Orphans who didn't get adopted were asked on Reddit: "What happened and how is life now?" And one user, hatfulofmadness, had a heartbreaking story to tell.
Orphan might not be the most accurate term to describe me, as I think one of my biological parents is still alive.
Orphan may be the best term I've got, though, since I haven't interacted with that biological parent in what'll be a decade this February.
My life before foster care was ... not a pleasant one. I lived in a rundown house with my biological mother. I never knew my biological father. This house often didn't have running water, or electricity, or heat. Many summers I would come back from summer camp and find the lights out, and know that it was time to take my gameboy to the library to charge, as not only was it a portable source of entertainment, but it doubled as a light. Some winters I would have to sleep in a sleeping bag with three sweatshirts on in front of an open oven for heat.
This wasn't a happy poverty either. No, my biological mother and I didn't suffer together like they do in the movies, bonding and sharing what little we had, loving each other. No, she was vicious. She beat me daily - grabbing my hair and throwing me on the ground, sitting on top of me so I couldn't escape. She would make me stand in the corner for hours on end on glass. The house was frankly unfit to live in, with cobwebs covering the walls. My biological mother slept on a ... nest of unwashed clothes on the floor in her room. She didn't have a bed.
She could have had a bed. There were beds in the house. She was just deeply mentally ill.
The worst part though wasn't the physical abuse, or the state of the house, or the ridicule from my school mates from wearing the same clothes for a week because your mother didn't do the laundry.
It was the mental abuse.
Hearing your mother say things like, "The only way I can fall asleep at night is by thinking of ways to kill you", or "Idiot boy strikes again" when I would get dishwashing soap instead of dishwasher liquid, wreck a person's psyche. Or, at least, it wrecked mine. Towards the end of it all, before I got out, I was falling apart at the seams. I was lashing out in class, I was slipping academically. I was going to either kill myself or I was going to kill her. I was sure of it.
Luckily, I didn't take either of those paths.
When I was thirteen, I called the cops on my biological mother - the only family I have ever interacted with in my life. This wasn't the first time I had done that, or the first time the state had been over the house. They had been getting calls from kind concerned parents for years, but every time somebody would be dispatched, my biological mother would tell me that I'd better lie, as life in foster care was worse than anything she could ever do to me. And, because I was surviving (albeit barely), I didn't want to risk making things worse, so I lied. I told the social workers that the bruises I got were from playing sports, and that the house usually wasn't this bad - after she'd spend hours cleaning to make it only dirty, not disgusting.
This was, however, the first time I stuck to the truth and didn't recant.
The next few days were a blur, but I was taken to the hospital, then I spent the night at my preschool teacher's house, and spent the next week at my homeroom teacher's house.
At the time, I was attending a $20,000 a year private middle school on a full academic scholarship. Despite being in foster care and coming from the opposite of money, I considered the other kids at that school my peers - kids whose parents made millions of dollars, who were bred to go to Andover and then Harvard, who wore outfits that were more expensive than all the clothes I had ever worn up to that point.
They were my peers, goddamn it, and I wasn't going to let a little thing like severe physical and emotional trauma, and a lack of home support stop me from being like them.
There's this quote, arguably attributed to Steinbeck, about socialism not working in America because the poor think of themselves not as exploited, but as temporarily disadvantaged millionaires. I lived that quote.
As soon as I got out of the abusive household I was in, and was placed in a more stable (but no more loving) house, I rallied.
Slowly, but surely, I got less weird. Less antisocial. My grades improved. I got friends. I got a girlfriend. The next year, when everybody around me was applying to boarding schools, I did too. I got into one. I went to it. There, it was the same story as before. Famous actors' kids, kids with three or four houses, and me, the kid with the clothes from Walmart that the state's meager clothing budget would pay for.
There, I was the captain of the debate team, played two sports, did theater, started and ran an a cappella group, and got one f*cking question wrong on my SAT. By any measure, I did alright. And I did it all while bouncing from foster home to foster home every few years, waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats from flashbacks, and being unable to get a high five because I'd flinch instinctively.
None of the foster homes I lived in ever cared for me, in either sense of the word. Some places thought I was too liberal. Some had kids of their own and treated me like a second class kid. Some had never had any kids of any sort before, and threw me back to the system when they realized it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.
So I sort of drifted. Doing well enough academically to set myself up for the kind of life I wanted to lead. And as of two weeks ago, I have it.
I graduated my elite liberal arts school with a degree in computer science, and I'm now making six figures at one of the biggest tech companies in the world. I've got plenty of friends, plenty of close deep meaningful friendships, but I don't have a family. And, to preempt the usual comments, please don't say they're the same. I've spent my entire life with my nose pressed up against the glass of the storefront, seeing the happy faces inside while I've been out in the cold. I know the difference between friends and family.
At least I managed to make sure that I won't go hungry, or have to sleep in front of an oven for heat, or ever have the lights off again.
I wish I had a family. Most nights I go to sleep with that thought in my mind. I'm a broken person without one.
A lot of times I've thought about putting an ad on Craigslist, or the local newspaper, or the internet, or Reddit, or SOMEWHERE saying:
"Family wanted. Me: 23 year old outgoing geeky girl. Self-sufficient in every way except the one that matters. You: Literally anyone willing to take me in as your child. Not as your child conditionally, not as your child until it's weird, but your child whatever happens. However we feel about each other. Just... together."
If you want to be the parents I never had, I'm accepting applications.
Oh, and to add some more flavor to this story, I did all of this while being transgender. Talk about life on hard mode.