Editor’s note: The following is a true story written by, and from the perspective of, a woman who spent her youth in foster care in Pulaski County. Not every child that enters foster care has experienced abuse as Tammy did. This post is not intended to imply that Tammy’s story is a typical experience of a child entering foster care, nor is her family a representation of any other family whose children have entered care. The purpose of this post is to show the impact a foster family can have upon the children and teenagers in their home.
Let me tell you a little bit about what foster parents mean to me:
I was born to two parents at different ends of the spectrum. My dad was a musician, very quiet, kind, and calm. He was also an alcoholic. My mom was a rage filled woman from the time of my birth.
My early childhood was filled with my parents fighting, screaming in the home, and getting beat by my mother. If I had been really “bad”, my punishment was the closet. The worst part of this was the darkness and isolation for hours, maybe more.
When I was around 6 years old my mom began to have an affair with my brother’s boy scout leader. Little did I know that the next nine years would be the worst years of my life. These were the years when I was being shaped to a young woman, the years when I should’ve been taught love and affection.
At age seven my parents’ divorce was final. My dad had spent every dime he had to get custody of his four children. A child of seven, I was required to get on the stand at court and testify about my mom, testify about physical abuse and torment, testify about my mom and her lover having sex in front of me. At age seven, I was required to explain all of this in detail.
Thanks to people at our church and family members my mom had manipulated, she got custody of us after a six month stay in a foster home. This foster home was first glimpse I ever had of how a family should actually function. But we moved back in with mom, and were only able to see dad every other weekend. That didn’t actually get to happen much as he was an alcoholic.
For a while we stayed with her in the home that she was specifically required to obtain apart from her lover. She was ordered to keep us away from him, but she didn’t listen. After six months in this house we moved again, and once more were living with him.
For the next 9 years I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by both my mom’s lover and my mom.
At thirteen I started being sexually active with boys, smoking cigarettes, marijuana and drinking a lot, anything to take away the pain or to fill the hole in my heart. Nothing worked and I daydreamed often about how I could end my pain forever.
Finally, on March 15, 1986, at fifteen years of age, I overdosed on every medication I found in the medicine cabinet.
I did not realize my sister had seen me and alerted my mom. I was taken to St. Vincent Hospital where I stayed for several days, then taken to the Adolescent Stress Unit at UAMS. This was a turning point for me, as I never went back to my mom’s house. Not a single night! I was there for three months until I was “healed”, or so they claimed.
My healing had only begun. After I left, I remember meeting a very sweet social worker named Brenda Fite. She told me she was going to find me a home. It’s very weird going to the homes of people you don’t know and, well, living there. To say I felt out of place was an understatement. I am grateful, but wasn’t at the time. All I had known for years was pain, and didn’t see how these people were going to change that.
I would sneak around and hang out with the wrong crowd, doing the wrong things once again. For some reason I felt “accepted” by this friend group. Four foster homes later I became pregnant at sixteen. The foster parents I lived with at the time decided (after I had the baby) that it wasn’t a good idea for me to live with them anymore. I can’t really blame them. Where was I to go?
Let me tell you…
I was to go to Jim and Mary Larmoyeux’s home. The hospital was a turning point, but the short stay in this home would be life changing. You see, the Larmoyeux parents lived like Christ. They showed me love like Christ loved. I know they had many hours of training before they could open their home, you see it was considered a “treatment” home for kids that had been through more than usual, and I am thankful for that training. But I am even more thankful for the training they got from God’s Word. I remember the Bible being read from on a daily basis. I also remember a lot of praying, a lot of love that was “real”.
I would love to tell you I became a believer in Christ and made a complete turnaround while I lived with them. I can’t. But I can tell you that the seed they planted within me was watered and, over time, grew. At eighteen, I gave birth to my second child, out of wedlock, with the nephew of one of my foster parents. We were married a month later. We started attending a church and two years later accepted Jesus as my savior and began to follow him with my life.
I will forever be grateful to the families that take children, like me, into their homes, show them love without return, and plant seeds of which they may not see results. If you are a foster parent, I can tell you that you may not ever see the fruit of your labor, but I am proof that you do make a difference!
I am now 47 years old. I have three wonderful adult children and two school aged step-daughters. My oldest daughter is married to a wonderful Christian man. They have six children, three of whom have been adopted through foster care, with one more on the way. I am so thankful for these children and they have blessed me beyond measure. My prayer for my children and grandchildren is that I can help plant that same seed of love in them that was planted in me so many years ago.
I once heard a popular story of a man walking on the beach picking up starfish that had been washed up the night before and throwing them back in the ocean. A skeptic walked up to him and asked, “do you really think you’re making a difference?” Then the man replied as he was throwing a starfish back in the ocean, “it makes a difference to this one.”
I was “this one” Thank You!!!
The impact of foster parents cannot be quantified. It may seem a small thing, the service and sacrifice foster parents give to the children and teenagers who enter their home. But just as with Tammy, their lives will forever be changed by that loving foster home who affords compassion, patience, and grace.