Plagued and embarrassed by my name, made worse by a nomadic childhood that made it impossible to build lasting relationships, I developed tough skin at an early age. Along the way I learned to deal with disappointment, push through discomfort, overcome adversity and accurately gauge people — qualities that have helped me to succeed.
After spending nearly 20 years as a law office administrator, I became unsettled by the ever-revolving door of people coming into the criminal justice system, and set out to find a way to change it. I enrolled and attended Coach U and became a certified life coach. Working through that program, I quickly began to understand my childhood in a way I never had before.
I began researching and learned that there were over 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States — a fact that was astonishing, since I had never known another foster child while I was in care. Out of those children nearly 60% would age out of the system without having a place to live, nearly 50% would end up incarcerated within two years of aging out, and almost 80% of people on death row are former foster alumni. These horrendous statistics made me realize that I had to do something.
Garbage Bag Suitcase is the true story of my wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug- and alcohol-addicted parents, filled with constant moves in the middle of the night, multiple schools, lack of food, and loneliness. Forgotten birthdays, drug-fueled parties and empty pantries were the norm in whichever household we ended up residing.
Finally, at the age of 13, I’d had enough. After being abandoned by my mother for weeks at my grandmother’s apartment in a retirement community, I asked my grandmother to place me into foster care. Surely I would fare better in a stable home than living with my highly unstable and unreliable mother, right?
It turns out that foster care was not the storybook ending I had hoped for. With foster parents more interested in the income received by housing a foster child, I was once again neglected emotionally. Even the money I earned working at the local grocery store was taken by my foster parents to “cover your expenses.” When a car accident landed me in the hospital with grave injuries and no one came to visit me during my three-week stay, I realized I was truly all alone in the world.
Overcoming many adversities, I became part of the 3% of all foster care children who get into college and the 1% who actually graduate with a degree. I became a successful businesswoman, got married, and had a daughter. Despite numerous achievements in life, I still suffer from the long-term effects of neglect, and find the coping skills I adapted in my childhood are not always productive in adult life.
Garbage Bag Suitcase is not only the inspiring and hair-raising story of my journey to overcome my desolate childhood, it discusses in detail the long-lasting effects the foster care system can have on a life and also addresses how trauma-informed care can change the way in which we view foster care by offering real life solutions to this unrelenting problem, including fostering the whole family and boarding school for foster children.