse define who we would later become. The scars will always remain but our desire to change this system helps us to know our life’s experiences weren’t for nothing!
My name is Mike Tikkanen, Founder of KARA and Invisible Children. I have spent over 20 years trying to protect children like Robert, Kristin and her siblings. The concept of trust, that is so easily taken for granted, is one of the significant long-term barriers to recovery. Children are violated and deprived by their own mothers and fathers and then again when they become a ward of the state. Many children never rebuild a level of trust. It is quite common for these children to self-loath because they subconsciously believe they are responsible for the abuse they have suffered.
Ask any teacher, social worker, mental health worker, juvenile/police officer that seek better results from the institutions they work in. The foster care system is broken in so many states. Some of the worst in Minnesota, South Carolina and Texas.
There is a general agreement not to speak about conditions/lack of resources/failures or horrific things.
When six year old Kendrea Johnson hung herself with her jump rope in a Northern suburb of Minneapolis her social worker claimed to not know she was in therapy, not know that she had talked about suicide and threatened her foster mother.
Judges rarely speak out on what they see and know needs change. Social workers are very protective and are trained not to speak out. Foster and adoptive parents have terrible stories but no platform to be heard. Health and mental health workers treat thousands of traumatized children each year but hardly ever make this information public (Thank You avahealth.org) Many service providers and adoptive/foster parents fear reprisals by speaking out.
The media is only involved in the most horrific cases and generally don’t come anywhere near completing the story (baby in dumpster/blame the mother – not the institution responsible for her 4 generations of abused parents and no parenting skills)
I challenge you to help us make a difference and stop the abuse.
In addition, KARA is looking to add 5 board members in the upcoming weeks. If you want to help make a difference by sitting on our board, here in Minnesota, please contact Kristin Rode at firstname.lastname@example.org