It’s National Foster Care month and I’m an advocate of people becoming foster parents and even of kids joining the system when the situation warrants it. Not every parent, household or family is a safe place for a kid – but you could make a difference in a kid’s life just by offering stability, food, & shelter.
I write about this a lot – not just during this month but during the regular course of year when I reflect on being saved, rescued from a certain path. The only poem I’ve ever written that mattered to me is here:
This morning I was reflecting on the following thought “I wasn’t that bad of a kid” which was immediately followed by a guffaw at myself loud enough to probably wake the neighbors.
I was a thief – stealing money from my grandmothers purse, rifling through her rooms for money or valuable to sell (mother had given up on parenting years before so I lived with grandma). I even took her doorknobs when she accused me of taking them – I didn’t want to be accused of something I hadn’t done just what I had, so it seemed appropriate. Here is a story that reflects back on an adventure with her: Up In Smoke
I was a minor drug dealer – selling ditch weed and alcohol to other kids, but I rarely made a profit too busy having fun to care about that. I had tin foiled my bedroom ceiling, spray painted the overhead light bulb red, torn out the window screens to use for water bongs made from Jack Daniels bottles… threw parties where folks threw up or burned holes in things.
I was a vandal – I broke items with no fear of consequence or regret.
I was a pyromaniac – burning many things in her outdoor fire pit. This included her bibles (I figured if there was a god that would finally bring down his wrath upon me) and there were many including a “family bible”. There are things you can’t make amends for, that’s one of them I guess.
When the last straw came and my grandmother came home to a door that was busted into and yet another room rifled through – social services came for me. I was hung over from a great party the night before with seniors (I was a sophomore and already known for my crazy antics including wearing a hanger on my head, a lightning bolt and not believing in “god”). After a weekend in a group home, the social worker drove me down to Galesville WI and introduced me to Ron and LaVonne Prudlick, who were to be my foster parents.
LaVonne (my Ma) was this little old lady with a full head of white hair, sitting in a rocking chair knitting away. Ron (my Pa) was a grumpy looking old guy and he said to me “if you come home and you’ve been drinking, we won’t ask any questions we’ll ship you off to drug and alcohol treatment.” or something like that. So right away I decided if I these folks could even deal with me for more than a day I wouldn’t come home if I was going to have fun.
I was still a thief, a liar and a rebel. Not really interested in being there but still a smoker. I started to steal packs of cigarettes from Pa’s cartons (take from the back and they’ll never know right? wrong… Pa quit smoking shortly after, see how good I am for people? lol
They insisted we have dinner together – there was always a full table of food and a glass of mile for me. Pa always drank a mug of buttermilk… which I still think is nasty. There were snacks too – fruit and vegetables from the garden, Ma would cook cookies, cinnamon buns or cake… I quickly put on a few pounds and starting growing taller.
I had my own room and privacy a shower every day and a job. They had us mowing lawns for money which I then got to spend. I even had an allowance I think. They shopped for clothes for me – I was looking at price tags and Ma noticed and would just buy things I liked. For the first time that I can remember I felt safe.
I was still a jerk though, still a hoodlum and terror… but they loved me and still did their best. What I ended up with was a real family and a revolving door of other kids that I came to know that taught me about tolerance and patience.
I gained a sister, Rhonda and her boys as nephews – Michael and Cory (it’s his birthday today and I’ve known him his entire life… he’s a good kid and 29 years old). And a brother, Ken, who lived away and I only saw rarely or on holidays.
Over the years I helped to shingle the roof, paint other people’s houses, helped with the building of this huge shed that is still out back of the house.
What Ma and Pa gave me was so much more than I ever thought possible. They showed me a life that wasn’t full of violence and alcohol but one that was full of love and possibilities. They gave me a chance to be rescued and transformed from what was surely a path to self-destruction.
Yes, I still ended up in jail one weekend, in treatment twice and now clean and sober for almost 22 years… but they laid a foundation for me that helped me become the responsible young man… crap I’m old… responsible old man I am today.
They loved me even though I was gay, even though I was an atheist… they just did.
My Pa passed away in 2008 suddenly. On hearing that news I bawled like a baby for hours – I’m tearing up right now as I write this. He was a good man who loved me and hugged me even when I didn’t want a hug. He always went to work, came home and took a nap before dinner and then was busy with a thousand projects he would never finish. He was an example for me – the first man who I remember loving me without wanting anything in return. I miss him. Stories about my Pa are here: Ronald Peter Paul Prudlick – My Pa and My Pa. I cried entirely too much during that paragraph. In 2009 I legally changed my name to honor my Pa so now I’m Jamez Ronald Prudlick – that’s the impact he had on my life.
If you have a heart, if you have hope and want to help a child – they really need you to do so. There are many places you can learn more about Fostering. There are a hundred horror stories out there with people corrupting the system – what we need more of is people who lead the way, be the example these kids need and change their world.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety has a website that talks about what you need to do to become a Foster Parent – it’s good stuff and I hope you check it out. Your state or county may have something similar.
If you hate children, but love me or this story and want to make a difference these organizations could use some financial support, consider it my AA birthday (May 8th, 1994) gift.
AASK – ask-az.org
Arizona’s Children Association arizonaschildren.org