In the aftermath of the Danieal Kelly case, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services has vowed to improve its care for children. But for the roughly 500 children who “age out” of the city’s foster care system every year when they turn 18, the future holds many challenges. About 60 percent have experienced continued abuse, three in four don’t have a high school diploma, and many are lacking important life skills. One man who has experienced the worst of the system wants to help change that. From WHYY’s Behavioral health Desk, Maiken Scott reports.
In the aftermath of the Danieal Kelly case, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services has vowed to improve its care for children. But for the roughly 500 children who “age out” of the city’s foster care system every year when they turn 18, the future holds many challenges. About 60 percent have experienced continued abuse, three in four don’t have a high school diploma, and many are lacking important life skills. One man who has experienced the worst of the system wants to help change that. From WHYY’s Behavioral health Desk, Maiken Scott reports:
WHYY’s ongoing coverage on Philadelphia’s DHS and the Danieal Kelly case and other news
Eddie Lewis is working on a book about his experience – read an excerpt:
This is dedicated to all the little children who have been abused in the system, and to all those children who were lost to the ignorance and consequence of child abuse; your stories will be heard.
I want you to close your eyes, and go back to when you were a child. When the world was full of possibilities. When your present career was not what was on your mind, when the world was magical and wonderful. I want you to feel that, so you can understand what it’s like being a six year old who has everything taken from him. Literally everything. Most people think of their childhood as a world of opportunity. Mine was a world of pain, and suffering. Your childhood defines who you are for the rest of your life, and this is the story of what has helped define me.
I’m gonna start off with the psychology of my mother. My mother felt as if she was not loved by her mother, my grandmother; she felt as if she was treated as an outcast her entire life. Time and time again she tried to fill that void with men. My brother and I wanted to get back together with my dad, although that would never happen. They would fight, ending up with my father in the hospital with burn wounds. She left my father, and took my brother and me away with her, and started dating different men. A couple of the men were nice, and created a civil atmosphere, although they never lasted. Now, with the void in her life; since she could not fill it with sexuality, she turned to spirituality. She started taking Jehovah’s witness studies (Note; I do not hold anything against Jehovah witnesses, and I do not want to incite any misunderstandings about myself or the religion, I happen to be fond of Jehovah witness and their beliefs, and I do not hold the religion responsible for the actions of one man). My mother met a man through her studies, and before anyone knew it, they were dating. At the time, I was getting sick, very sick. I first knew something was wrong when this man started beating my brother and me, even though he was dating my mother, all the while I was getting sicker. They say that love is blind, but it took until my appendix burst before my mother saw I needed hospitalization. I almost died. It’s painful to think about it, although it is more painful to actually say that my mother did not care. While I was in the hospital, more specifically the ICU at the age of six, she married the beast. The doctors would question me about the bruises, but I would keep quiet; I knew that if I said anything, nothing would be the same. When I got home, everything had changed; this beast was the king of the roost, and we would ruffle his feathers all the time. He did not want kids, and my mother pushed us on him. This is when the real beatings started. He would tie us up so we couldn’t run. Sometimes he would use the boards from under the bed. Other times he would use the broom handle. What I want you to understand was that throughout all of this, my mother was there. She gave him permission, and the power to do anything he wanted, and he relished in it; it was a game for him. He then found out a new method of torture; starvation. He would make us choose between beatings, and starvation. If we went without eating for two days, we would take the beatings in order to get fed. If we got beat for two days, we would often starve to let our wounds heal. This was a very, very confusing time, I was only 6 or 7 at the time, and I was always scared, hiding bruises, going hungry. I was exhausted. The hardest part was pretending nothing was wrong, when everything was. Being so young, it is so hard to realize what is normal, and what is not. Does getting a beating mean that your parents love you? If it did, we were the most loved children in the world…ha-ha. The hard part is, to this day I cannot hate this man, because I don’t know if he thought he was doing the right thing. Was I being bad? Was there something wrong with me that he was justified in trying to kill me? There is still a little bit of that child in me, wanting to be accepted.