Terrell is part of LSNJ's reunified youth foster project. The project encourages and promotes former foster youth perspectives, in an effort to empower both youth and parents in the child welfare system. He shared his story (below) with LSNJ as part of the national Reunification Month celebration. He also offered comments in a video (above) about the importance of visitation during Covid-19.
Witnessing Mom's Arrest
I was 10 years old when my mom was arrested. This was the first time that there were strangers in my home. All of sudden, a lot of people were in my house. I was taken because I was alone because my mom was arrested. The child welfare caseworker said my mom was "unfit." I remember I was upset that these random strangers were talking about my mom. I felt like I was getting manipulated and felt like I was getting used in order to further their case.
Living with Dad
I was separated from siblings. I missed my little brother the most. I would cope by playing video games. I guess it was good that I was with my dad, but I wanted to be with my mom and siblings. My dad was cool. He played with me but was not the parent I needed at that age. I started to act out and had anger, and I was modeling anger from what I saw. At school, I started to see every female teacher trying to replace my mom, and that increased my temper. I didn't think counseling was helpful because it didn't go to my real issue of being separated from my mom and siblings. I didn't know if my mom was safe and no one told me anything.
Lacking a Voice
I barely remember my attorney. Child welfare caseworkers asked me what I wanted, but I didn't know if my requests were being heard in court. Nothing was explained to me. I felt that adults didn't want to hear from me and I felt like I wasn't important. No one listened to me.
I was at my dad's for a few years and then went to my aunt because of my anger and acting out. I was ok at my aunt's for a year and then she said something about my mom and hurt my feelings. I was then sent to a program for older youth.
Reuniting with Mom
My mom then came and got me when I was 17 years old and we were reunited. My mom is like my best friend. My anger is a lot better because she gets me and hears me. My mom accepts me as who I am and not a damaged or angry kid that I was with my dad or aunt or in the system. Being taken from mom traumatized me, even though I was placed with kin, because I wanted to be with my mom.
I am working as a cashier now at the mall. I want to be an engineer and study in that field. I see my mom study as she becomes a nurse and that makes me think I can do the same. I want people to know that a mistake is not a life sentence and that my mom should never have been discounted. I am so lucky to be reunified with her.