Content Warning: substance abuse, sexual assault. Names and case details have been changed to protect the identity of everyone involved.
Youth involved in foster care are often vulnerable to mistreatment. Even after they have left their placement, they may feel like they don’t have a voice or support in a vast, complicated system. This was the case for Vicky, a 16-year-old who contacted NRS because she was in need of another option.
Vicky entered the foster system after her abusive biological mother lost custody of her. Life with Mom was unsafe. She had a temper and often took things out on Vicky. Drug abuse was also an issue, as there were often drugs present in her home.
After trying to reason with Mom, Vicky decided that she had no other choice but to contact CPS. She was soon removed from the home and placed in the foster system. Vicky bounced around a few different foster homes over the course of seven months and was starting to lose hope about having a permanent home. Eventually, a relative stepped in to adopt her. She was happy to finally have a place to call her own and was relieved it was with family.
Things were going well with her relative. She was finally able to be in a space of her own. Unfortunately, this didn’t last. She and her new adopted mother’s son were hanging out one night and he had too much to drink. He sexually assaulted her, shattering any feeling of relief or safety that she had found in this new home. When Vicky bravely told her adopted mother about it, she wasn’t believed. Worse, as punishment, her adopted mother took Vicky’s phone, which had all of her contacts, including her liaison with CPS and her caseworker. She was left without anyone to advocate for her in this dire time of need.
Her adopted mother then did the unthinkable: she planned to send Vicky to live with Mom again. The same place that Vicky had thought she’d escaped for good. She was terrified at the thought of being in there again. According to her adopted mother, she believed that she had the right to do this, because she was now legally Vicky’s guardian. Vicky also believed this to be true.
Vicky wanted to run away and try to make it on her own. She was only 16 and she didn’t have the means to support herself, nor a safe place to live. She wanted to go to her sister’s house, but that was several states away. She contacted NRS because she just wanted to believe there was another, better option out there for her, something she hadn’t thought of yet.
Shelters in the area were full, so Vicky didn’t have any luck there. Working through the options, NRS asked if she’d told her full story to her sister. It turns out that her sister was not aware of all the details. During Vicky’s conversation with NRS, she reached out to her sister with more information about what was happening. Her sister decided to contact the police and see what they recommended.
According to the local police, she should file another report with CPS. Sending a child to a parent who lost custody could be considered a violation of the adoption agreement. They also recommended that her sister file for emergency custody in the local courts. This wasn’t something either Vicky nor her sister had thought possible.
When Vicky finished speaking with NRS, having learned that there was hope at the end of this long, dark tunnel, she thanked the Crisis Services Team Member for helping her. She wouldn’t have thought to take this further through CPS. She didn’t think she had any recourse whatsoever and had felt powerless. Now, with support from NRS, local police, and her sister, things were finally starting to look up. She just had to hold on a little longer.
Vicky had been holding on as long as she could remember. She could do that for a little longer.
Navigating the legal and foster care systems can be incredibly difficult. If you are struggling with your situation, consider reaching out to NRS. We aren’t legal experts, but we can explore options to improve your situation, help you contact the correct authorities, file an abuse report on your behalf, and more.
You don’t have to face these difficulties alone. We’re here to listen, here to help.