Gun Violence in the Lives of Foster Children

Let’s not forget about the voiceless, innocent children that are affected by gun violence. It doesn’t take a death for gun violence to destroy a life. All it takes is a gun, alcohol, mental illness and one bullet.

I am a survivor of child abuse and gun violence played a significant role in the trauma I suffered as an abused child.

Just imagine you are a 7-year-old child and your father, well on his way to drunkenness, takes you and your brothers and sister out in the woods to teach you to shoot a gun. I was the youngest and was very small for my age. When it came my turn to shoot, I stood there frozen in fear, terrified that I would die right then and there. However, my father proceeded to put the large shotgun to my shoulder, neglecting to explain to me that I needed to keep it snug to my shoulder at all times.

First, he got angry because the gun was too big and heavy for me to hold. Then he got angrier because my fingers were too small to pull the trigger with just one finger. But he was determined that I was going to shoot the gun that day. So he helped me.

He helped me hold the gun and he helped me pull the trigger. I was so scared that I backed away from the butt of the gun and when it fired, it knocked me to the ground, hard. I have no idea how I walked away without a broken shoulder.

The pain of the gun ripping into my shoulder shot through my body so intense that I laid on the ground sobbing and withering in pain. My mentally ill father reloaded the gun and put it in my face. He told me to shut up, or he would shoot. Imagine yourself, and your father, in an intimate moment where you needed consoling, but the only consoling you received was a loaded shot gun in your face.

That was just the start. My father’s drinking became more aggressive and he became more and more violent. His drinking and domestic violence had already caused the death of my 29-year-old mother when I was three years old. Although I was too young to remember, it was always in the back of my mind that he had something to do with it. So imagine how I felt the day he and my step mother got into a fight, and he decided to get his shotgun out.

I watched as he violently shoved a bullet into the gun and took it into the kitchen. He raised the shot gun to step mother’s head and started screaming and yelling at her. I was terrified, I knew this wasn’t going to end until he pulled that trigger. I started begging and pleading with him not to take her life that day. I remember saying, “Daddy please don’t do it, please don’t it. Please stop. I love her, please don’t do it.” After many years I finally allowed myself to love someone and it was her.

After being passed from family to family, I finally allowed someone to be my mommy and I chose her. I was still begging and pleading when my dad turned around with his shotgun and started to shoot. A teenage neighbor was at our house and he recognized how dangerous the situation was. He ran over to me, picked me up and threw me out of an open window where the screen was missing. The gun shot hit the floor and missed me by inches.

After the Department of Family Services took us from my father, he loaded his shot gun and drove to Tennessee. He was planning to shoot and kill my step mother. He blamed everything on her and he was going to teach her a lesson. From the story I was told, as he pulled the shot gun out of the back seat, it went off and shot him in the groin. It was a damaging injury, but he survived.

The lives of innocent children were forever changed that day, all due to mental illness, guns and alcohol.

Helen Ramaglia is a foster alumni who became a foster/adoptive parent. She is the founder and Director of Fostering Superstars, a Congressional Award Winner for her work with foster children and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous”. She is a popular speaker, trainer and advocate for foster children.

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