Crusade for the Invisible Foster Child
When she came to our school she was a seventh grader. She seemed very happy, a little shy and had pretty red hair. It was cross country season and Little Red joined the team. I could tell immediately how happy she was to be a part of a group. After about two weeks a man that said he was the guardian of Little Red said he needed to talk with me. He told me that Little Red’s mother was a high school friend and that she came to visit them. One morning Little Red’s mother just disappeared. The man (Bob) and his wife decided to keep the young girl and give her a loving home. I thought this was a very noble act on their part. Then in the conversation Bob told me to be aware that Little Red would tell lies and make up elaborate stories. I had no reason to doubt his word because I barely new Little Red myself. Later I learned he was setting me up.
This story is of a little girl that attended our school for years that slipped through the cracks. She walked our halls, sat in our classrooms, and ran on our teams. No one ever new the terror and abuse the young girl received on a daily basis. This is a story of a little red headed girl that fought through a terrible childhood that was no fault of her own. This is a story of a little girl who is now thirty-two who is over coming her past and fighting for a bright future.
NEXT SIX YEARS
I ended up coaching Little Red for the next six years up until her junior year. Little Red had a sweet and very innocent personality. She was a good little runner; not great but above average. It was not until Little Red’s junior year that I came to learn the horror that she had been enduring. The day I learned her story we were at practice. I noticed Little Red crying and seeming in pain. I asked her what was the matter and she would not tell me. One of her friends spoke up and told me what was going on. Bob (a very muscular man) had beaten her up. Her ribs were severely bruised and one of her eyes was a little black. I contacted Child Protective Services and notified the school of what was going on. Child Protective Services questioned her and found out what was going on. To my astonishment, C.P.S. could do very little to help her. Maybe it was because she was seventeen and considered an adult. Little Red grew hysterical when she believed she would have to return to Bob’s house. She had no idea what he would do to her now that his secret was out. I told myself and CPS that she is not going home and I took her home with me and my family that night. The next day a girl on our team learned of the situation and said that Little Red could come and live with them.
Bob went crazy. He tried to file charges on me for harboring a runaway. To his dismay, he was not even Little Red’s legal guardian. No charges could be filed. This infuriated Bob, so he began calling principals, athletic directors, and board members trying to get me fired. I am sure he was humiliated and wanted to seek revenge on me and make me the bad guy. After Bob failed at getting me in trouble, he started calling me at home at all hours of the night. He said I had ruined his life and threatened me and my family. This went on for about a week of him calling three to four times a night. Bob’s wife met me after practice when I was getting off a school bus and began screaming at me. She said I humiliated her. I told her if they hurt Little Red again I would call the police again. This made Bob even angrier; his calls became even more violent. I just stopped telling my wife he called because it was upsetting her. There were a few times I believed I saw Bob following me when I drove home. Once he was even in the car parked next to me at school. Bob never approached me. I believe he was a coward like most bullies. He was only tough to people he could intimidate. I never really got the school involved because I was new here and I have always believed my problems are my problems.
A DAY I WISH I COULD HAVE BACK
Later that year when things seemed to have cooled down, Little Red came to talk with me. I was in a bad mood that day and emotionally exhausted from dealing with Little Red’s life. I was working in the equipment room and she came to me and said she was quitting the team. I did not even look at her and said “do what you need to do”. I did not realize that would be the last time I would ever see Little Red. About a year later I tried to find her and she was gone. I did not know if she ran away or what. There has not been a month go by for the last fourteen years that I wished I could take that day in the storage room back.
In January of 2014, I got an email from Little Red. I asked how she was doing. She said she lived in Florida and had two little boys ages three and five. Her youngest is autistic so every day is a challenge. Little Red manages a restaurant. She is attending night classes where she is majoring in elementary education. She said,” I took a few rough roads to find the right path for myself. I learned that they buried that horrible man and it gave me much closure”. I asked Little Red if she would tell her story to help teachers and many others learn that abused children are not always in foster care or reported to Child Protective Services. Little Red’s story is one of a little girl that from birth lived a difficult and sometimes tortured life. Her story is one of a little girl that has over came her past and even now as an adult fights to live a good life and give her children a safe and loving home.
Little Red’s Story
“My mother was a regular drug user as far as I can remember. Even at age four or five I can remember my mom and her boyfriend’s sitting around the living room getting high. My mom, when I was five, would leave me home alone at nights while she tried to find cocaine. Mom always had a new boyfriend, but they never stayed very long. This did not bother me because I thought this was a normal way of growing up. Mom married a man when I was eight months old who adopted me when I was four. They got divorced when I was six. I never knew my biological father. She married a man named Jim when I was seven; he was the best man by far. He took care of me and I truly loved him. He tried to help my Mom get clean off of drugs but it did not work. They were divorced when I was seven. Jim tried to adopt me but the judge said I had to stay with my mother. I never understood why. I did keep in touch with Jim and often got to spend time with him in junior high and high school. At age nine, my mom married a guy named Jason who had a bad drinking problem. It was so bad that I went to live with the man that adopted me when I was four. He and his wife drank so much that I wanted to go back to my mom because even while she was on cocaine they were not mean. Thankfully, I got to go back to my mom. There I had to feed myself and get ready and walk myself to school every day, but at least my mom did not hurt me. At age ten my Mom and Jason started using meth. Jason ended up killing himself. I was the one that found him in the car. I went to my school counselor and told her I was scared and C.P.S never got involved.
I WAS LEFT WITH A MONSTER
The next step in my life was when my Mom dropped me off at Bob’s house. Bob was one of my mother’s high school friends. Bob was not a drunk or did not use any drugs. He used to beat his wife on a regular basis. He did not start beating me until I was age thirteen. In our house, Bob had security locks on everything. We could not watch T.V. or talk on the phone without his permission. He would record all of our phone calls. Bob would often drag me around by my hair. There was even a time when Bob thought I was going to run away so he locked me outside without any clothes on. He knew a shy fifteen year old girl would not ask for help.”
I asked Little Red why she never came to me and told me what was happening to her. She said she was scared and did not know where she would go if she told. She also knew what Bob would do to her if she told anyone. She said no one ever knew until that day in practice when she could not hide the bruises. She said,” Bob would tell her that no one wanted me and he was a saint for taking me in and C.P.S. would not help me because I was a troubled teen”. She said Bob would buy her things after her worst beatings so she would not tell. Little Red said after I and the team found out what was happening to her she was embarrassed to go to school. It was hard for her to go back to school because now everyone knew and she thought something was the matter with her. Every abused child I have ever dealt with sadly blames themselves for the abuse.
While Little Red was living with the family on my team, she started working at a grocery store forty hours a week in an attempt to earn money to buy a car. It was the first time in her life that she felt free. This is why Little Red ended up quitting my team. Little Red’s freedom did not last long. While at work, Bob would sneak up on her and tell her,”you cannot get away from me”. Little Red said she would run to the back of the store and hide. These episodes would bring back all the emotions of the past and she felt overwhelmed. She said the management was great and would watch for Bob and not let him get close to her. One of the cruelest things that Bob did was going up to the customer service desk and told them to give me a message. Bob said, “Tell that little brat that Jim is dead”. Remember Jim was the only father that Little Red ever knew.
BEATING THE ODDS
In adulthood, Little Red has spent a fortune in therapy trying to recover from her past. Little Red said," I got married when I was 18 and divorced at twenty five. I know that I was trying to fill the void that I had felt in life. The void of never having a true father or someone to just take care of me and I guess someone to just love me”. Seven years ago Little Red said,” I got to watch them bury that horrible man. I talked to his wife and forgave her for not stopping the beatings. Bob’s death gave me a little closure and now she finally knew he could not hurt anyone else. Now I spend my days making sure my two little boys are happy and know they are special. I coach T-ball and I am never too busy to give high fives and hugs”. I pray that I can finish college so that I can give my boys a better life. Life has been challenging but God has given me strength to become a stronger person.”
HOW LITTLE RED CHANGED MY LIFE
Sadly, Little Red’s story is not that unusual. There are thousands of kids that have a similar story. Little Red is a hero for telling her story. Her story has showed other abused children that there is hope and through her courage and persistence you can still live a happy life. Little Red has showed through her faith in God that she can get through anything. Little Red has helped more people than she will ever know. Her story has changed me and has put a desire in me to help and fight for abused children. I have felt my whole life that I let that little girl down. When I finally talked to Little Red, she did not blame me, but thanked me. Amazingly Little Red does not feel sorry for herself. She said she was still luckier than a lot of children. Little Red said she feels alone in this world because she has no family to call or visit on the holidays. She said she feels trapped in Florida because she cannot move out of the state in fear of losing custody of her children.
Fourteen years ago, this little red headed girl made a dent in my heart. It broke my heart that she needed help and no one knew how to help her. I want to say this to Little Red: It took fourteen years for you and I to cross each other’s paths again. You do not have to worry because there is a family here that you can always lean on. We love you Little Red.
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