I broke two people’s hearts yesterday. One was an ex-wife who never remarried and had a child with the decedent. The other was a daughter who hadn’t seen a parent in 25 years. They had both been looking unsuccessfully for the person who had been missing in their life; one for two years, the other for over twenty. Don’t assume that the people you’re estranged from don’t care about you.
Maybe they don’t. But maybe they do.
I’m working on a next of kin case for a man who died while incarcerated. He’s been dead since 2001 and nobody has located his next of kin. I wonder how long he’d been incarcerated without contact from someone who cared? I imagine he was discarded before he went to prison. I’d bet he grew up in poverty or in foster care. Early and/or chronic poverty or disrupted relationships adversely impacts brain development. It impedes positive and prosocial experiences. The individual’s intellectual and emotional development is forever impacted and depending on their resilience, genetic predispositon, and environment they may have far less free will than we like to imagine. If we can say they made a choice, we can discard them more easily. We don’t have to worry about what happens to those we consider the least worthy in our communities.
I’ve been looking for the sister of a deceased person. Because she married more than once and lives in a state where records are private for fifty years I kept hitting roadblocks. Today I spoke with a cousin in another state who hasn’t seen her in decades. But she went through her own deceased mother’s papers and found the married name and last address for her cousin, the sister of the deceased that I’ve been trying to locate. Do you save your (or your family member’s) old address books?
There are Medical Examiner’s offices whose attitude is, “Why are you bothering us asking about decedents whose kin we couldn’t find?” and then there are ME’s that call and say, “Deb, would you like to help us on another case?” Got one of the latter tonight.
One of the unclaimed decedent cases I’m working is a man who came to the U.S. during the Mariel boatlift. I haven’t enough information to know how he supported himself all these years but he ended up homeless in 2011. He was arrested for camping in Cocoa Beach, Florida, missed the court date for that violation, and a warrant was issued. He was fishing when he was picked up on that warrant. Not robbing banks. Not stealing purses. Fishing. Hauled off to jail. Two months later, he was struck and killed by a driver that veered onto the shoulder of the road where the man was walking. The driver was charged with failure to exercise due caution, found guilty, and ordered to pay $134 fine. The relatives for the man from Cuba have not been located.
I’ve been remiss about blogging, so I’m going to add a few posts I’d shared on social media. Please follow me on Facebook by liking my page Deb Stone, Writer. I’m also at Twitter and Pinterest @iwritedeb.
My new piece in the NYT Motherlode is about shifting your own expectations in the middle of a child’s anger. What is the goal when we go toe-to-toe with a child?
Children can’t understand how anger works unless we encourage them to wrestle it with safe people. Their attempts may be uncomfortable or excessive.
Read Teaching Your Child to Wrangle, Not Reject, Rage and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
Proud to have a story featured in the July issue of foster care alumni Chris Chmielewski’s Foster Focus Magazine, the nation’s only monthly magazine devoted to foster care.
In June 2004, my adopted daughter Rose received not one, not two, but three letters of commendation from United States senators. “It has come to my attention that you have been selected to participate in the 2004 Youth Leadership Forum… This outstanding achievement demonstrates your proactive attitude towards your education,” wrote Senator Ron Wyden. “I believe there is nothing more valuable than a good education. Your impressive record indicates you share that view.”
To appreciate my (then) foster daughter’s accomplishment, one must consider how little others expected of her when she was young. Read the rest of the story at Foster Focus, July 2014
Those places in us we hide in shame? We can stop hiding. We can forgive ourselves. We can move on. Maybe we won’t be great, but we’ll be better. Maybe not even good, but better. Believing in others is ultimately about believing in yourself.
To read more, click The Way Things Overlap.
Then follow me on Twitter @iwritedeb and Jennifer @JenPastiloff.
My essay U.S. Foster Care: A Flawed Solution that Leads to More Long-Term Problems in STIR Journal got a yes vote when New York Times Motherlode writer KJ Dell’Antonia linked to the essay with this quote: “Thousands of kids roll through the foster care system every year. What if it would be better to leave them at home? – KJ Dell’Antonia”