I met Ashley in the comments of a post. I was so intrigued by her comment...I asked her to tell her #SurvivalStory.
When we communicated in messenger she told me of two siblings that were adopted and ended up suffering horrific abuse for years. She asked me if she could include them in her story.
The following is Ashley’s story with a link to the news story of her siblings.
In her own words:
In 2001 my brothers and sister were torn away from our family. We were now at the mercy of Child Protective Services.
There was no warning, we were just taken from school, by strangers. I called my mother from school, because I didn’t understand. It was the hardest thing to hear your mother tell you that you could not live with her anymore! The next thing I know is that I am thrown into the world of Foster care and residential facilities.
My grandmother, and my siblings grandparents wanted custody of us the whole time, but in Iowa Grandparents do not have rights. Unless DHS approved them to be on a calling list, we could not speak to them. We were kept isolated.
Myself and my brother Brandon were told we were too old to be adopted or taken completely away from our mother, but the two younger siblings, Justin and Crystal were not. They were sent to a foster home.
Brandon and I were bounced from shelters, residential facilities, mental hospitals, foster care, and Independent Living. The shelters, and facilities did more harm to him and I, than could ever have been done to us by my mother. My mother was a drug user. She made mistakes, but the torture we faced in the care of DHS was horrifying.
Take a CHILD, and put them in a room for days on end, because we do not know how to cope with what was going on. Did you know that in shelters, and care facilities the staff can not hug you, console you. You cry alone. You are afraid, and no one tells you it will be ok. My brother Brandon and I grew up faster then we ever should have.
I was sexually abused by staff, told it was my fault I was there. The worst thing though was the lack of empathy. The people that were supposed to make me safe, did not love me, and I knew this. Still to this day, I have a hard time being emotionally open with my husband.
My brother Brandon suffered from ADHD even before DHS got involved, but when they did, he was forced on horrible medications, meant for adults. He was a zombie. He spends weeks in Eldora’s padded rooms. Just locked away in solitary confinement. This was torture. He was locked away from the age of 11-18. 7 years, of forced meds. Being locked in rooms. All because he was too much for people to handle. It was not like he was just taken away from his family or anything??
Then you have Justin and Crystal. Their story still shakes me to the core. Adopted in 2002 or 2003 by Michael and Lonnie Winterthieme. Mike and Lonnie took my brother and sister, both outgoing, fun and loving people, and turned them into something else. While we had visitations with Justin and Crystal we knew something was not right.
They were showing up to visits with the same clothes on. Dirty and talking crazy. Saying they wanted to be missionaries and go to Africa, and they didn’t care if they died as long as it was in the name of God. They were also starting to go thru withdrawal.
These concerns were given to the worker at Lutheran Services. Who supervised the meeting, and also the DHS worker. Nothing was done about it. Even the school called with concerns, but the adoption went through anyway.
It didn’t even take a day after the adoption for the torture to start. The manipulation, mind control games, and total isolation from society. Simple things like talking were forbidden. Mike and Lonnie kept a log of every time, Justin and Crystal would do something wrong. Such as crack a knuckle, bump into furniture. At the end of the day they would get whipped for each tally mark they got.
My brother Justin hates eating peas, because he was only allowed to eat 1 pea at a time, and after each pea, he would have to say beep. Crystal and Justin also had to endure being starved. On the farm they lived at in Albia/Moravia they had Jersey cows. Mike and Lonnie thought that when Justin and Crystal did not listen, that they needed to go without food. The Jersey cows milk was all that was available to them. Justin was on a milk only diet for 1 year, and Crystal for 3 years. They both snuck food from the animals on the farm to sustain themselves. Justin was able to wrap his tiny hands around Crystals biceps and overlap his fingers.
Also when they were allowed to shower, they were watched to make sure they didn’t drink the water. They were also locked in their rooms for days on end. Death creeping at the door many times.
When Justin turned 19 he decided he needed to run away. That day he ran to the nearest neighbors house. A Mr. Leroy Wilson. This man helped my brother hide from Mike. He saved my brothers life that day. After my brother was safe, Mr. Wilson helped my brother find us. He was immediately taken to the hospital. At 19. A man he weighed 95lbs. He was given 24 hrs to live, and had to have a bone marrow transplant. After he was fed, and started getting nutrients he was perking right up.
I was then reunited with my brother. It was the best day of my life, but the sad reality was that my sister was still there, and at 17, we had no way of getting her away without being charged with kidnapping. So we called DHS. They removed Crystal for a total of 5 days. We were not allowed to see her or talk to her. Mike and Lonnie were still her adoptive parents, so we had no rights. Then she went back to their care. The police and DHS knew she was being starved, but told Mike and Lonnie they had to feed her from now on. They knew that if they kept her in foster care they would then have to pay for her education, and aftercare services. That was too expensive for them. She was 17, but had the mind of a 10 year old scared girl.
After Crystal turned 18, we made a call to police for a welfare check, and we got her out a couple days later. Now this story may seem crazy and horrible, but it is not just happening to my family. DHs is ignoring the cries of children everywhere. They are too prideful to hear the facts when it is clearly their fault. They are too blame for my brothers and sisters pain.
My mother has earned my forgiveness, but the Guardian ad litems, Judge Karla J. Fultz and all the DHS workers that I had that did nothing to stop this, and ignored everything, did not. They believed they were the ones saving me. But my siblings and I, all died that day. What is left behind is just a shell that we are trying to fill back up.
As I read Ashley’s words and the article about her siblings....I came into a full realization of what a horror story foster care can be.
Ashley’s story screams for stricter guidelines and requirements for foster/adopters.
Thank you Ashley for having the courage to tell your story. You and your siblings are true #FosterSurvivors.