Mid afternoon Janet and her daughter, Kathy, met me at the station in Mattoon. I couldn’t believe the old, rusty truck Janet was driving. It smoked so bad and jerked as we drove. I wondered if we were going to make it. The “beautiful farmhouse” Janet had bragged about turned out to be a tenant farm in much need of a paint job and new doors, and a roof. The inside of the house wasn’t much better. Janet took me upstairs and showed me a bare room saying, “We are going to the Salvation Army tomorrow for your bed. I’d planned on getting it today, but you were late.”

Living in Janet’s home, I felt like Geneva had abandoned me too. I kept telling myself no matter how bad the place was I wasn’t locked up. Janet wasn’t shy about giving me duties she expected done daily and I did them without question. I remember Janet saying she didn’t need to get me any school clothes. I had come with three dress and good shoes. That was enough for school and church. “After all, God doesn’t judge a man by the clothes he wears.”

My first week at school, the kids made fun of my clothes and where I lived. I asked Janet for a pair of jeans so I’d fit in at school. She told me those kids were going to hell, then asked if I wanted to go with them.

Janet’s Pentecostal church was in Indianapolis, a three hour drive each way twice a week. The yelling and crying along with speaking in tongue scared me. I’d gone to church off and on since I was eight, but never to a church like this.

My third visit with my parole officer I asked her if I had any rights.
I told her I was learning about “Freedom of Religion” and didn’t like Janet’s church in Indiana. I told her how I didn’t have friends at school. The kids made fun of me and how I wanted to wear jeans.

My parole officer met with Janet telling her she had violated my parole by taking me out of state without permission and could lose her foster care license. She asked Janet if I was receiving my monthly allowance, from the state. Janet lied and said “yes.” She told Janet there was no reason I couldn’t wear jeans to school and my allowance could buy them.

After my parole officer left, Janet took me to a small, dilapidated building behind the house and whipped me with a brown leather belt. I felt such rage, I could hardly contain myself. I wanted to tear into that beehive Janet called a hairdo and not stop until she was bald. Then claw at her eyes till she was blinded.

That evening after I finished cleaning the kitchen Janet told me to get in the truck. Janet drove fast, throwing dust and smoke behind us as we headed to town. We stopped at a Tractor Supply store where Janet picked out a pair of boy’s work jeans for me to try on. Even the smallest pair was too large. Janet told me to use the belt she whipped me with not only to hold up my new jeans, but to remind me why I was whipped. I wore my state issued dresses to school and never asked for anything from Janet again.

One morning I woke to find Janet and Kathy gone from the house. I went to school and came home and the house was still empty. Fearing I’d be sent back to Geneva, I called my parole officer and told her Janet and Kathy had moved without me. Apparently, Janet had been arrested for writing bad checks all over Mattoon and Kathy went to live with her natural mother. I had no idea Kathy wasn’t Janet’s daughter.

For two months I was temporarily placed with an older couple that owned a dry cleaners in town. It was wonderful! They altered clothes left at their cleaners for me and soon I had a closet filled with so many nice outfits. The kids at school stopped talking about me and I became best friends with Alice. I was happier than I had ever imagined a kid could be.

In the spring I went to live with a younger family in Mattoon. They had a four year old daughter. Life was even better than the last family I lived with. I soon adjusted to upper middle class and loved it. They wanted more children and adopted a baby girl, then a boy. I loved helping take care of the kids and they appreciated my help.

Eighteen months later, the family announced they had been offered promotions and we were moving to Kankakee. I was relieved when they bought a new home in Herscher, a quaint farming community 20 miles west of Kankakee. I did not want to be reminded of my stay at the Diagnostic Center in Kankakee a few years earlier.

I easily made friends at school and met my first boyfriend, Randy. He was a couple years older and had the coolest car. I remember him asking me out and my foster family saying I was too young to car date. I loved going to school and seeing Randy. But, I knew if I didn’t go out with him, he would find someone that would and forget me. It was then that I broke the rules and lied to my foster family.

On weekends I’d tell them I was going to a girlfriends, then meet Randy to go on long drives. On one of those long drives we ended up 5 miles from Hoopeston, my old hometown. I gave him directions to my mother’s house and we drove past it. I wanted to go in and see her just to show her I was doing so well and was happy. I went to her door not knocking, but walking in. There she sat drinking beer, talking on the phone. She seemed surprised as she hung up the phone, looking me over. I told her who I was living with and where I was living. I asked about my brother and sister. She didn’t answer. She told me I better get going before I got in trouble for being there. I remember hugging her and she didn’t hug back. I left joining Randy in his car. As we headed north on our way back to Herscher, Randy was pulled over and I was arrested for threatening my mother with a knife.

My foster parents were called to come get me at the police station and I was forbidden to see Randy ever again. The arrest didn’t stick since mom couldn’t keep her story straight. I seen Randy at school. We passed notes and slipped phone calls in when we could, but I couldn’t get away to be with him. Randy broke my heart when he started dating my friend Nancy. Seeing them walk the halls holding hands was more than I could take. I made up excuses to keep from going to school and spent endless hours alone in my room complaining of not feeling well. The family took me to several doctors only to be told there was nothing physically wrong with me. I was forced to return to school.

My new friends were Kurt and Tina. They didn’t live far from me so now I told the truth. “I’m going to Tina’s.” I just left out, “the three of us are sitting in Tina’s room smoking pot and listening to Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne albums.” On my sixteen birthday Kurt gave me a half ounce of pot. That half a lid fell out of my jacket pocket that evening when I got home. Two days later my parole officer was returning me to Geneva. My foster mother stood at the door crying with her husband’s arm around her as they said goodbye.