Bio: Heather is a public advocate, sharing her story to help create change in the foster care system. The long version of her story is printed in the book “Ezra and Hadassah: A Portrait of American Royalty”, which is available online in all book platforms. She currently uses for voice to legal scholars and law students about foster care, adoption law, childhood sexual and physical abuse, religion, mental illness and intellectual disabilities.
My brother and I were born to an intellectually disabled father and a schizoprenic mother. We were voluntarily placed into foster care when I was 2 yrs old and my brother was 4. We stayed in the same foster home for 5 years, where we had weekend visitations with our parents. In foster care my brother was physically abused and I was sexually abused. At ages 7 and 9, we were placed in a newly formed State of Oregon program called The Termination Project. It was a federally-funded experiment to reduce foster care costs. Children were fast-tracked back to their biological families or put up for adoption. We were adopted without our biological parents consent, and did not meet our adopted family before we were dumped on their doorstep. We met them the day we moved in.
We were not abused by our biological parents. Their only crime was being disabled and asking for help.
Our bio parents arrived at our nearby foster home for our regularly scheduled weekend home visit, and we were gone. Our parents fought for 7 years to the doors of the US Supreme Court to get us back. They did not prevail.
Meanwhile, Rex and I were adopted into a strict Mormon family who collected kids like other people collect puppies. We were 2 of 9 formally and informally adopted children the Spencer’s claimed as their own. We went from being very loosly managed at a chaotic foster home, to complete religious lockdown. Rex’s physical abuse accelerated in our new home. My physical abuse began. Food withheld for days, combined with beatings with sticks, belts, and other more creative forms of discipline. All of our abuse was rationalized around Mormon doctrine. We were never good enough for Mormon Gawd, and the Mormons in our wards turned away from what was obvious.
Like so many before us, we grew up continually hoping to find a physical and religous family who would love us.
I got lucky, and in his own way, my brother did too. We found our safe havens as adults.
The rest of our adopted siblings have struggled very hard. One of our sisters commited sucide. I am not in contact with most of our adoptive siblings because their mental and financial problems are too big for me to handle.
22 years ago our biological parents found us again. I have taken care of them ever since, which has given me an up-close view of what my brother and I’s lives would have been if we had been allowed to remain with them. It would have been very difficult, but at least we wouldn’t have been tortured.
My brother and my bio dad have died, it is now just my bio mom and my family. Claudia is 79 years old and is living in a nearby nursing home. I am content knowing I have done the best I could for my loved ones.
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