Several days ago I mentioned I'd write a bit more on KidThree's background, this in response to the responses to the article about her.
First, a caveat: I know it isn't possible to talk logically to those who wrote hateful personal attacks things about my girl, it's just that writing here gives me a chance to vent a little and also a chance to address some of the points that had some validity.
KidThree was born nine weeks early. To understand what that means, look at pictures of the SoCal octuplets. They were born nine weeks early and ranged from a pound and a half to close to three pounds. KidThree weighed two pounds, something ounces. KidThree wasn't born nine weeks early after several months of her mother's hospitalization with constant monitoring and close care, she was born the day after her bio-mother's birthday, as bio-mother, bio-father, and another relative were out 'celebrating' the birthday with illegal substances, probably crack. (Thank goodness bio-mother's uterus figured out the cold, cold world was a safer place for KidThree than that toxic maternal 'haven.') Nine weeks premature and a drug addict to boot. That was how KidThree started in life.
To those who complained that she was born on the taxpayers' nickel, I'd like to ask: What in the world did they think she could have done differently? Did they think that at two pounds something, she had a way to earn money to pay her hospital bills? Or to get health insurance on her own? And she wasn't voluntarily ingesting narcotics, they were being ingested for her. (Yes, I know, these folks are not reachable--remember, I'm just venting.)
When she was four months old, her maternal grandmother brought her home and yes, again, KidThree remained on the taxpayers' nickel, being supported on welfare. It really boggles my mind, the number of people who think children are responsible for their parents' choices. Children are not responsible for their parents. Not for who their parents are, not for their parents' economic circumstances, not for their parents' choices. Children have no control over what the adults in their lives are doing. KidThree's parents were not working at jobs where the county could attach their earnings to force them to support their daughter. Sorry, taxpayers, but it is hard to track illegal income. If you know how to do it, go work for the IRS--they could use you. And thank goodness, child labor laws won't allow you to send children on welfare out into the fields to earn their keep.
In her grandmother's home, KidThree joined her older half-sister; the family later included a younger half-brother. KidThree's in-home siblings (as opposed to the other fourteen half-sibs her 'father' provided her) had fathers who got along with the bio-mother's family, but KidThree's father and his family were not friendly (not anymore) with them. Guess which of the three children was not the favored child?
KidThree was beaten by all the adults in her life. If an adult were a regular part of KidThree's life, that adult was beating her. My KidThree fought back. The more she was beat, the more she fought back, and the more she fought back, the more she was beat. That was life as she knew it. Her older sister knew how to work the relatives (and is still manipulative as hell) and her younger brother was the baby, so KidThree was the odd one out. The one who was beat.
One beating left enough marks that a teacher noticed and confronted KidThree, who tried to deny the marks were from a beating but eventually confessed what had happened. The teacher made the mandatory report to CPS; CPS did investigate, but took the word of the adult over the word of the child and then let the matter drop. Lesson to KidThree: You're on your own, kid; the system is not there for you, will not protect you, does not care about you.
When KidThree was eight, her grandmother sent her to the tutoring program, where she was assigned to me. KidThree sat glowering at the world, filled with anger and confusion, hating the other children because their hair was done or their clothes were clean or they did not get beat. KidThree eventually got to trust me a bit and came to tutoring regularly to get her little weekly dose of safety.
One day she came in with her hair looking like she had stuck her finger in a light socket. A small corner of her hair was carefully braided and the rest stuck straight out, but KidThree had wanted to come to tutoring enough to venture outside like that anyway.
Another day, it was several degrees over 100 outside, but there was KidThree (age about eleven), wrapped up in a large, heavy, man's jacket with the hood up. I kept trying to get her to take the jacket off, it was so hot outside, but KidThree refused. Finally she admitted that she was wearing nothing under the jacket. It was time for tutoring and she couldn't find any clean clothes to put on--all her clothes were dirty--so when the bus honked, she grabbed the only thing she could find and ran out the door.
KidThree came to tutoring dirty because it was her place of safety. She came wearing clothes that weren't hers and with hair that wasn't done, because at tutoring she got positive reinforcement, validation that she was a welcomed, treasured child, and deodorant when puberty hit. Whose heart would not have been touched?
It was obvious that KidThree was smart. She read well, understood what she read, asked searching questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. She tried so hard to organize her mind to understand why things were the way they were. When she was ten, she told me she wished she were my daughter. To her, I just said, "I'll always be your friend," but in my head I was thinking, "someday, honey, you will be my daughter. I don't know when and I don't know how, I may have to wait until you're eighteen to find you and adopt you, but someday and somehow you will be my daughter."
Yes, KidThree sold weed. Guess who gave it to her and told her she couldn't come home until she had sold it all? Bio-mother, that's who: bio-mother who was out of jail at the moment and whom KidThree desperately wanted to live with like a real family.
The summer after I got guardianship, KidThree's mother was yet again out of jail and KidThree yet again wanted to try to live with her. (The hope of children that their parents will finally care for them properly truly springs eternal in their childish breasts.) I let her go but kept the guardianship in place. I knew darned well that living arrangement wasn't going to work, but felt I had to give KidThree a chance to learn that for herself. After two months, KidThree called the police to come get her immediately, because she (KidThree) was holding a weapon on her mother and was going to kill her if the police didn't get her (KidThree) out of there. The police brought her to the children's receiving home, where a social worker called me to come get her.
No wonder KidThree got high. As she said, she got high because it was a way to get away from pain, away from her reality. The wonder isn't that KidThree got high, it was that she never went further than marijuana. Even when she was having the worst of times, she tried to protect herself and avoided the harder drugs, avoided boys, tried to keep herself safe.
KidThree fought all the time. She fought her relatives, she fought her siblings, she fought the kids and teachers and security personnel at school. She didn't bully kids who didn't bother her, she fought with kids who were operating under the same code she was, kids who initiated the fights at least as often as she did. She wasn't a formal gang member but followed the gang code because to do otherwise was to make herself a target. Kids who didn't wear the expected clothes got attacked. Kids who were hid in the houses by their parents or grandparents got attacked. Kids who didn't conform got attacked. KidThree wasn't attacking those kids, but others were and she knew that if she tried to hide, she would be attacked.
This was life in the 'hood for KidThree, and is life in the 'hood for countless others. Kids in these situations didn't put themselves there and they don't have the resources to get themselves out. They need help. Help that comes in the form of programs that cost money. There is just no way around that--helping kids costs money. Their parents need drug treatment programs, because some of the parents can be helped that way. The children need safe housing, schools where they are safe and warm in the winter and fed because there may not be enough food at home. They need books of their own, clean clothing, exposure to the world outside the few blocks they know. They need health care and dental care and orthodontics, and all that costs money.
KidThree has gotten out and has a good chance at making it, but along the way she's lost so many friends to guns or drugs and alcohol. She's seen her friends get pregnant with baby after baby, so many that she is the odd girl out, making it to almost eighteen without a child.
Goodness knows I can't do it by myself. Over the past several years, numerous girls and even a boy or two have asked if they could move in with us, and I've had to say no to all. As it is, I can barely afford to care for KidThree. If I had the resources, I would take in more, but I don't and I can't. Others have to help. Personally in their homes or occasionally by volunteering or indirectly by supporting programs.
Those of you who complained about KidThree, get out and do something to make the lives of children from her neighborhood better. Those of you who wrote nice things, good, but it takes more than words, so now go do something concrete. Pound a nail in a playground structure, read a book to a child, help a kindergarten teacher clean her classroom, bring boxes of pencils and pads of paper to a middle school teacher. If you liked a particular book as a child, buy a copy or two and give it to the library of a school in a low-income neighborhood. Contact the principal of a high school and ask if they need math or science or reading tutors. If you can afford a little more, contact a local scouting group and offer a scholarship to one of their camps. Buy an instrument for a high school band. Sponsor a kids' basketball or soccer team. Helping can be just a little of your time or a stroke of your pen in a checkbook. If religion motivates you, donate to a scholarship fund at a private school affiliated with your denomination. Whatever you can do will make a difference, every little bit helps. And a lot of little bits makes a lot of help.
KidThree didn't ask for the life she was born into. She wasn't any less deserving of good fortune than any other child born to any other woman on any other day in any other country anywhere in the world.
Okay. Done venting.
p.s. KidThree's three months of hospitalization following the shooting were NOT on the taxpayers' nickel. They were on my private insurance, and then on the wonderful charity of Shriners' Hospitals for Children.