Sarah Hansen, International Programs Director, takes a moment to review and reflect on ‘A Place Called Home,’ a memoir written by David Ambroz.
Every human living in America needs to stop what they are doing and read this book. In this memoir, David Ambroz gives an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of foster youth in the US. From poverty, to abuse and neglect, to system failures, and so much more, Mr. Ambroz shares not just his experiences, but all of his feelings associated with these experiences, and the impact they have had on the person he has become.
Whether you are involved in foster care or not, this memoir provides insight far beyond the walls of the foster system (though, that specific insight is crucial for every American to open their eyes to). But David’s account of his tumultuous upbringing drives home the importance of being trauma informed. Regardless of where you fall – adoptive/foster parent, child welfare professional, teacher, or just a human who interacts with other humans – it is imperative to understand how adverse childhood experiences affect a person for a lifetime. Through his heart-wrenching personal account, David puts the reader in his shoes, making them understand why children with a history of trauma put up walls –
“Child abuse and neglect have a long shadow that stretches beyond physical pain. For decades I’ll flinch when someone goes to hug me – sometimes I still do. It’s an irreconcilable contradiction between the love of a caregiver and the damage she does.”
“No. Stop. Crying. Now, I command myself, and eventually I do.
Your tears are useless. Tears are going to get you killed. No more tears, I vow.
No more emotion. I can dim that part of me to almost nothing. These people can’t have that power over me. I take the pain and squeeze it into a tight square. Then I pack it in a box and place it on a shelf…. I know where it is, and maybe one day I can take it down and feel again. But right now, feeling is a luxury I can’t afford, not if I’m going to survive. Whatever is coming, I need to be bulletproof and numb. I’ll wear a mask. I don’t know this yet, but I won’t shed a tear again for twenty-three years.”
He painstakingly portrays that regardless of how unhealthy a relationship might be, connections to birth family are nonetheless such a primal part of a person’s essence –
“This woman is my curse, my burden, and my blood. I will never stop loving her.”
“I have one foot in my mother’s world, anchoring me to a past, and one foot stepping into this one, with Holly’s outstretched hand reaching from the shore of a loving present and a better future. I’ve only got to lift my anchor, but I can’t, not yet. Holly is offering me the life I have always wanted, if I can just find my way there.”
He truly makes the reader understand that while one healthy connection and environment can make a dramatic impact on a child’s life, the lasting impacts of trauma do not go away over night –
“…relieved to be out of there, but also sad. I finally have the freedom to be normal, but I don’t know how.”
Though a gut-wrenching read, I walked away from this book with a renewed passion – to act, to protect, to speak up, to put words into action. Children are living in poverty, children are being abused and neglected, right down the road and all around the world. It is 2023 – we can do better. We can all do something. So let’s.
“Where are the adults? Where is the DARE officer? Where are the teachers? The social workers? Where is anyone who can protect us? They have left us here. We are kids suffering in plain sight. Save your prayers, they won’t protect us. Over and over again, the three of us were left with a woman who was clearly hurting us by people in positions of authority. I want others to know what it means to be equally neglected by a parent and a society. I want it to be impossible to walk past a child who is begging in the street. Thank you for the Christmas presents collected at your office, but I’d rather you vote for people and policies so children don’t suffer from neglect, abuse, hunger, homelessness, violence, and maybe death.”