Foster Home #2: The Well Intended Couple

*This is an excerpt from a longer essay titled, “Into the System.” (W.I.P.)


They live in a rich community, and they can’t get pregnant. They feel sorry for me. They bear a vision of how I will be, with just a little polish and shine.

Their house looks like a furniture brochure. I look like a dust ball on their carpet. Stephanie takes me shopping. Blouses and pantyhose. A haircut and new earrings.

I get my own room upstairs, so clean and white. I can’t relax. I tip toe to the bathroom. I steal salami from the refrigerator.

I dream that they will adopt me and we’ll go on exotic vacations. They’ll fix me, and I’ll be their daughter. The child they couldn’t have.

Stephanie instructs me how to make lemon meringue pie. We talk. My voice sounds thick and unwieldy in the stainless steel kitchen. I strive to dazzle her with my charm and wit. I’m obedient. I’m a quick study. I’m worth keeping.

Sometimes I make her laugh. Sometimes I think she likes me.

I stay away from Bob. I don’t want to be alone with him, just in case. He works all the time. I wonder if I’m here as Stephanie’s project. I don’t mind.

Things are looking good for me.

She lets me have a sleepover. I show my friends around, proud. See what I landed. See how big my room is. See my new pretty family with sophisticated tastes. They are my family now, all mine. I get comfortable.

I get careless.

I want to be good for Stephanie. But I can’t tame my hair. Or my anger. Or my crying jags. I can’t smile all the time. I’m not organized. I’m not obedient. All the nice stuff they give me does not cover up the dents and dings.

I sense her disappointment. She is pulling away from me, finding new ways to occupy her time. I hide in the bathroom. I steal cold hot dogs from the refrigerator.

After school, I find the Social Worker on the couch with Stephanie. Stephanie has some issues. She has some concerns. You don’t clean your room, Stephanie says. You don’t use soap in the bath, she says.

I used the gel, I say. That’s for shaving legs, she says.

I’m sorry, I say.

She’s talked it over with the Social Worker. They think I would do better somewhere else. They are not the right people for me. I panic and beg. I plead until I run out of breath. I promise a spotless room and a clean body and perfect grades and the right attitude, anything if I can just stay.

One more day, I cry.

Go get your things, they say.

But I have no things to bring.




22 thoughts on “Foster Home #2: The Well Intended Couple”

  1. Your simple sentence structure works well here coupled with the well-chosen words like polish and shine and dent and ding. Do you think a Stephanie thought of you as a thing rather than a person?

    I also wonder why you were always stealing meat from the fridge. Did those people not feed you enough?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The food thing. Ah…I dunno. It has to do with abandonment issues and a sense of asserting control over an environment in which I had no power. There’s always been a weird food thing going on with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Amy! This is surprisingly what I needed to read at this moment. I think so many foster parents are like Stephanie. Well-intended, but unable to know how to deal with a child with trauma and baggage they had never experienced in their white collar lives. Your simplistic writing style pulled me in here, and I soaked up every word you said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was like the major theme of my youth: People saw potential in me, and thought that since they wanted to help me, I could somehow magically become a well-adjusted person. SO of course, I would just end up letting all these people down, because there is no quick fix for people that have had a rough childhood.


  3. The following comment is all to say I could identify with your essay, not because I am a foster, but because I lived with a foster-turned-adult. My father told me a story recently that he’d worked with this woman for silent 10-hour shifts, 5 days a week, for over a year when he finally said something that broke the ice between them. She told him she’d been scared to death of him because he is so gruff (oh man, that’s an understatement). He admitted to me that it was because he was raised in foster care. He learned to put a wall up because at any moment he could be ripped away from his home, his school, his friends. It was just easier to not let anyone in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry. And all the kids at the school knew (and disdained) the foster kids. We stuck out. So I would act like a crazy person, my thinking being that no one would fuck with me if they weren’t sure what I would do next. Then, when I went back to my hometown middle school, it was too late for me. I was forever changed and I had to keep the facade going. Thanks for telling me about your father.


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