By: Joseph P. Berry, BSW
Note: This is a sidebar to the article, "A Foster Child Removal Experience: A Narrative," by Joseph P. Berry, in THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER, Summer 2012. All rights reserved.
Close your eyes and imagine.... It is 2 a.m., and you have been asleep for quite a while now. Startled, you wake up at the sound of a knock on the front door of your house. You see the hall light turn on and see the shadow of your mom and dad’s footsteps walk past your bedroom door. The stairs creak in the familiar way they often do on the fifth and seventh stairs, as you hear your parents walking down them.
You sit up in bed as you hear the front door being unlocked and the doorknob turn. Then you begin to hear voices talking softly. You can clearly make out the voices of your parents, but you are unable to identify the other two voices. The only word you can make out is the word “remove,” which is then followed by a bunch of other words you don’t quite understand.
All of a sudden, you start hearing your dad talking louder and saying something about not having the right and having no proof. You can hear your mom crying between your father’s raised voice. Suddenly, you hear footsteps coming up the stairs and can hear people walking outside your bedroom door. You hear the familiar creak of the floor and you know that there is someone outside your bedroom door. You pull the covers up to your chin, hoping that whatever is going on will just stop and this is all just a dream. You hear your dad outside your door talking to the other people, this time saying, “They need their mom and dad. You have no right to do this.”
You hear one of the other voices saying a lot of words you don’t understand, and then you pull the covers tightly around you as you see the doorknob slowly start to turn. You see your mom walk into the room. You can tell she has been crying. She asks you to get out of bed and get dressed. You slowly get out of bed and look at her for a second before walking to your dresser to put on your clothes. As you finish putting on your shirt, your mom asks you to take all your clothes out of your dresser. You watch as she picks up your half-open backpack on the floor and starts to put your clothes in it. You walk over to her and hand her the clothes in your hand and watch as she puts more of your clothes in the backpack.
You don’t know what to think. Are we moving? Maybe this is a surprise vacation. Yeah, that must be it, you think to yourself. Your mom helps you grab the rest of your clothes and tells you to follow her downstairs. As you walk downstairs, you see your dad talking with two other grown-ups. One grown-up looks like a policeman, and the other has lots of papers. The person with all the papers walks up to you holding a black trash bag and says you can put the rest of your clothes in the bag so you don’t have to hold them. You hesitantly look up at your mom, and she doesn’t say anything, only nodding slowly in a way that tells you it is okay to put your clothes in the trash bag.
The paper lady doesn’t seem very scary, but why did she ask you to put your clothes in a trash bag? She bends down to pick you up, and you are still so tired that you wrap your arms around her neck. You turn your head to look at your mom and see that she is crying. As the paper lady begins to walk toward your front door, you see your dad talking to the policeman. The policeman says one last thing to your dad and starts walking toward the door behind you and the paper lady.
It is kind of cool outside, and it’s even cooler because you wish you could be back under the covers in your warm bed. The policeman opens the car door for the lady with the papers, and you are placed in the back seat of her car and buckled in. The lady with the papers says something you can’t hear to the policeman and then gets in the driver’s seat of the car. She turns around and looks at you.
All you can manage to ask her is, “Where are we going?” The lady with the papers says there have been some problems and that you will have to live in a safer place for a while until the problems can get worked out. You are confused and have so many questions going through your head, but the only one that you can make out to ask her is, “Why?” She tells you that right now your home is not the safest place for you, and for you to be safe, you have to go live somewhere else for a while. The car is silent after she says this, and it seems almost as if time is standing still. The lady with the papers turns around and turns the key to start the car. The paper lady turns around as she backs out of your driveway, and you watch your house all the way until she turns at the end of the street.
As you slowly open your eyes, please allow yourself to feel free to make any comments on emotions or feelings you may have experienced at any point during the exercise.