While some foster care abuses are extreme, some are more minor but still critical, like using the stipend for reasons other than directly related to the child. A book I read, Foster Girl (and reviewed in this blog) had some stories like that. The girls went through several foster homes over the years until they ended up in a wonderful one with a caring, mature single woman.
In the movie Just Mercy, the convicted white felon, Ralph Myers, who’s false testimony has put a Black man’s life in jeopardy of the death penalty, admits to the attorney that he grew up in foster care. While in a foster care, he was placed to sleep in the basement where the furnace blew up and his pajamas caught on fire for a frightening few minutes leaving him scarred for life. In attempting to coerce the false testimony that he had been unwilling to agree to at first, he was placed on death row where he was subjected to the smell of burning flesh that triggered for him a reaction that left him in a fetal position in his cell and willing to do whatever the authorities wanted of him. The damage of spending his childhood in foster care derailed the remainder of his life.
The inspiration for today’s blog came when I read about the untimely death of Victoria Spry as she was only 35 years old when she died. She is known for the horrendous stories of her sadistic foster mother. This is admittedly an extreme example of abuses suffered while in foster care.
She was abused by Eunice Spry for almost 20 years. In 2007, a court heard how her foster mother beat her and two other children with sticks and metal bars, scrubbed their skin with sandpaper, and forced them to eat lard, bleach, vomit and even their own feces. Eunice Spry was a Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was punishing the children because she thought they were possessed by the devil. Once she even kept two of them imprisoned, naked and starving, in a room for a month.
How was it that welfare officials failed to pick up on the abuse ?
Spry was convicted of 26 charges including unlawful wounding, cruelty to a person under 16, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, perverting the course of justice, and witness intimidation. Justice appeared to arrive for Eunice who was 62 years old when she was imprisoned for 14 years. However, her sentence was reduced to 12 years on appeal. She was freed in 2014.
Victoria wrote a book titled Tortured and then spent her short life working to improve the system that had failed her. Apparently not allowing anger to be her focus but helping other children involved with the foster care system.
As a society, when will we learn that supporting struggling families at risk is preferable to removing them from the families they were born into and placing them with strangers in foster care ?