Over the last few weeks, I began reading the trilogy written by Dave Pelzer: A Child Called “It”; The Lost Boy; and A Man Named Dave (in progress). These books are the emotional journey of a boy, teenager and man who as a child was brutally abused by his mother, taken out of his home and placed in foster care. Mr. Pelzer’s story is a story of great heroism. The abuse and neglect he endured is incomprehensible to anyone who has lived an idyllic childhood.
In The Lost Boy, Mr. Pelzer refers to himself and his foster brothers and sisters as F-kids. My father was an F-kid. Although my father didn’t experience abuse at the hands of his parents, there definitely was neglect. He entered into foster care as a result of my grandmother’s repeated hospitalizations and my grandfather’s ghostlike behaviors. She believed her decision would be best because her children would get consistent care. Unfortunately, they were placed with a few other kids in a home where their foster mother used them as housemaids and farmhands. F-kids were and are often discriminated against because people assume that they are in the foster care system because of what they’ve done. In most cases, these F-kids are in the system because of their parents.
The stories my father told about his childhood growing up in New York and as an F-kid were vague yet unwavering. By the time he was 10, my Dad had to be a grown-up. He would watch over his sister at home, at school and would sometimes have to scavenge through garbage cans for meals. The first stop for my Dad was a children’s shelter where he and his sister were separated. A while later, they were sent to the same foster home in Upstate New York. Like Mr. Pelzer’s father, my father’s foster father ignored the abuse and neglect my father endured at the hands of his wife. When my Dad was about 16, he had enough. His foster mother pushed him too far. He was removed from their care and brought to a farm for boys where he stayed until he turned 18 and joined the Air Force.
I’m writing this today because it lays heavy on my heart. Through these books, I have a better understanding of how my Dad became the man he was. Although my Dad shared many stories with us over the years, there were some that were definitely missing – I believe the ones that were too terrible to talk about. So many people throughout my Dad’s life judged him or formed opinions of him without even knowing his back story. We all have a back story. It’s so very important not to judge anyone without knowing who they are and where they came from. Through all the adversity he endured throughout his whole life, my Dad became one of the most dedicated husbands and fathers I know.
The story of Mr. Pelzer and my Dad not only are testaments to foster kids all over this country but to the many people who are discriminated against without anyone knowing who they are. I mean discrimination of all people – white, black, brown, yellow, male, female, Christian, non-Christian. Stop judging. Stop criticizing. Stop and think about the hurt you are inflicting on a friend, a stranger – only to make yourself feel better. I have learned a lot from my F-kid Dad. He taught me to be street smart, to learn to only keep those who are true around me, to love my God and family first and to think before I speak. My Dad, the F-kid, was a true blessing.