Foster Care: Allie's Story

Allie was abused as a child but was given a new life through foster care.
Allie was abused as a child but was given a new life through foster care.

When Allie was born in Galveston in 2002, her mother abandoned her in the hospital.

Her father, a drug user with a criminal record, traveled to the hospital to get Allie. He took her on a Greyhound bus back to his hometown of Texarkana, Texas, where he tried to find someone to take her. He asked relatives and knocked on strangers’ doors, looking for someone to take his baby. Then he found a church with a Mother’s Day Out program.

For a few days, he left baby Allie there with the program director, April. He would pick her up at the end of the day and the family began helping him to become stable. They drove him to rehab and to a job that he found. April and her husband Mark kept this up for three months, but Allie’s father drifted back to drugs and criminal activity.

One day, Allie’s father didn’t show back up. The family kept Allie and went through the process of becoming foster parents; she became the sister that their three sons didn’t have, and their home was filled with love, play, and affection. When Allie was 17 months old the phone rang, and the foster family was told that Allie’s father’s relatives wanted custody. Allie was taken from her foster family and went to a home that was “disgusting and smelly and dark,” in more ways than one. Her aunt dated a younger man who was a pedophile, and he soon began to prey on little Allie.

At age four, Allie was in the throes of abuse from this man when her uncle walked in the room. He called the police. Allie went through a forensic interview and immediately went back into foster care. Allie’s social worker, in crisis and despair, called April to say that Allie was a completely different child from before.

“She told April, ‘I don’t think anybody is going to want this child,’ because of the things that I had seen and the way that she was acting,” Allie remembers.

But her foster family wanted her back.

“I remember meeting them in the Rainbow Room at Child Protective Services in Texarkana. I had my nails painted and got a new dress. I got to meet all my brothers again; they were in their awkward phase. I’ll never forget that, trying to remember their names. But I felt safe. I felt like I could be a child again. And so from there, that’s where the happy ending started.”

“Something that’s really important for foster parents to know is, whether you have a child for 24 hours, a week, or way longer than you ever signed up for, and whether it’s an infant, a toddler, or a teen – you’re providing an emotional impact for the brain of that child that will allow them to be psychologically okay as an adult,” says Allie, now 21.

“Because I had that from age 3 months to 17 months, I was declared able, in the future, to have secure attachment and to be psychologically stable. It’s still a process that is chaotic. But there is hope and a future for that child in the mess. If I hadn’t had that, Lord knows where I’d be.”

Allie believes that the affirming, balanced home environment, and the tender, skin-to-skin contact she experienced as a baby with April made a psychological imprint on her brain.

“Even after four years of abuse, I remembered April. I remembered Mark. That physical touch that was healthy.”

For a few years her trauma felt remote, in a fargone past.

“I was learning how to dance, I was learning how to sing. What it was to have a normal childhood and being rough and tough with my brothers. But trauma always comes back, at weird points, and I was a very angry child from age nine up until right now. This is something that I’m still very much working on.”

When Allie went to college, she saw fellow students studying and making friends. She grew isolated and took on unhealthy behaviors. Her issue seemed to be an inability to trust others.


“Being depressed and being a Christian – it didn’t really make sense. I wasn’t poor and had already been adopted; I didn’t think I should be struggling. And so I hit this wall and I realized: I am going to be alone forever and filled with regret if I don’t figure out some way to let people in."

“It’s a difficult concept to talk about, but when you’re constantly fighting for survival, there is no time to trust people. There is no time to thrive."

There’s no time to open up and be vulnerable. What would happen if you were in the wild – you’d get killed. That is the mindset of people with complex childhood trauma.”

Awareness has been key to her opening to nurturing relationships.

“It is a whole rewiring of the way that I see the world. It’s still something that I continue now, especially as someone who wants to be a great wife and a great mother. I don’t want to have all of this unresolved trauma sitting in my children’s lap.”

Allie will finish her bachelor’s degree and is engaged.

“I’ve already been allowed to break one cycle. I want to be able to do the next as well.”

Allie encourages foster parents to listen to seek out others’ experiences to develop resilience.

“It’s always a pot of gold when you listen to some- one else’s story. Listen to others’ stories and remember what you’re doing this for. You didn’t just start this because you wanted to be a good person. Good people don’t do this. It’s so much deeper than that.”

Go beyond the fear of growing attached to foster children, she encourages.

“People know that to be a foster parent is an amazing thing, but some are scared to do it because they don’t want to get emotionally attached. But this is one of my pet peeves: This is not a dog. This is a human. And if you don’t get emotionally attached, they’re not going to be okay. End of story."

“That is the whole point of being a foster parent: to be the secure attachment that that child does not have. You are stepping in to be what that child needs.”

Smart Justice is a magazine, podcast, and continuing news coverage from the nonprofit Restore Hope and covers the pursuit of better outcomes on justice system-related issues, such as child welfare, incarceration, and juvenile justice. Our coverage is solutions-oriented, focusing on the innovative ways in which communities are solving issues and the lessons that have been learned as a result of successes and challenges. 

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