Titus 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.
Keeping Child Welfare at Bay
I was around 9 years old when the child welfare agency began to come to my house. I was removed with my siblings when I was 10 years old. I remember my mom always warning me and my brother and sisters, about child welfare coming to the house and separating us if things got too dysfunctional. So, we were always worried and tried our best to avoid getting in situations where child services might get involved. My mother spoke to us a lot about staying together and how separation would be the worst-case scenario.
Calling the Police
The agency came by our house one last time when another argument broke out between my parents. There was always fighting in the house. We all witnessed domestic violence in our home often. The fighting happened every week or so and got to the point where fights broke out between my parents every day. Every night, my brother, sisters, and I hoped the screaming and yelling would stop. We hid upstairs in our rooms terrified. When the yelling and banging got intense, we would call the cops because there was no other way to resolve the issue. We knew our mom was in trouble and she needed help. The cops always helped us and made sure we were okay.
The night child services came, my older sister called the cops. That resulted in the child welfare agency coming to the house and splitting us up to place us in foster homes. I knew my older sister was going through the most pain. She felt guilty and took the blame for us getting split up because she called the cops that night. Child welfare services was also unhappy with the condition of our house. The house was messy and the living conditions were intolerable.
On the night we were taken, it started off okay because the cops brought us pizza. We had no food and they openly talked to us to make us feel better about our situation. When child welfare services came, it was awful. Without warning, they drove us to the police station where they separated my brother and me from my sisters and placed us in separate cars taking us to our foster homes for the next few months. We couldn't stop crying and were traumatized. I cried a lot and felt confused and afraid. I had so many questions and no one had answers. No one knew where my mother was and worried about her.
Leaving Home, Going Separate Directions
The worst part about this situation was when we were separated. My younger brother and I were placed together. I remember waking up the next day feeling so lost and I questioned everything. I felt like I was living a totally different life. Where am I? Why am I here? Where are my sisters? Where did my mother go? No one was giving me answers. I felt helpless. This was the worst experience I ever had as a child. Three weeks after being taken I finally got to speak to my mom and I was relieved when I found out she was okay.
Living in Foster Care
My younger brother and I were in a different foster home than my sisters. Our foster mom was a single lady and old enough to be my grandmother. The foster care system sucked. I didn't get along with my foster mom, but she got along with my younger brother. I was hostile because she was not my mother and she just wanted me to obey her. I felt like she did not understand me, and she never tried to understand me. She wasn't sympathetic to the situation my brother and I just went through. She didn't like how I was always crying and unhappy. She always felt like I was acting out, but I was just confused and wanted to see my mother. My foster mother wanted to have two little boys, but she didn't know how to help us and didn't understand how things were from our perspective. She always boasted about us to her relatives --the two little boys she adopted -- as if we were her prized possessions even though she didn't care about our past. It felt like there was no love or understanding in my foster home, just bitter arguments. She fed us, but that wasn't enough. I just wanted to talk to her and get her to realize I was concerned. Eventually I did get home counseling and therapy. It took a while but that helped and I started learning coping skills.
Finding a Voice
I don't remember going to court or ever meeting my attorney. I actually didn't know I had an attorney. I do remember talking to the child welfare caseworkers about my mom. They asked me questions so they could work things out to let my brother, sisters, and I see our mom. I was glad that I had someone to vent to who actually allowed me to voice my thoughts, and this gave me hope that better times were ahead. It was finally certain that coming home was a possibility.
I started to see my siblings, my mother and father every two weeks after school. The visits would often switch up so I didn't see the rest of my family all the time. I felt upset when visits were canceled or when my mother or father couldn't make it to see us. It was always the best feeling to see my sisters again.
I am currently 19 years old and am a musician. I play piano, DJ, and I produce music professionally. I work under the music alias MISTRO TS. I am working towards making a living off of my music and taking the world by storm. I would love to get to a professional level in the industry as a DJ in Electronic Music. I'm growing my brand and I'm working towards making an impact in the industry. Eventually I would like to pave the way for upcoming artists and musicians and provide a platform for talented underrated artists.
I would like the system to understand what they put children through when they separate them from their families. They need to understand what it is like separate kids from their parents without providing communication or telling children what is happening. There was no communication for a while in my case and the caseworkers that came help us did not listen and take us seriously. It was not authentic. It felt passive. Everyone had a role but some didn't seem to care about their job and seemed to just be acting. If you are going to split up families, communicate properly with everyone.