06.16.2023

My Story: Memento Mori

By Weiss Andrews

watercolor of full moon and mountains

*Sensitive Content Warning: familial, sexual and system violence, suicide, use of profanity. I wrote this with the full understanding that some of its contents are triggering, traumatic and deeply troubling. This is an attempt to plead for others like me and others who could end up like me. People collectively known as “state kids”, foster kids or foster youth (former/prior). I hope that this will open up eyes to the corruption and the abuse of my community and the great loss it imposes upon our youth who were supposed to be protected. Thank you for your time and understanding.

When I was 16, I was thrown into the midst of a crisis with my father having a stroke and my depression and mental health crumbling like the Walls of Jericho itself. I didn’t fit in normally with anyone around me, I hated school and skipped an entire month of it due to the thought I simply would just kill myself once I was 17 and could drop out. Really, it was a stupid fantasy but an accurate and authentic feeling for me that existed then. I ended up hospitalized for writing a note and struggling with intensive suicidal ideation. In this midst of chaos and uncertainty, I ended up being left in the psychiatric ward for 22 days, my father incapable of understanding or signing any legal agreement due to his stroke, my stepmother fearful and terrified of having to be responsible for me, and my mother ever so distantly giving up her rights to me as well. At that moment, my family had abandoned me, my stepmother signed in my father’s place that he would give up his rights to me (despite his not wanting to do so) and via this, I became what I will now refer to my particular group as “Foster Youth”.

After this event, it was a struggle to find a placement that would match my needs in that moment. As a last resort, I was sent to a residential facility known as “Good Samaritans Boys Ranch”. In truth, it was just a place to put me and hopefully stabilize me whilst working on reunification as the primary goal. I came into this place with long red hair and was within the first few days required to have it cut off. Shortened to a common length that was given between the binary choice of “buzzcut” or “fade”. The thing is I didn’t want them to, but the staff at this placement had stated if I didn’t comply they’d force me to by holding me down and buzzing it regardless of style or purpose. It was meant to take away self expression and individuality. To be commodified. To be traditional. It was designed like incarceration.

This placement was primarily designated for youth struggling with sexual trauma and sexually misbehaving. I fell into the category of youth that had nowhere else to go. I wasn’t what they were meant to address or handle, they’d lock everyone in these dorms on an isolated campus, not far from one another and constantly staffed. The level 4 dorms were called level 4 for security reasons. The levels indicate what range of a threat you pose or regulation you need. These dorms were “secure” dorms. “open” dorms are level 3. Higher on the list, with more privileges, more rights. A month into this placement I had proven myself capable of handling open dorms but quickly was subjected to this micro-society’s injustices, abuse, exploitation and gaslighting. In family therapy I expressed a desire to go home and work for my family, to help pay the bills and do what I can. I was told I was a child, it wasn’t my place to do the adults’ work. Meanwhile the placement had us kids work for them to tend to the campus, take care of horses, and in an open dorm clean the cafeteria and spend some days throwing hay in the blazing summer heat. Things adults are paid hourly for but what we’re paid 50 cents to a dollar a day for. Only a few months later when my stepmother realized how difficult it was taking care of my dad and newborn brother did the therapist switch up and say “Why aren’t you helping your family? You need to grow up”. This is when I realized nothing was as they said it was, it was all a game. Do this and you’re rewarded but only if you obey. Don’t and we ruin your life.

I was sexually assaulted by another client there, and it was blamed on my sexuality. I watched youth motivate staff to physically harm other youth and the staff did it through forceable restraints just for being an emotional teen. I had my traumas covered up and labeled as something else, told I had memories that were repressed about me being molested as a 6-year-old despite my not recalling any such thing but a family feud that went too far. We were forced to attend religious gatherings based on Christian beliefs despite the stated rights to our own beliefs. But what is a god given right if it’s being taken so easily by its men? This is just some of that experience, but I cannot fully convey the breadth of lies and cruelty and abuse that this one placement has demonstrated to me it’s capable of in this blog.

Once I left this placement, I was sent to an emergency shelter that was intended to be a place for foster kids to more or less exist when there was nowhere else to go. It was meant to last up to 30 days max before a transfer. I was there for 3 and a half months, as admittedly no one wants a 16-year-old boy who has a habit of doing what he wants or being rebellious in all my angsty glory. I started to learn how to get away with that habit of mine by simply lying, blending in, getting to know the staff, and vibing to music/my old 3DS (thank you Ocarina of Time).

In the first month I met a girl, aged 12, who came into this place high on Xanax while also watching over her siblings. She was pregnant by her stepfather. This made a lot of sense as to why all of her siblings were there. The tragedy that would occur is the separation of these siblings due to the system. The girl was a survivor and quite rebellious, and she was my friend. She ended up being targeted by an 18-year-old that wanted to run away with her and get an apartment and do a bunch of drugs and sex. That person was promptly kicked out. She ended up running, transitioning to another placement and got separated from her siblings, miscarried, and I never heard from her since. Once I made it to 3 and a half months, I found a foster family through an organization called MBCH (Missouri Baptist Children’s Home). I had to choose between a dancing old lady or an old Baptist couple who believed the Earth was flat… Maybe I should’ve just danced.

At 17, after the foster family placement, I had decided to go for a transitional living program, to really get to the meat of my goals and graduate high school. This program was still run by MBCH, but was immensely better in giving me more freedom, getting to leave the campus for a few hours with my newfound friends and occasional momentary “lovers”, finally no restrictions on the media/art I wished to consume, and got to learn many skills I would need later on. In hindsight, it did what it needed to for me, I stayed a year and formed some very close bonds as I finished my senior year of high school. I then moved to an apartment once I graduated and was considered a success and staff favorite. I was hyped up as one of the best who could accomplish any dream I put my mind to. It was finally time to accomplish my goal of independence. Little did I know none of it would matter, not a single damn thing.

I made it to my first apartment at 18, one of my former peers in the TLP (Transitional Living Program) home was my roommate and it was incredibly chill for a while. I’d work on and off but started to struggle with employment as the past 3 years worth of trauma began to settle in. I became more isolative, indulged more and more into my hedonistic tendencies, began doing advocacy work for another non-profit around foster care, and eventually once I was 19, invited one of my best friends over. This marks the beginning of the end of my time as not only a foster kid, but as McCullin Connor Andrews.

After a week of me and my best friend (whom I’ll name R) hanging out, having a good time and just catching up, she received a message, barely a phone call stating that “You are not allowed back here, you’re on your own” from her own mother. Now, as a guy who had two of his mothers also abandon him to a system or exile him from the family dynamic, I couldn’t just send her to the streets because her mom said so. I tried to help her, allowing her to stay (which wasn’t allowed) while helping her look for a job. I started to decline in my work, my C-PTSD began to fully manifest itself in this situation as not only was I stressed, but I was triggered. My “I’ll cap a snitch” roommate snitched on me because he disliked her staying there. Despite the fact this hypocrite had his girlfriend living with us, two other homies living with us, and was gassing up more than even I was. He can fuck himself, as his decision ended up leading to the program staff coming in, drug testing me and making me be the one to make my bestie homeless.

At this point, I’d pretty much broke. I wanted to die, failing to do anything about that, feeling guilty for sending my friend to die (at least it felt like it), and began to rebel massively. I tried to make compromises to help her, but MBCH didn’t care, even though she used to stay at the TLP home. Even though I was advocating for both youth AND staff rights, they chose to believe my roommate more, even when he stabbed my TV for his tires being slashed by someone who wasn’t even us. Even when he threatened violence, it didn’t matter, and he was the very snitch he supposedly would kill. In mid-May of 2021, after refusing to apologize to my roommate for the tires I had nothing to do with and stating a desire to kick his ass instead, I, in fact, was somehow now the threat, and as such was eliminated from the program. When I asked where I would even go after that, my case worker said “I don’t know. I don’t know who would want a 19-year-old who’s failed his independent living goals.”

And that was it. Three years of progress towards being a free and independent adult. Three years of suffering, having lost both sides of my family, forced to be abused, exploited, to watch that happen to countless others like me, to watch as the friends I adored were made homeless too or betrayed the very concept of friendship. To be nothing, to be a foster kid.

I immediately packed my things, called R, and ran. What else was left for me there? No family, traitorous friends, owned by the system that took everything I ever loved and had from me. I loathed it and dissociated into the streets. I had taken $500 from my bank account that was meant to go to my dream of living in Amsterdam and put it into the only backup plan I had as I was now homeless too.

Seattle. Quick research pulled this place up as essentially my best bet for survival and getting the resources I needed. I planned to take R with but lacked the total amount for two tickets on a Greyhound bus. Me and R talked, looking at a beautiful full moon and sharing our last memories together. Only one person could go, she said it should be me. My money, my apartment lost, my efforts to help her I don’t know… she gave me her blessing and our final moment. Then I left, the very next morning was the last time I’d ever see the hellhole known as Missouri again. And I was free.


“Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.” 

– John Milton, Paradise Lost

 

Present Day, Present Times
2 years later, my how the time has gone by. Once I made it to Seattle back in 2021, I had found within a few days a shelter on the Eastside in the Redmond area. For 11 months, I’d be homeless at a shelter for young adults in Redmond called the Landing, a program service of the nonprofit agency, Friends of Youth. Through the support and resources and commitment, I ended up obtaining a housing voucher which would be critical in ensuring I got housed, and by the end of April of 2022, I had officially gotten an apartment. I have overcome community court for a crime of such little importance (or perhaps not a crime at all), and have a clean criminal record. I have this fellowship with Treehouse and learned many many things through it and the people I work alongside. While the fellowship may be coming to an end, I am quite grateful for the opportunities and chance to help impact the very system that had oppressed me and my peers. I have worked alongside a council that prioritizes lived experience and altering the power dynamics of the foster care-to-prison pipeline. I have participated and had been highlighted in a celebration of youth video for Friends of Youth (shown below) and have made many gains in furthering my goal of growth and healing.

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About the Author

I’m Weiss Andrews (he/him). I like video games, anime, niche cult classics, and my biggest dream is to live in Amsterdam.


Comments (2)

Claire

June 29, 2023

Thank you for your courage and honesty to share your story, Weiss! You have already have and will continue to have a positive impact in the world.

Reply


Rocko Fowler

December 7, 2023

I remember being in Missouri Baptist children’s home which i had a bad experience with them horrible

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