Camille Landry is a writer, activist, and advocate for social justice who lives in Oklahoma City. This is the third article in Camille’s series, “Neglected Oklahoma”, focused on Oklahomans who find themselves in a position where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by. For previous installments, click here and here. The people whose stories we tell are real people and their stories are true. Details have been changed to protect their privacy.
FEBRUARY: We are at home watching TV when the police and a lady come to our door. They say we all have to go with them. My little brother starts to cry and I pick him up. The policeman pulls him out of my arms. They put us all in a car. The lady comes out with a garbage bag full of stuff and my backpack. I say where is my mom? They say she is okay. But I hear them talking and they say my mama is in jail.
They take us to a place that looks like a school. I think I remember this place but I’m not sure. I know they took us away because my mama gets high. She is a good mom though. She feeds us and makes sure we get to school and do our homework. She tells us to have good manners. She takes us to church. So what if she gets high? It’s like they are not listening to me at all. They think they know me but they don’t know nothing.
The lady says little kids have to be in a different place and they will be safe there. Then she tells my other brother to come with her. She says boys and girls can’t stay in the same place, even if they’re sisters and brothers. It’s my job to look after my brothers because I’m the oldest but they took them away. How do I know they’re okay? I don’t! I’m scared.
The next week my biggest brother gets taken to a foster home so I am the only one left at the shelter. My mom comes to visit and we all get to see each other but then my brothers leave and mama has to go and I have to stay here.
APRIL: I’ve been here for two months now. My two littlest brothers got moved to a new foster home because they told their worker that the foster mom locked my baby brother in the bathroom for messing his pants.
MAY: I finally got a foster home. I don’t know these people but they live in my old neighborhood. I can’t go to where my mom is, though. My foster mom and her kids are nice but I don’t like it here. I want to go home.
JANUARY: I got a new foster home. My old foster mom is getting a divorce and she can’t keep kids any more. I’m so tired of this. My worker tells me I better behave or else I will go to a group home. I say what is that? She says it is like a house with a bunch of kids and they all live together and it is nice. I say it sounds like it’s a hard knocks life for us. She says that isn’t funny, these people love us. I want to tell her I know that’s not true but I will get in trouble and lose privileges so I just shut up. I hate her.
FEBRUARY: My mom says the judge is going to say she cannot be our mom anymore and maybe I can get adopted. It’s because this is the second time that DHS took us away. I ask her if all us kids can be together and she says she’s trying. Maybe we can go to our auntie in Texas. She hugs me for a long time and we cry. Then she has to go.
I don’t know why they think I can get adopted. I have a mama. I have a daddy. He is locked up but he is still my dad. Nobody else wants me. I haven’t seen my mom for two months. They took me and my brothers’ picture and put it in a book so people can look at us and see do they want to adopt us.
Sometimes I just want to die. Sometimes I want to just punch these people. I don’t understand why this is happening. I didn’t do anything wrong. Nobody ever asked me what I wanted.
Over 88 percent of the children removed from their homes by the courts and OKDHS are taken due to parental neglect, chiefly caused by substance abuse. Prior to her children being taken into custody by the state, this child’s mother had been attempting for more than six months to find a residential drug rehab program that would allow her to bring her children with her. There are only five facilities in the state that accommodate clients’ children and that also accept Medicaid clients; none accept clients’ teenaged children. There are no residential facilities that accept clients’ children in Oklahoma City. Click here for additional data on foster care in Oklahoma.
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