The care system broke my siblings - here's their story. Part One: My father's children
My parents were both married to someone else before they met. As a result, I have one brother and one sister who I grew up with and two brothers and one sister from my dad's first marriage.
Unfortunately, I never even knew they existed until I was 12 years old and it took me a long time to adjust to the fact.
To protect their privacy, I changed their names for this. But I feel it's an important story to be heard.
I am making this a 2 part story, because my three siblings had their own experiences with the foster care system but my other sister had them as well. More about her in the second part.
My dad's first wife was a bit of a nutter. Or at least, this is what I heard from him and later also from my siblings. She seemed to have been a heavy drinker, but so was my dad. At least then. He never really drank as long as I can remember. But more than drinking, she was abusing prescription medication. Something that would eventually kill her.
Conny was 3 at the time, John would have been 5 and our oldest brother 6 or 7 when my father decided their marriage wasn't going anywhere and so he decided to leave. I will probably never understand how he ever could have done this, nor will I ever understand why he did what he did after he left. My siblings and I will never have those answers, as our father took them with him into his grave.
My sister Conny's last, and maybe even first memory of him was him walking out the door, still arguing with his wife.
She was screaming at him from the kitchen window and suddenly he moved forward and punched her in the face.
This is something I could have never seen him do in the time that I knew him, but then again, we'd been deceived about our family and his true nature all our lives. So anything was possible.
My father made a mistake that ruined lives and destroyed innocence
Not long after my dad left, he made a choice that had disastrous outcomes.
I know the times were differently then, in Holland and everywhere. The city of Utrecht and its Catholic citizens were very much ruled by the church then and it would have been impossible for my father to raise the children on his own as he wouldn't have been allowed to. I don't think he realized what harm he could, and would do with what he did next.
He rang child protective services and told them that he left their home and that his kid's mother wasn't fit for the job of raising them....
I am not sure how long it took then, and exactly how things happened, but what I do know is that my siblings were initially placed in a group home together.
No one wanted older boys, but foster families were all in line for toddler girls, so my sister was the first one to be taken from the group home into a foster family. Not long after that, she was molested for the first time.
Still very young, she responded in a way we would expect from a very young girl: she retreated into herself, hardly spoke and started showing behaviour that the foster family didn't want.
So she was placed back into a group home, only to move in and out of foster homes and group homes for years to come.
In those years, there was hardly any to no contact with her brothers, no contact with our father or their mother.
The only one who had always stayed in contact with her (and was allowed to) was her grandmother.
My sister often told me that she wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for her grandmother.
Our two brothers remained in the group home for a while. They grew apart, the eldest started showing bad behaviour and was constantly punished by the nuns and priest who ran the home.
My youngest brother John was then placed with a foster family with more foster children.
There is not much he wants to share about his time there as it wasn't a very happy time.
One of the children turned 18 and left that home. Because of that, my eldest brother also moved into that family.
Both my brothers were sexually abused in that home. John told us that their foster father would bring one of the boys to the attic of the house to abuse them. He would threaten them and tell them he'd go after their sister if they'd tell anyone.
My eldest brother has never been the same.
I never met him as he ended up becoming a junkie and disappeared. We don't even know where he is at the moment or if he's still alive.
But I have seen photos of him. The pictures of him as a young boy showed an innocent and happy little boy.
Then there was one photo of him as a 17 year old teen.
No more innocence and no happy face. They took it all away from him.
John has never spoken of his time there again, but the way he spoke then, made us think that the older boys in the home were participating in those sick games sometimes.
So who knows what else they had been going through.
When my brother John turned 18, he joined the army. His history and his job made him cold and tough.
His marriage failed and his kids don't talk to him.
I met him for the first time when I was 29. This was due to the fact that he didn't want to have anything to do with my dad, for reasons I can understand. But when he found out he also had a sister, things changed.
He is doing OK, he has a job and a house. But that's all, he's not really living a happy life either.
My sister ended up in a Catholic group home in her early teens. There she was sexually abused by older girls and adults. She was beaten and broken until there was hardly anything left of her self-image.
At the age of 15, she then moved back into her mothers house until she married at 18.
Later she developed an eating disorder. She gained a huge amount of weight and I blame part of that, if not all, on her experiences as a child. She told me once that this teacher would mention her breasts and behind and make her feel very uncomfortable about it. She was developing earlier than others and felt like she was a target because of that.
I think she began to eat as a defense: If she was undesirable then maybe the insults would stop....
I met her when I was 12.
I have cried a lot about what happened to my sister and brothers.
The horrors they had to go through at such a young age.
Sometimes I even felt guilty that it happened to them and not me, which is of course crazy, since it's not my fault.
I think of how much different their lives probably would have been if my dad didn't do what he did.
I cried a lot about all the time I missed with them. There isn't a day where I don't wish that I would have known them growing up. So much time and I didn't even know they existed.
There isn't a day when I don't wish I had a time-machine so I could change what they went through.
Both John and Connie agree: However bad their mother was, it was nothing compared to the horrors that happened after they were taken into care. It has changed them forever and killed a huge part in them.
I wanted to tell their story because I feel people need to hear it.
They are not the only ones. There are many children like them, too many.
But then again: 1 is too many.
I want to thank you for reading and I would like to thank @markwhittam and @canadian-coconut for starting the @familyprotection account and with that give a voice to those whose story needs to be told and heard. And also a voice for the most vulnerable among us: children. They often can't, won't or aren't allowed to speak in the matter even though it's them who are the subject.
I believe that with all those stories, we will be able to raise more awareness on the subject and hopefully it can help families who need it and prevent similar things to happen to others.
If you are not aware of familyprotection, please make sure to head there and support this cause. Read the stories and find out that stories like this one is not a singular event. It happens more than we can imagine and it happens everywhere.