Dee’s Story

For the first twenty years of my life I was forced to live with a severely mentally unbalanced abusive, neurotic foster mother from the age of 8 months, (my brother was placed there when he was a year old). It was like living with a volcano, because you never knew when she was going to blow her top.   My brother’s and my personal growth and development was severely stunted as a result of our experiences. Neither my brother nor I were able to reach our full potential and it ruined any chance we had of ever having any sort of a relationship with our birth mother because of the vicious lies fed to us by foster mother about our birth mother.  Our childhood was totally hideous.

From a very young age, I instinctively sensed my foster mother did not like me, want me, and favoured my brother. We lived in a house, it was never a home, which we shared with two other older foster children, another brother and sister and the only daughter of the foster parents. Their birth daughter was twelve years older than I was.

I was a very anxious frightened little child.  Our perfectionist foster mother with her weekly migraine headaches, living off her nerves, breakdowns, time in and out of hospital and convalescent homes, was old and very crabby. I was very ashamed I was living with her and wondered why I was there. Looking for an answer in my child like way, I decided I must have been a very bad baby. That was the reason why she hated me.   When I got older I worked out I should never have been born because I was, to her, such an awful child.

We had visits from our birth mother, but foster mother filled our heads with how bad she was, when all the time she was a special needs mum with a disability.   Years later when I read my welfare file I was astounded at the vicious lies written by my foster mother about our birth mother, which the welfare officers always believed, documented and acted upon.  It got to the stage where the visits had to be on neutral territory because neither of these woman would go to the others house… all these situations instigated by control freak and master trouble maker and manipulator, my foster mother.

All through my file it was recorded as to my foster mother’s headaches, living off her nerves, hospital admissions, nervous breakdowns etc. Never did the Welfare ever think we should be moved.  My brother went to see a psychologist when he was about ten and this specialist recorded that my brother had severe psychological problems. The specialist also noted that foster mother was very odd and controlling but the welfare ignored this.  All this is documented in files I accessed years later.

As we grew older we had shopping trips in town for clothes/shoes with those dreaded welfare dockets.   It was hideous because foster mother turned on her drama queen act for the shop assistants, saying how wonderful she was to look after us children, because our mother was in the lunatic asylum. When my brother and I started high school she instructed us to never tell anyone about our free books and clothes because it was something to be ashamed of and we had to keep the nasty secret.

I do recall going into Todds clothing store in Otahuhu for clothes replacements, and I made sure there was no one from school in that shop. If there was, I would run round the block many times until that shop was empty when I went in. I cringed so badly from all this stress, I had awful stomach pains and felt ill.

When I finally read my file in September 2004, I finally learned the real reason.   Foster parents told everyone in  Papatoetoe that they had adopted my brother and I. That was why we had to keep it a secret (that we were in foster care), because if the true story ever got out, they would lose face in the local community. These were the calibre of people the welfare chose to be foster parents… societies misfits.

Thanks to our upbringing my brother and I never had a decent relationship with our birth mother, grandmother, and we had no favourite aunties, uncles or cousins to grow up with.  Various family members wrote to the welfare offering to look after us, but the welfare always refused to move us, saying we were living with an excellent foster mother.  Our birth mother also wrote to the welfare wanting us moved. It was uncanny, she somehow sensed and knew her children were being mistreated.

This is what happens when untrained, uncaring people and complete idiots are left in charge of young vulnerable children.   My brother and I were both left with severe emotional and psychological problems.

Just before he died at the age of 38, my brother confided in me saying, “You know our lives would have been so sweet, if only we had lived with a proper family.  That bloody welfare crap ruined our lives, we never had a chance.   You looked at other normal families, they seemed to be so happy, why didn’t that happen to us?”

Why indeed?

In the welfare file our birth mother was referred to as being mentally “subnormal”, and very difficult.  The only mentally subnormal people I knew were those welfare officers and foster mother and weak foster father who between them made our young lives a living hell.
Years later, when I was married and with a family, my family doctor told me he had diagnosed foster mother as being severely psychotic and indicated she was a very dangerous woman and for me and her only birth daughter to stay away from her.   He was furious with himself for not diagnosing her condition much earlier and added, “she should never have been allowed to foster children.”

I will take my emotional scars to my grave, as did my brother who passed away, aged 36.

By way of compensation, ‘eventually’ (my case went on for nearly eight years) an agreement was reached between the lawyer and MSD (Ministry of Social Development). I received the sum of $12.000 NZD for the verbal, physical emotional and sexual abuse I suffered while in state care and for my lost childhood. I was very naive and trusting when I contacted and dealt with Cooper legal, it never entered my head that I would be yet again abused.   I have also been made aware that the Crown used the limitation clause to refuse to pay out to all claimants. To me this is dirty dealings because no case would ever succeed.   Although the MSD does pay out they are still controlled by the Crown, who never want to accept that they were wrong. ACC paid for 20 sessions of counselling, nothing else, because they said I had got my act together.

Is this justice?

6 comments on “Dee’s Story

  1. Mia larsen (nee Joyce) on said:

    wow your a real survivor of a system that we know hows now eft our most precious treasures down, I hope that this acts as a catayst to MSD to know that they still offered failed services to the public. Nothing has changed, Ie: Leaky servers, Breach of Privacy, and now quite possibly breach of human rights, so compensation settlements for hurt, humiliation and sufferings imposed on the people of this nation and one of New Zealands largest pay out settlement claims historically pending

    • admin_grant on said:

      Webmasters note: Speaking of breaches of privacy I spoke to the MSD to get paper work on my family. They wrongly sent me paper work on a relatives family. Let’s hope that in the New Zealand Government faces up to its system failures sometime in the near future.

  2. My story is very similar to yours re foster parents. Forced to leave school because I wasn’t to bludge of the state anymore at 16. Now they wonder why I am on a benefit.

  3. Naomi Webber on said:

    Dee, your story is very similar to mine. I was adopted at 6yrs to a very dysfunctional woman who was diagnosed 30 yrs later as schizophrenic. At 12 yrs I was placed in foster care after a suicide attempt. Things got worse then but reading your story has brought home to me the fact that the NZ Welfare was more willing to believe the foster parents than assess the child’s behaviour and ask why they were having psychological problems. I accessed my Welfare file in 1996 and still feel incredible anger at the incompetence of the Welfare Officers from my time as a Ward of the State. Is it worth pursuing compensation for the mental and sexual abuse I suffered as, really, no amount of money pays back the lost childhood one never had. My heart weeps for you and your brother.

    • admin_grant on said:

      Its a tough call on whether it is worth pursuing compensation. It really depends on whether you want to be retraumatised by the experience which is very much a risk. We are getting very close to having a public inquiry and it may be better to wait for this so that you voice and story are truly heard. As you say no amount of money can help relieve the pain but perhaps by us telling our stories we can protect other children from similar fates we suffered.

      Thanks for thoughts and reaching out. The fight for justice goes on. Kia kaha

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