A Home for Benjamin and Skye: Adopted into Hell

A Guest Post by Selah Hayes

Selah Hayes blogs at Selah’s Muse

My name is Selah Hayes. I am a homeschool graduate and the oldest of 6. I am worried about the wellbeing of my two adopted siblings, who are twenty years younger than me. Several years ago I contacted CPS about my concerns, but the situation has remained unresolved due to what I believe to be the involvement of HSLDA, as there very little likelihood my parents would secure any other lawyers when they are already HSLDA members. For a long time I said nothing, because I had no idea that anyone knew who HSLDA was or why they were a threat to anyone’s safety. Today, at the encouragement of a few I know, I am telling my story, because I hope that it will help make a difference. My parents did fairly well when it came to accomplishing their academic goals for us, but in many other things, my parents were far from stellar—and worse. But with the help of organizations like HSLDA encouraging the unrestrained scope of parental rights, my parents have been given permission to act as they do with no consequences.

Fear the Social Worker

My parents started homeschooling in 1988 when Ohio regulations were still new. Their pastor and most in our church were opposed to homeschooling and very vocal about it. Our county superintendent insisted on conducting a home visit. My parents, who were new members to HSLDA were advised by HSLDA to not allow it. The superintendent warned my parents that he would have my brother and I removed from my parents care and placed in foster care because good parents who have nothing to hide would have no problem proving that they could provide a safe place for their children to be educated. Our pastor agreed. My parents followed the advice of HSLDA, and HSLDA contacted the superintendent and informed him he was outside the law in his threats. I was 4 at the time, so I don’t know if HSLDA threatened legal action against Mahoning County if they pursued a case with my parents or not, but I’ve always assumed they did. Someone did visit at some later point though, and knocked on the door. My mom refused to open it, and made us sit silently on the couch. She checked the windows and told me later that the visitor walked around the perimeter of the property.

After this, we were educated on the terrible people who worked on the school board, and the social workers who were employed to investigate claims of neglect and abuse. We were taught that social workers were kidnappers, that the superintendent didn’t like homeschoolers and that everyone assumed we were either abused or otherwise neglected. We were punished if we answered the door or the phone, and often hid from our grandparents if they were visiting without prior notice.

We were also taught to tell everyone that we were best friends with our parents (I couldn’t stand my mom and I was terrified of my dad.) If we told anyone anything that went on in our house, we would be in trouble, either lectured, punished, or both. Punishment took the varying forms of extra chores, paddlings (often designed to be humiliating), writing lines, loss of a meal (usually reserved for waking up late), loss of allowance (usually reserved for doing chores ‘poorly’), early bedtimes (bedtime for me was usually 8 or 9, bedtime for little brothers was usually 7). My parents main concern was that someone might ‘think’ that we were being abused when we weren’t, according to them. If I told someone it was my daily chore to shake out the rugs, collect the trash, clean the bathroom and get my brothers’ breakfasts (all before 7am and at the age of 11), I would be in trouble.

We were taught to say things like:

“Well, we have a few chores we do, like feed the dog and cat…”

Or

“No. My parents have rarely ever had to spank us.” (Lies. Unless ‘rarely’ means once a week to several times a day, oh well then yes we were ‘rarely’ spanked.)

Or

“If we are bad, then they make us write lines or do an extra spelling or math page.” (Usually a punishment for a poorly done household chore or poor school performance.)

Beware the Belt and Stinging Word

I saw my parents beat my first brother with a belt around 1990. I saw my dad during a family worship time, pick my first brother up out of his chair and kick him across the room and then walk over to where he was laying curled up in a ball, crying, and continue to kick him in the stomach and back around 1996. I often saw my dad throw pots and pans across the kitchen.  Around the same time (1996) after yet another consistently occurring discussion between my two brothers and I about sharing our pool toys, my dad stepped in to stop the discussion, but with an exceptionally detailed description of how he planned to drown me and my two brothers in the pool, but not my little sister “because she was good” if he ever again heard us mention it again.

My dad took a great deal of pleasure in punishing me. He visibly enjoyed using the paddle on me, and it felt more like a horrible game of softball.

My mom was better known for screaming and taking issue with our lack of good attitudes, promptness, performance, and perfection. When my mom took my first brother with her to care for her parents, my responsibility was to cook, clean, educate my second brother and little sister and myself, under the watchful eye of my dad’s mother (who is an amazing woman although her son is not.) My mom would return home and within 10 minutes of being home would berate me over the condition  of the kitchen (crumbs on the counter left from having made lunch a few minutes earlier and not cleaning up the counter immediately after). Or scream at me for the disorganization of the books on top of the piano, the coats on the coat rack or the amount of firewood on the front porch. My mom took great pleasure in alienating me from any friends I might have had or wanted to have. She frequently went through my things and ‘donated’ anything she thought I didn’t ‘need’. As I got older and got a job I would frequently come home and find my closet torn out with one of the two reasons frequently being used: I took up too much space and my sister needed more room. Gosh why are you so selfish? Or: I was such a pig, the proof was in how I folded my sweaters or arranged my shoes or didn’t pick up after my sister.

In all of this time I never called my parents into the county. I was terrified to, even though the thought crossed my mind, I knew no one would believe me. Plus I had been told that folks should mind their own business, and it was my parents business how they chose to raise us. They loved us, they were looking out for us, this was all done in our best interest. I managed to convince myself that we weren’t being abused, that it would be worse somewhere else. But I prayed at night when I cried myself to sleep, that my mom’s conspiracy theory of the black helicopters was true. I prayed that someone would be so horrible that they would invade us, rape me and impregnate me and take me away, because that fate seemed merciful and granted me something to control instead of the life I had.

When I was fifteen I began starving myself and excessively taking laxatives to lose weight because my dad told me I was fat. I wanted to die.

Adoption and the Rod

My parents lost a baby when I was 18 and began the process for adoption when I was almost nineteen. The social worker came to the house, we were told to make us look good, so I told the social worker the equivalent of “everything here is hunky dory”, never thinking for a minute that if we were given a baby that I wouldn’t be there to make sure it was so.

When I was 18, someone gave us Pearl’s book, To Train Up A Child. My mom got it in her head that she had terrible children because they didn’t act the way that book said they ought to, so she thought she’d start over. I read the book and was infuriated. I wanted to burn the book, but I was afraid so I hid the book. When my baby brother came home (at five weeks old) she wanted that book. She was going to “do it right this time.” She screamed at me to find it, I told her I didn’t know where it was. I hoped she’d never find it. She did, and shortly thereafter bought two dowel rods of different thicknesses.

Before my baby brother was 18 months old he had received daily, sometimes more often than that, beatings with the rods on his thighs, buttocks, feet, hands and face. My mom used the rod occasionally on my little sister too and tried to hit me with it once. It was about this time she started throwing me into walls, ripping out my hair, and digging her hands into my arms instead of hitting me with the rod. She claimed that if she was ever turned in for domestic violence that it would be my fault because I was a terrible adult child who refused to submit. She also said that I would cause any man who married me to beat me, if he didn’t divorce me first. Either way, she would side with him, when I left I would deserve whatever I got, my parents would have no place for me.

Almost two years after getting my baby brother, my baby sister was placed with us. (It should be noted that both children are black and my family is white.) My mom wasn’t as violent with her. She just seemed less attentive to her. I was then kicked out of the house for dating, and mom stole my cell phone, about $1000 in money and items, tried to steal my car, and my hope chest. This was 2006.

I saw my siblings once about 2007, in a parking lot where I ran into my mom. My baby sister had no idea who I was, she was 1 when I left.

I was invited to the house for a brief visit in 2008, and was surprised to find my baby sister dressed as a boy and her hair cut like a boy’s. I was told I couldn’t visit again by my dad in a phone conversation because I offended my mom and little sister by snapping some photographs of everyone. I didn’t see anyone again until 2010 other than my mom on rare occasions when she would deign to invite me for coffee or drop by my house with nary a phone call and explain in some detail why I was so wrong, even though I was barred from reciprocating.

Concerning Revelations

In 2010, I discovered that my baby brother and sister had no idea who I was even though I was told that they were constantly reminded of me.

I found that my parents could afford nice things now, yet insisted on buying second hand toys for them because they (the children) needed “to prove they can take care of them (toys, dolls, etc)”. My mom’s theory was “he who is faithful with little will be faithful with much,” so to prove if a child “deserved” a good quality item she would purchase a sub-par item and observe how well you took care of it. If you did well you might get an upgrade. She bought my baby sister an art easel and a Caucasian porcelain doll from a garage sale and gave it to her for her 6th birthday and said “this is to see if you can be trusted. If you break or destroy them, you’ll never get another one.”

The children were labeled liars, thieves, and suffered from selfishness, entitlement, and ungratefulness. There was the constant story of how the two of them would steal hamburger buns and eat them and lie about it, and the story about how the children found what appeared to be a burnt out light bulb and took it to their hideout to play with it, and my dad found it and was furious because they had “stolen” it from him. My parents constantly said that they hoped the children would “appreciate them (my parents) for all they’ve done for them.” And my parents kept saying they were going to turn them into “better” black people who could speak properly and would go better places.

My dad made a point the one afternoon to repeatedly say in front of the children that ‘they were very bad. They are ungrateful and have an entitlement attitude. They steal, and lie about it. They expect things to be given to them and never say thank you. The rest of you (me and my biological siblings) were never like that.” Baby Sister hung her head and dug her toe in the gravel and Baby Brother started talking about leaving again. He was always talking about “Someday when I’m 18 I’m going to . . . ” It was a litany of things: Leave, get married, have babies, find his “other” family . . . ” He once said that he kept his bags packed so he could go find his “new” family.

In the time I was there, I never saw the children hugged, told they were loved or valuable. One night when putting them to bed, I noticed locks on the outsides of their doors, I was informed this was to “keep them out of the street at night.” They were 7 and 5. My baby sister’s room was immaculate, and everything put away perfectly. She even scolded me about my organization skills in my car.

I was again banned from visiting them when a family member asked why my mom was working I respected my mom’s wishes to not discuss it. and explained to the family member I didn’t know. My first brother went home and told my parents some story about how I lied about my mom. My dad met me in their driveway a few evenings later and insisted in screaming at me. I got in my car and left without saying a word. This was Sept. 2010.

Making a Move

After discussing the summer’s events with a few friends, I finally agreed that what I had seen was abusive and endangerment.

After another family gathering in Dec. 2010, where I saw the children from across the room. They were not permitted to speak to me, and my baby sister’s head was yet again shaved in a boy’s haircut and was wearing boy clothes handed down to her from my baby brother. I gave gifts to my sister to give to the family for Christmas, and the next day my mom called me 10 times just to tell me that because of my summer acts of treachery, and disobedience to my father for not allowing him to scream at me, they did not want my gifts and wished to return them to me. I told her to keep them and not to bother calling me back until she was done playing games with me over having a relationship.

In discussing the events further with a friend, I finally decided a few weeks later to call CPS about the locks on the bedroom doors, my baby sister’s hair and clothes, and the garage sale items they were given as ‘presents’ for their birthdays. CPS filed a report and visited my parents’ home, but they were denied the access they needed. It seems that my parents called HSLDA, just as HSLDA urges its members to do, and that was that.

CPS called me back and wanted any more information I could provide so they could pursue the case further. I assume they were trying to get a warrant so that they could properly investigate in spite of HSLDA. I told them I could tell them what happened to me, and what had happened before I moved out, but none of it was anything I had heard happen or had physically witnessed over the summer. I told them that my mom swore she was a different person, but that I had seen no such indication of any such change and I had no reason to believe anything was any different. But that was not enough.

The Repercussions

My mother flagged almost all of the pictures I had of Baby Brother and Baby Sister on Facebook as copyright violations. I had to remove them. My mom told me that she has no daughter by my name. When my fiancé and I got engaged, he sent them a letter introducing himself and announcing his intention to marry me. They responded that I was a liar, that I had failed to tell him the whole story, that they wanted nothing to do with us or any of our children. That I was a threat to their family’s safety, and that their “case workers and lawyers” told them to have no contact with me. This was in 2012.

I heard nothing directly from them, but keep hearing through my grandparents how much they miss me. But then I was not told of my mom’s dad’s death. At Christmas this year (2013) I called them to wish them a nice Christmas. They responded by bullying my grandparents into giving them an address (my fiancé’s was given).

I then received a letter. The letter stated that I am a pathological liar, that I fabricated the entire story of my parents’ abuse and tried to get someone else to report it and when that failed I either reported it myself or told my ‘fabrication’ to a mandatory reporter. (My second brother was privy to my concerns but I never tried to ‘get’ him to report.) They stated it was fortunate that they had the people on their side that they did, otherwise I could have caused a terrible problem for their family. Because of this situation though their “lawyer and case worker” (notice how it goes from being a swarm of people to two) recommends they have nothing to do with me. And because of my betrayal, my siblings want nothing to do with me and so out of respect for them, they don’t even say my name around them anymore. (Awww, how nice. Out of respect huh? Seems trivial, but never once in 30 years have my parents done anything out of respect for anyone but themselves.) And because of my mistruths, no one in my family wants anything to do with me at all, so good luck finding anyone who will listen to me or believe my story.

Conclusion

I’ve only told this story to a few close friends, and my fiancé and CPS one time. I’m scared that my baby brother and sister will end up dead, missing, or on drugs someday. (Baby Brother is going to be 11 and Baby Sister just turned 9.) I’ll not call my parents again since I don’t want a restraining order drawn against me. But it irritates me that a case which would have been otherwise easy to investigate and correct is thwarted in this instance because HSLDA is my parents’ attorney and HSLDA assumes that all parents who homeschool are naturally wonderful and that anyone who turns them is naturally demented or wants to destroy the family. All I want is for Baby Brother and Sister to be happy, safe and happy, and I’m fairly certain that if things are the way they were 2 1/2 years ago, or the way they were when I lived there, that that is just not the case.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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