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Families struggling to keep their children out of foster care are stymied by two major problems: homelessness and low public assistance grants, according to two New York City studies.

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Stepping Stones: The Story of my Life in Foster Care

by Michael Dinwiddie
May 28, 2008

Stepping Stones: The Story of my Life in Foster Care

I'm in foster care. My life from what I knew before is now over. My former life wasn't so bad. My family and I bred dogs, and in the beginning it looked promising. Over time though I felt it was taking over my life. My parents and I constantly fought over petty things. I walked out of my house at 10 p.m. on my brother's birthday. I felt that it was too much. As I said, I'm still in foster care.

I now truly appreciate all the things my family did for me. I now look back sometimes and see myself riding in my van with all my brothers and sisters, with my parents driving. I think, God, what I would give to go back.

I went to Jefferson Christian Academy and was truly amazed at the expertise of the students and the staff. I now go to a school with more people, who use drugs, than people who don't. I actually had friends here, but all they care about is who will sell them drugs the cheapest. My grades are steady but would rather have had the help of my old teachers at JCA, who actually cared about teaching rather than the money.

I have never gotten into drugs and will never, but in my foster care home I get regular searches. Most of my friends think it is funny that my foster parents (Glenn and Jennifer Harris) buy one of their underage foster son cigarettes and snuff. One of my social workers (Connections - a division of Commonwealth Catholic Charities), told me — when I asked if this was legal — that it was none of my business and when I pursued the question further, she didn't answer me.

As I said before, these incidents make you appreciate all the little things in life. Not a day goes by that I do not wish I could just go back to my parents and tell them that I love them.

I have a foster brother who is 11-years-old. The foster parents tell him that he can't go home because his mom doesn't want him. Everyday he tells me that if I go home will I (will you tell them) tell them to accept me into our household. He leaves me with no words in my mouth because I can't even answer that for myself. I ask the social worker if I will ever go home, she tells me she doesn't know.

My foster parents and the social worker tell me that being in foster care means you are trying to solve your behavioral problems but on the removal papers it states my brother and I have none.

The foster brother who got cigarettes and snuff has had problems with drugs before being put in foster care. While being in foster care for 7-8 months he has been getting drugs. Sorry to say he is still using them. They have not done anything for this kid but take him from his parents. What if all fostering is like this? What if the next day your son or daughter tells a lie to the wrong people and gets thrown into foster care while your own life is thrown into turmoil? That's my life.

~Michael Dinwiddie

Follow-Up Note

After this letter was received it was later forwarded to Michael's guardian ad Litum — the one person who is responsible for the care of the children while in foster care. Michael was subsequently removed from this foster home and placed in a temporary home until another "suitable placement" could be found, thus leaving his younger brother behind.

Later the parents were told in a meeting with Oma McReynolds that the younger son didn't want to leave the foster home and yet he sent a letter dated May 28th, 2008 detailing a list of abuses and grievances with the foster parents and also stating that they had both asked to switch homes.

As a result Michael and Christian were not allowed to attend a scheduled visitation with their parents the following week due to what was labeled, "coordination problems" by Oma McReynolds and the temporary and current foster parents.

It's now June 22nd, and the children still aren't being allowed visitation. The family has recently been informed that the youngest two children will be taken 6-8 hours away, for a vacation to Virginia Beach for an entire week with their foster parents.