Allie’s case was active in the Family and Children’s Services (FCS) department. They handle adoptions in cases like ours. The process was expected to take at least a year, but has been known to take longer. In the meantime, Allie was a foster child and Susan and I were foster parents in the State of California foster care system.
It looked like we were going to be in California for awhile so we rented an apartment. My sister was kind to take us in, but it was time to move this new routine — this new life — into our own space.
Our new caseworker, Jack, visited our new place to inspect it and observe family life at the new Mondok domicile. Everything we did, small or large, was subject to government approval. Thankfully, Jack was an advocate for us. Allie’s case broke his heart. Susan and I became very fond of Jack through the adoption process. We kept in touch with Jack over the next decade and were saddened when he retired and informed us in a personal note that policy forbid continued contact once he vacated his role. (Jack, if you’re reading this, we can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for Allie and our family. We pray for God’s blessings on your life, friend.)
Allie was getting care in Eureka that exceeded the expectations set for us before we left the hospital in San Francisco. That reflected well on us while we were in this foster parenting phase. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, doctors, nurses, and social workers teamed up with us to help Allie reach her full potential. To this day, we remain overwhelmed with gratitude for their commitment to our little girl. Everybody worked hard to make Allie’s story have a happy ending. God’s fingerprints were all over the work this team did.
When we first arrived in Eureka, I was contacted by a faith-based non-profit to handle digital communication and training for foreign missionaries. The role required some travel, but, other than that, I would be able to do the job from home. This provided the flexibility I needed to help Susan care for Allie during the day. I traveled a few days once every three months, but we had my sister and nieces nearby and they went out of their way to be available to help Susan as often as she needed.
It would be nice if routine meant you could coast for awhile, but things don’t work that way, do they?
Two Damaged Daughters
While we were getting things figured out in Eureka, Charity was having a hard time navigating life in the Bay Area. Because of the crisis in her life, her new living arrangement with a friend was becoming toxic. Susan and I wanted Charity to come live with us, but the conditions of our foster parenting agreement prohibited Charity from residing in the same house as Allie since her parental rights had been terminated. Both of my daughters were damaged, but only one was permitted to live with us.
I spoke to my brother, Daniel, who was opening a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, to see if he could give her some kind of a job. “Also,” I asked, “can Charity stay in your spare room?”
“No problem at all,” Daniel said. “She can stay as long as she likes, and, yes, we’re hiring servers.”
I went online and bought Charity a one-way bus fare from Oakland to Portland. Charity was in Portland within a few days.
She had a bit of a rocky start in Portland. Working in my brother’s restaurant was not a fit for Charity, but she found work in food service elsewhere quickly. She had a good run that lasted about 60 days.
“Charity bounced.” Those were my brother’s words to me when he called to tell me Charity disappeared. “Her room’s a mess,” Daniel said. “She took a few things from her room and left the rest.”
I severely underestimated my daughter’s emotional state. She missed Allie painfully. She was in a perpetual state of mourning for Allie that was not unlike the grieving that comes with the death of a child. It was extremely difficult to process and accept. For years we never thought she would find a way to move forward. Her daughter was brutalized, permanently crippled, and remains severely brain-damaged. The state terminated her role as a parent. Is there a natural way for a young mother to heal from tragic events like these?
I called her phone and left several voice mails. She called me back and said she cashed her last check, took the money she had saved from working for a month or so, and was heading to Gainesville, Florida, to stay with friends she knew from school. A few hours later, I got call from her.
“I got robbed,” she said. “I zipped up my money in my backpack. Somebody must have saw me. I woke up from a nap and it was gone.”
She lost all the money she saved for the trip and getting life going in Gainesville. She had a few bucks in her jeans, but that would only get her through the day. I wired her a few dollars so she’d have enough for meals until she got to Florida.
Charity couch-surfed in dorms and apartments in Gainesville for a few months. The University of Florida is in Gainesville, and Charity had several friends in school in unstructured living situations. They welcomed her, but, with no car, it was difficult for Charity to get around and find work. UF is a notorious party school. Between the party scene, her emotional condition, and being in a constant state of transition moving from apartment to apartment, she was never gainfully employed.
Since Susan, Allie and I had moved out of my sister’s place, that opened up a spare bedroom at my sister’s house. Jennifer said that Charity was welcome to stay if she wanted.
It took some persuading, but I got Charity to come back across country and move in with my sister in Eureka. That way, she’d only be a few blocks away and she could see Allie. Maybe that would help.
I put her on a plane to San Francisco, drove her to Eureka, and moved her into my sister’s house. Now things will be good.
Charity hit the ground running in Eureka. She found a job quickly and only stayed with my sister for a few weeks. She found a room mate and they split the rent on a two bedroom apartment. Charity visited us and Allie often and I helped her get back and forth to work until she bought a bicycle to get around town. She started to see a counselor. Things were going smoothly. For awhile.
Unwanted advances by a manager at work triggered a chain reaction. This became a familiar cycle leading to the over-use of alcohol and drugs. One night, Charity checked herself into a suicide prevention center. This would happen several more times over the next few years.
One night a few days later, I got a call from Charity. She woke me out of a deep sleep at around 1:00 am. “I’m in San Francisco.”
We talked on the phone for about two hours, but she didn’t make sense. She said people were after her and that she had a place to stay with a friend. But she didn’t know how long it would last and she didn’t have a plan. She was going to stay in the Bay Area.
Within a few days, she was living on the street. Susan and I were frantic with worry. We feared for her life. At times, she would sleep in a youth hostel in San Francisco. Other times, she would sleep up in trees or on scaffolding on a construction site. If she was outdoors, she would do what she could to get off the ground so she wouldn’t be vulnerable to other homeless people.
In that city, there are over 6,000 homeless. My daughter was among them.
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