Fractured Memories from Childhood
When I was 7 years old, my brother and I were removed from my mother’s care and placed into a foster home. This foster home was supposed to be short term but we were there for about three and a half years.
My memories of my birth mother, before being placed in foster care, are not the greatest. She was addicted to drugs and often neglected my brother and me. We hopped from trailer to trailer, slept in cars, lived in hotels, etc.
I know there are some great memories tucked in my mind. My birth mother gave me my baby book and there are pictures of me in a kitchen, playing dress up, cuddling with my baby brother, and with family—but I don’t remember any of that. Those memories are clouded in a past of hurt and pain. Instead, I remember caring for my baby brother at a young age, feeding him, diapering him, and playing with him to distract him from all of the negativity around us.
I also don’t remember the day when the police came and removed us. There are fractured moments from that day: hiding in a hotel bathtub, the police yelling, my brother and I being torn from the bathroom and quickly placed in the back of the squad car. I don’t remember sleeping at the social worker’s office but according to records we did for one night. Then the next day we went to the foster home.
An Unsafe Foster Home
This was supposed to be a home that was safe and where we learned what love was. However, sadly, this was not the case for my brother and me. We were only supposed to be there for three days and then moved but the social worker felt we were adjusting great. What he didn’t know (I never disclosed anything to him or anyone until I was adopted) was our foster brother was sexually abusing me and the foster parents were physically abusive to me and my brother.
Our foster parents looked at us as their maids and kept us locked in our bedroom until they got up. I would often play “puppets” with old socks to distract my brother. This is a very blurry time in my memory. I used to want to know it all, but as I have worked through the trauma, what I do remember is tough enough already. I now know I don’t want to unlock the memories that my mind is protecting me from.
“Adoption is a beautiful, life changing moment for both the parent and the child(ren). It is a journey of love, heartache, second chances, and gratitude. I am one of thousands of stories.”
Finding Love and Safety Through Adoption
March 7, 2001 is a day I will never forget—my adoption day.
My brother and I were put in a magazine and the Adams family saw us and just knew we were their children! We went to live with them and they loved us how a family is supposed to love. They were kind and patient with us. They taught us about God and forgiveness and they provided the resources we needed to heal.
By adopting me at the age of 10, they gave me a second chance at life. Because of them opening their hearts and home, I was able to have a head start at beating the statistics. I should not be where I am today—according to stats I should be following the same path my birth mother did. Instead, I am here. I am alive. I am thriving.
Building a Future
I am married to a wonderful man with patience as deep as the ocean and together we have created a beautiful family with two children. A boy and a girl that I adore. I will be the first to admit—life has been hard and the trauma has carried its effects with me at every stage. I completed my trauma therapy this past summer and am working at getting my masters in social work. My goal is to be a play therapist for children ages 0-5! I want to help others heal because it is amazing.
I used to be ashamed of being adopted because I was always teased and made fun of. I never really felt like I belonged with my family and always struggled trying to fit in. The older I have become and the more I have begun to own my story, the more I have become proud of my adoption. If I hadn’t experienced what I had, then my story wouldn’t be mine. My life had many turns and low points but God always had a purpose for me: to share my story and help other children process their trauma.
In remembrance and honor of my past, I got a tattoo of a lotus flower with the coordinates of the court house where my life changed! The lotus flower blooms in the darkest and muddiest of places and turns into something beautiful. This is how I feel I am—I was rooted in mud and darkness surrounded me, but with the right people and guidance I have bloomed. I am here today shining and sharing my story so that others know they are not alone. We are stronger together!
Advice for Foster Parents
I always tell foster parents: It doesn’t matter how long children are with you, or how big or small your actions, what you say and do for them MATTERS. You are creating ripples that you can’t even see yet. It only takes one person to make a difference in someone’s life and my parents, Doug and Candace, greatly impacted mine! I will forever be grateful to them.
About the Author: Breanna Gronli is a 29 year old living in Central Minnesota with her husband and two children. As a family they enjoy hiking, exploring, spending time with family and baking! Breanna is currently attending grad school to obtain her LICSW and she aims to be a registered play therapist for children ages 0-5.