Content warning: This article mentions physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
In Minnesota, many young lives are torn apart when children have to be placed out of the home they know. It can get rough when you, as a child, are placed in a home with people you don’t know. It seems like a never ending nightmare because there are new people, new environments, and a new mask to don with a new role to play. What made it worse was the fact that none of the people I was placed with looked like me. So, when it came to identity issues, I was met with blank faces. I was often told, “I don’t know how that feels, but we will figure it out,” followed by no action.
I was adopted by a white family when I was 6 years old after being placed with them since I was 1. The white adoptive parents had been married for years and had children from other marriages. So, when my brother and I were placed with them, he became their missing puzzle piece. We both became their Black children who acted as shields for their racism. My brother was favored for being lighter-skinned than me. Due to my darker-colored skin, I was abused mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually for years.
Each time I ran away from that home, I was repeatedly sent back until it was proven that I wasn’t lying about what was happening to me. I was finally removed from that family and placed in a shelter with a Black woman. At first, I was scared of her because she was Black. Due to my upbringing with the white family, I was programmed to think that all people that were my skin color were up to no good. I was conditioned to believe that darker-skinned Black people don’t have nice things or own houses, aren’t loving, and don’t work hard. My mindset about Black people changed when I later found and met my mother. When I saw how hard she was working for everything she had, I started to unlearn a lot of toxic stereotypes about Black people.
I was placed in a different shelter and then, eventually, a group home. In this group home, I couldn’t even figure out who I was. There were girls in this house of every race who had different clothes, different styles of hair, and different ways of talking. There were no staff members who were people of color. So, when it came down to understanding the differences people of color had with their hair and skin, we were often punished for speaking out about how something didn’t work for us.
I was later placed with my mother’s sister. I was back around family but I wasn’t really there emotionally. I had no idea who to connect with. I saw how my cousins had been so close with each other that they seemed like siblings. I felt out of place because these people had been around each other for years while I just got there. The lack of connection to family was used against me during every argument and fight I had with a family member. For a while, it stung until the abuse started. This time, the abuse was by the hands of my biological family. The last straw was when my mother beat me until I was bruised to the point where welts formed all over my body. I went to school the next day and didn’t return to my aunt’s house afterwards.
I stayed with a long list of family and friends. But, in the end, these people only took me in because they were expecting a nice, hefty payment from the child welfare system for letting me stay with them. So, in my experience, kinship wasn’t the best option for me. The one person who could have taken me in permanently was denied because of an assault charge from years ago. The trauma I endured while living with these people was not worth it. I turned 18 and got everything I felt that I needed to be stable. I got my own place to stay. I got my first vehicle shortly after that. Most importantly, I had my own freedom. I didn’t have to be threatened with homelessness because I didn’t agree with someone. Because of this, I never wanted to be in a place where I had to ask for another thing from anyone.
Once I started to voice how my family’s actions played a role in my trauma, I saw negative and toxic behaviors they didn’t want to fix. In a way, I am happy that I went through these experiences. I was able to see the generational trauma and learn how to break the cycle. I was able to find different and better ways to fix myself. Separating from family does have its disadvantages, though, like spending the holidays and important events by myself. However, I can’t surround myself with people who don’t have my best interest at heart.
Kinship support didn’t work out for me. But this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work out for others. Some people may need and have support around them. For me, I had to learn to become mentally strong on a different level that is hard to explain. I had to have boundaries in place that I wasn’t willing to let my family overstep under any circumstances. I learned that if someone wanted you to be around, they would be active and willing to listen. I had to cut the majority of my family off because this wasn’t something they felt they should do. There are times, even now, where I catch myself wondering if I did something wrong to not get the love and support I watch them give to others. I continue to go to therapy and find ways to heal. I like to be the helping hand for others that I didn’t have while knowing my boundaries. Although I wish things would have turned out differently, I wouldn’t change the amount of peace and healthy support I have now within myself.