I was 3 years old when I went into care. The agency blamed my mom for using drugs, and my mom blamed my dad for abusing her. I am 17 now, and to this day, I do not know the truth. I am even scared to find out the real reason I am in care and why my parents did not try harder to get me back. I look at my parents now as changed people trying to be better.
I want to keep believing in my parents as good people, but I need to keep some distance, too. I am healing because I finally live with a foster mom I love and who loves me.
From age 3 to 14, I was in over 20 different homes. I had so much anger and hate in me because my social workers did not believe me when I told them I was getting abused by almost all of my foster parents and one of their sons. The only way I could escape these situations was by acting out and getting sent back to the agency. When my social worker told me I was going to meet yet another foster mother, I felt like “here we go again.”
It was a cool, rainy evening when Beatriz came to the agency to get me. She was wearing black clothes and a black hat and I thought, “Wow, she looks really pretty and young.” She brought her daughter Ashley with her to pick me up. They greeted me with beautiful smiles that made me feel comfortable and like this was going to be a good chapter in my life. Ashley is short like me and we are both Geminis, born almost exactly a year apart. I was 14, Ashley 15.
We went in a taxi from the agency to a clothing store because I did not have any clothes with me. Beatriz spent over $100 out of her own pocket. That gave me a sign that she was not in it only for the check. It only took me about two or three days to call Beatriz “Mom.” It felt weird to be starting over again, but it felt good too.
Wrong About Tony
When I went to live with Beatriz, I had been dating a 17-year-old boy named Tony for a year. A month after I moved in with Beatriz, I was in school and Tony texted me during class, “I have the crib free come see me.” I told Tony I could not because I was in school. He replied, “If you really love me you’ll come and see me.”
I did as I was told and cut school to go see him because I did love him. Because I loved him and because we had been going out for a year, I finally agreed to have sex with Tony that day. Before we did it, I thought sex was going to be the most amazing thing, like in the movies when two people are in love. I thought the sex would be passionate and meaningful.
I was wrong. Right after we had sex, he sent me home. He said he had somewhere to go. I didn’t believe him: If you had somewhere to go, why wouldn’t you invite your girlfriend? I felt so disgusted with myself. How could I have let him inside of me?
Friends had warned me that Tony would not want anything to do with me once we had sex, but I did not believe them: I thought they were jealous and did not want to see me happy. However, the joke was on me.
When Beatriz came to the school later that day they told her I left. She kept calling my cell phone, but I did not answer her. I was terrified of what she might do or say. This was the first time I had ever cut school and so many scary thoughts were going through my head. I was starting to get flashbacks of previous foster mothers hitting me and making me bleed. I though Beatriz was going to do something like that to me.
I went home and lay down on my comfortable bed with my teddy bears surrounding me. I was texting Tony about what was going to happen between us. He texted, “Do not worry.” I was baffled and hurt. What did he mean by “Do not worry”? I had to worry; I loved him.
I cried until I ran out of tears. My eyes were so red and swollen it looked like someone had punched me. I could not believe Tony would treat me like this the first time we had sex. I was heartbroken.
My Child Now
A few hours later, Beatriz finally came home. She called me into the living room. I knew she would be mad that I left school and didn’t answer her phone calls. She asked me every question in the book: Why did I leave school? What was I thinking? She said she was hurt that I would do something like this.
We were arguing back and forth for about 15 minutes. Finally I blurted out, “Just get rid of me already like every other foster mom did!” Beatriz responded, “I am not giving up on you, Leah. I love you, and I am sticking to the end with you. Leah, you’re my child now!” Those words sounded so beautiful at that moment. It was as if everything froze. That is when I started to trust her.
When I first told Beatriz about Tony, I sugarcoated our relationship. I told her that he treated me right and that he was loving, caring, and respectful. However, she asked me questions and I told her some things he had done, like cheating on me. It came out in our conversations who Tony really was.
She opened my eyes so much about boys and relationships. I thought it was OK for Tony to say things like, “You were ho-ing around?” or “Shut up, I’m talking.” I thought that was how relationships worked—you had to respect your boyfriend and do everything he tells you.
Beatriz told me that what Tony and I had was not love; it was emotional and verbal abuse. Beatriz told me if I had stayed longer in the relationship, he might have started hitting me. He was already verbally abusing me so the next thing was likely to be physical abuse. I thank God that Beatriz got me away from Tony. Beatriz’s love gave me self-esteem because she told me I deserved better than him.
Beatriz showed me what love really is with the example of her marriage to her husband Frankie. Beatriz and Frankie have a wonderful relationship. Of course, there are arguments and fights, but they respect each other and show a lot of understanding.
Room for My Birth Parents
I could not ask for a better foster mom than Beatriz. Forget foster mom; I could not ask for a better mother. She is one of a kind, and I will never stop loving her. She is not like those other foster parents who do not want the child talking to their relatives. Nope, not Beatriz; she wanted my family to be a part of my life.
I had not been in contact with my birth mom since I was 12. I was in a group home then, and I ran away to go see my mom and dad. A few months later, my dad got locked up for attempted murder. I turned 15 in Beatriz’s home and she told me if I wanted to spend my birthday with my mom, I could. However, I stayed at home instead.
There were even days when I got into arguments with my mom, and Beatriz would tell me to apologize because I shouldn’t disrespect my mom. Beatriz also lets me write letters to my father in jail.
It feels good to walk into the agency now and have everyone say how much I have changed. I tell them it’s due to Beatriz. It feels wonderful to be loved and to know the person really does love you and doesn’t fake it.
Because I feel loved, I no longer disrespect adults. I no longer get into fights. I have learned how to control myself. I am writing for a magazine. I now see a future for myself as a writer or a nurse. It makes a big difference when someone loves you and believes in you.