ISSUE 26 MARCH 2001 BACK TO CYC-Net

children in care

Home was my prison

Tanya

Ever since I was a baby my dad has hit me for no reason, and for as long as I can remember, my parents have shown me no love, didnít kiss or cuddle me, so I felt unwanted. I couldnít think what I had done wrong and didnít understand. When I was about twelve, life at home grew worse; my parents were arguing and fighting every night. My dad then used to take his anger out on me by hitting, thumping and kicking me around the room until I lay in the corner crying. Then heíd stand over me, and laugh, thinking it was funny.

Other things were happening as well, which I still cannot talk about. They made me feel dirty and angry with myself: I felt that I was to blame. My own dad was always threatening to beat me if I didnít do things he wanted me to do, and I was having to lie about the bruises. People were asking if everything was all right at home and I said ďyesĒ because I was scared of what would happen if I broke the ďsecretĒ. My mum knew what was happening but she said if I told anyone, dad would be put in prison, and I would be taken into care, which sounded horrible.

I began to hurt myself and then tried to slash my wrists a few times. Now I think about it, it was probably just attention seeking, to get people to listen to me and know something was wrong. Also that the pain was a punishment for me as I stopped eating, and then became anorexic which Iíve now overcome, and also began to run away more frequently. Iíve been running away since I was eleven, but was scared about what would happen if I was brought back home, so I always came back before anyone had noticed me missing.

Desperate for help
I was ringing Childline every day, but Iíve only ever got through twice. I became so desperate to talk to someone that I eventually told a person I liked and trusted. They let me down because they didnít believe me, which was devastating as it had taken a lot of courage to say it. Other people I trusted I told too, but they werenít interested either, so I never trust anyone now.

Last year I tried to take an overdose, and I really wanted to die as I was so fed up with life and depressed, I didnít care what happened to me. I ran away yet again, and was determined never to return home. I just walked the streets wishing I was dead.

The final straw was when a man attacked and tried to assault me sexually but I managed to fight him off and get away. Iíd had enough.

A safe place
But last year, when I came into care my life changed. I was put with a foster family who Iím still with, and Iím very happy here. A home and a proper family, with love, care and happiness. A safe place where I am made to feel I belong. The feelings of being unwanted and dirty are disappearing, and the nightmares are going too. My foster dad is the first man I have been able to trust, although it was months before Iíd let him cuddle me as I didnít know what proper love was.

My foster parents love me and I love them too, although I sometimes find it hard to show it. They understand what Iíve been through, and how I feel; slowly I am rebuilding my life and can talk about my past to people I trust. They have made me see that life is worth living and stop me getting too depressed. Also, that I should not feel guilty and angry with myself, that it s not my fault and I shouldnít blame myself for what s happened. Iím fifteen now, and will stay with this family for years to come, as I donít ever want to return home. Being in care is the best thing thatís happened to me.

From Who Cares? the English magazine for children in care

THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net)
Registered Non-Profit and Public Benefit Organisation in the Republic of South Africa (031-323-NPO, PBO 930015296)

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