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lesley’s story

I remember waking up the morning my mother never came home from her "night out on the town".   I remember my brother pushing my little sister in the pram, me walking beside him, to the public telephone box down the street. He called 999 which was the emergency number for the police in England. Wasn't long and a lady in a car arrived and she would take my little sister and I off, while my brother went with my grandparents. I was 7 years old, my sister was almost 2 years old. First stop was an orphanage, where we were separated, she went to the nursery I was taken upstairs, stripped naked bathed, hair washed and checked over and given a cotton dress to wear. The year was 1959. That was my introduction to the care system, my mother had left us to live with her boyfriend, my father was in the navy and had another family in a different town.

Out of all the foster homes I had, and I had many, I can honestly say only one treated us kindly, and sadly she had to give us up due to poor health. We were abused in several of the foster homes, sometimes by the foster parent, most times by foster "uncles".   My last foster home and the one we stayed the longest was one in which the foster parent was a spinster who had her father living with her -- she had taken over the role of foster parent after her mother died. To the outside world they appeared to be upstanding church going folk, inside the house for us foster girls, (she didn't foster any boys) it was a house of abuse physical and sexual, a house where you lived on the edge in constant fear, knowing you were a nobody and no one was going to help. My main job in those last years in foster care was to protect my little sister at all costs if I could. In England you aged out at age 16 which is when you left high school and went to work or college. My mother by then had divorced my father, married my stepfather had two more children and had regained custody of my little sister who was by then, 10 years old.

I was never happier to leave the system. I never lost the dream and goal to one day have a life free from abuse and control. At 16 years old I had my own flat, worked full time as an apprentice accountant, and went to night school. I was very lonely but loved my new-found independence and was determined to work hard and be somebody -- I never wanted to be a nobody again.

I met my American service husband shortly after and we were married when I was 18 and he 23. During the next 24 years we would have three children, losing our first born to SIDS, travel the world living in several countries and states with the USAF eventually settling in Phoenix, Arizona. I worked outside the home our entire marriage while still maintaining our house and making sure the kids had all the opportunities and fun childhood I never had. After settling in Arizona I found a position with a large corporation and worked my way up from a phone rep to an HR staffing manager, I found my true calling in HR and at age 58 I received my BA in Human Resources and Business Management and my SHRM certification Senior Human Resource Management. I believe my early start in life made me stronger and more determined to be successful as a person, employee and parent.  

I truly believe my early start in life helped me be a stronger and determined person to overcome obstacles. Loneliness was the worse feeling that was hard to overcome going into foster care and transitioning out of foster care. That life has helped me go through several other traumatic events during my 67 years, losing my son, almost losing my life, losing my job and social life, going through breast cancer and just recently losing my husband of 47 years to cancer. Life truly is a circle and I believe what doesn't kill you, really does make you stronger and there is always someone worse off than you. Ironically in hindsight I had pushed my life as a foster kid to the far recesses of my brain and not until I was 60 years old did I truly transition from that life and it took a traumatic life changing accident to set the wheels in motion and a brilliant counselor to help me.


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