Tuesday, September 29, 2009

my motivation? put it down, so I can let it go

This essay is called Form 4885, which I wrote while filling out forms to request my case records from my time in foster care. A version of this will soon be published in Flux: Life after Foster Care.


Form 4885. Submit to Family and Protective Services, Legal Unit, Austin, Texas. Note, the one-page, request for records reads, Videotapes of abuse victims cannot be released.

Unless a clacking, grinding Polaroid counts, I don't recall any videotaping. What I do recall is sitting with a social worker in her crowded mess of an office, and on the round Formica table, squeezed in beside her desk, I saw the edge of a picture peeking out of a folder. A mostly naked picture of me.

Form 4885 doesn't mention pictures, but I want copies of those too. My record dates back 29 years, and I'm told that such an old record, if it still exists, will be in micro-fiche form. So pictures, if they exist, will be grainy black and white reproductions. Bruises in shades of gray, instead of deep purples fading into blue, green and iridescent yellow.

Form 4885 requires the Approximate time period for events- and I want the entire record. 1980 through 1990 is what I write on the form. When I think about Form 4885, the form which will result in records, the records that will surely arrive in a file box or possibly three, my throat tightens. Sometimes it threatens to close. I want the records, but I don't want the records. I want the answers, but the answers will result in more questions. More questions and more anger.

One question hovers, the badge-of-honor question. How many placements did I have? Or is it, how many times did I move? One foster mother told me that she counted 21. OK. But 21 what? I know that the foster homes, emergency shelters, adoptive homes, kinship care, respite care, hospital stay, residential treatment center and the group home all count. But somehow I lost count.

Questions aside, I want a chronology of my life. I want to put it down so I can let it go. I'm driven to share it, the all of it, just as I'm driven towards Form 4885. The form which will render a box, a box full of what many other people have written. The box of the gospel according to Patricia, or Karen or the blond woman whose husband died of brain cancer, or Ernestine the Catholic, or the quiet, dark-haired guy that took me out for ice cream in his brown, beat-up, two-door truck, or Judy - who I still know to this day. I remember the names of four social workers. I remember the actions of more. Their notes add up to their truth. I have the gospel of me.

Leigh Ecke, alumna, age 36, CO, 9 years in care

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