Alumni Story

A Place to Belong

Imagine being 14 years old and realizing that you have nowhere to live and you have no family that wants you. That’s where I found myself when I was taken to the Children’s Receiving Home.

After many years of living in foster homes and with my biological mother who was mentally ill, my younger sister and I thought we finally found our permanent home. While we were in a foster home, my sister’s father decided that he would seek custody of her. He and my mother had been divorced for many years and he was remarried. Since he and his wife decided to seek custody of my sister, they decided they would also seek custody of me and keep my sister and me together. We were so excited to be moving out of the foster home we had been in for two years and to finally live with “family.”

Unfortunately, my happiness was short lived.  After only a couple of months in the new home, my stepfather’s wife decided she didn’t want me living with them. She had two teenagers of her own and had decided that I “didn’t fit into the family.”  My sister was only nine years old at the time, and she was the biological daughter so she could stay.

I recall my stepfather taking a walk around the block alone with me and telling me that his wife didn’t want me to live there and that he had to support her decision.  He said he couldn’t choose me over her and couldn’t raise my sister and me by himself. The next morning he dropped me off at the Children’s Receiving Home.

I didn’t know what would happen next.  At the Children’s Receiving Home, I was enrolled in their school which made the day go by faster. Although I was extremely shy and didn’t usually have many friends, it was easy for the kids to bond and become close. It felt like we all had something in common. There were twin girls there who were about the same age as my sister.  I had always felt like a mother figure to my sister and I immediately bonded with the twins. I recall how close some of the kids became in such a short period of time. I often requested to help out on the other side of the dorms where the infants and toddlers were housed. They were called “Acorns.” I loved being around the babies.

I had clothes with me when I arrived, but there were many times I went to a foster home with no clothes or any personal belongings.  I remember girls arriving at the Children’s Receiving Home with just the clothes they were wearing and I thought it was so great that the Receiving Home provided them with everything they needed.

I was at the Children’s Receiving Home close to the holidays and one vivid memory I have is when it was getting close to Christmas. We were asked to fill out a little piece of paper with three choices of what gifts we wanted. We were told that we may not get our first choice so we should list three options. I wanted a hair dryer and a curling iron really badly. I remember thinking about it for a long time because I didn’t know which one I wanted to list as number one. I don’t think I listed anything as a third choice. When it came time for us to open our presents, I couldn’t believe there were two for me. I was shocked to open them and find that I had received both the hair dryer and the curling iron!  I didn’t receive any other Christmas gifts that year so it was very exciting to get the two gifts I wanted most. It was obvious that the Children’s Receiving Home went to a lot of effort in many ways to make us happy around the holidays when none of us were with family.

On another occasion, they brought in students from the cosmetology school and we got haircuts. That was really exiting because I had been required to have the same low maintenance haircut for two years while in my previous foster home and I hadn’t had a haircut since. I was 14 and really starting to care about my clothes and hair, hence my request for the curling iron and hair dryer. It was the 1980s so I got a little cropped haircut that was very trendy and stylish at the time. I remember that day. My new haircut made me feel like a new person.

I was continually thinking about where I would end up or what kind of home I would have next.  The relationships I formed with other kids in similar situations were invaluable. We understood each other and could talk to each other.  I kept busy with games, activities, and field trips as well as volunteering to help in other areas of the Receiving Home. This really helped me keep my mind off of some of my problems. I was there for about one month before going to another foster home.

If it wasn’t for the Children’s Receiving Home, I have no idea where I would have gone when the only parental figures in my life didn’t want me.  To be away from your home and your parents is very traumatic for any child. The Children’s Receiving Home helped get me through that difficult time, and I have only good memories of how I was treated there. I’m thankful to the Children’s Receiving Home for being there for me when I went through that difficult transition.