Another day, another place. Strange smells, strange sounds. New faces, new rules. Of course they’re happy to have me. Excited, even, at the prospect of something new.
I’m not. I’ve run out of faith. I’m too tired to be excited, and I don’t have the strength to hope. Some would say I’m too young to be this old. I’m thirteen.
I can remember being excited like they are now. Hoping, believing that somehow this place would be different. That this would be the one. I’ve lived in 25 houses in the last 6 years. One time it was different, and I was happy. My strength to hope was renewed. That stay lasted 8 months, and when I left I cried more than I did leaving home for the first time.
There are two types of people that make up ninety-nine percent of all foster parents. The one type of parent opens their home and heart to do a good deed. They want to be good people, and they figure if they take care of one of us “unfortunate children” it somehow secures them a spot in heaven. Being classified as unfortunate before I even enter the house doesn’t help my attitude.
Sure, I have a rotten lot in life, but I do still have my pride! (Which in all honesty is the cause of many short stays in my past.) All any kid ever wanted is to be normal. I’m a foster kid, for goodness sakes! I'm not wounded, maimed, handicapped or made of china!
The other parent is almost more tolerable, because at least they’re honest with me about why I’m there. My stay pays their rent check. And their grocery bill. And anything else they need, or think they need.
I can hardly remember my mom. I’m told I haven’t seen her since I was 4. That doesn’t mean I don’t wonder about her everyday. I can't tell if my memories are my own or things I've been told. Some days I think she must be a phantom of my imagination. I close my eyes and try to remember what she smelled like. Rose perfume, stale cigarettes and something else... something I can't identify.
My Dad was in prison when I was born. I’ve never met him. I lived with my Aunt until I was 7, and was taken away. Since then I’ve been in and out of group homes and 25 other houses. My shortest stay was 8 hours. With the exception of that one place I stayed for 8 months, every one was a bad memory. You’d think that after 6 years they’d all start running together, but that hasn’t been my experience.
Well, that’s neither here nor there (I don’t remember where I picked up that line, but I kinda like it.) and the social worker is here to pick me up.
I forgot to tell you. I’m in a group home again. I’ve been here for a week waiting for another placement. My last foster family was all picked up by the police during one late night party.
Ms Casey walks up to me with the same tired smile, the same faded suit, the same scuffed heels. I can see in her eyes that she’s too tired too hope either.
“Ready to go?”
When I don’t respond, she gets down on the cracked tile floor and takes my chin in her hands.
“What’s the matter, honey?”
Most people don’t get away with calling me that, but Ms Casey is a good soul. I know she truly cares. She would adopt all of us if she could.
“What’s the use, Ms Casey? Why even bother going? I’ll be back here in a couple weeks anyways!”
“Aw, cheer up! Maybe this time it’s gonna be different.”
I look in her face and I know she believes it as much as I do. But there’s nothing else to do, so I pick up my backpack and follow her out.