I Surfed the Ocean of Despair

I was the kind of foster kid that would stand with you till the end if you were my friend.

Even if it meant standing up to someone bigger, we would both get beat up together.

Even if it meant going AWOL to see some family, I would go with you.

When family members let you down, I would be the one to say dude why do you think we’re here.

I was the kid that would introduce you to everyone when you were new.

I was the kid that would always show you around school.

I was also the kid that would incite a riot.

I was one of those kids that was never quiet.

I was one of those kids that had a knack for getting out of jams.

I was one of those kids that was never really sad.

I always figured out a way of having fun.

That’s what got me through the system.

One of my many placements was MacLaren Hall, Los Angeles county’s hell hole. I spent over a year there — and I still have no complaints.

I was in there when the staff could put their hands on you. Give you a little wall to wall counseling.

I saw my fair share of solitary, known as Room One, where you’re stripped down to your underwear with just a mat in an eight by eight room and the bright lights never go out.

My system ride was no picnic.

It was like a wave of violence and dysfunction in an ocean of despair.

I say keep your eyes open, don’t turn your back on that wave. It will crush you.

Paddle out to it and surf it.

Look at it as an adventure.

You’ll come out less beat up in the end.

19 thoughts on “I Surfed the Ocean of Despair

  1. MacLaren Hall was an old jail that was converted to a temporay placement for social service kids. In theory the kids would only be there for a few days until a social worker could place you in foster home, group home or boys/girls home. The first time I was there my stay was just a few hours. The second time I was there my stay was almost a year and a half. The social service system was so overloaded. They had more kids than placements. MacLaren was so over loaded that beds were set up in hallways. The wall to wall counseling is where you pick somebody up and slam them against a series of walls to make a point. The bright lights that never went out in room one were meant for a suicide watch. It was a crazy place. But it was a lot better than living on the streets. 🙂

  2. You know, I don’t think I commented before – can’t remember – but this hell hole you’ve been in… I commend you your strength in coming out. Fucking good on you. And what is wall to wall counselling – and lights that don’t turn off? WHAT HAS PEOPLE DESERVE THIS? Sorry, I don’t quite get it.

  3. This is enormous, Ken, insightful – raw. Your writing is just great, says so much. A former foster child. Thank God for your creativity.

  4. Thank you for the compliments on my writing Sonya. I ended up aging out of the system. I feel like a hit the lottery everyday. I have a great family. A loving wife and three wonderful kids. If I can make it. Anybody can make it. They need hope if they don’t have it already and they need help long after they age out. They really need someone for life. I’m working on it.


  5. Holy crap.

    (Well written, really sad, makes me thankful I was in the system only seven days).

    Were you adopted? Do you think about fostering children? I have and it breaks my heart to even think about it because I would want to keep them forever and always. Safe. 😦

    At the end of the day you seem like the type of person I would have wanted to know, raise some holy hell… I am postive I would be an entirely different person had I stayed in the system.

    At the very least you came out riding the wave.

  6. Thank you for the compliment. All kids are strong. I think it’s more about perspective and also think we lose some of that strength as we get older. Once we can caculate odds our strength goes out the window. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  7. Yep, it probably was illegal. I don’t think they would have done that stuff infront of a judge. I’ve experienced more restraining holds than yoga poses and my wife was a yoga teacher. That placed got closed down for abuse brought to light by numerous law suits. Strong-spirited I am, and I have a crazy sense of humor which helps, too. Thanks for reading!

  8. The “System” is usually a really difficult thing to have to endure. McLauren Hall sounds like a hell hole for sure. Actually, I thought it was illegal,, but then I know rules and laws change over time. I wasn’t a foster child myself, but I taught so many over the years. I’m glad your Spirit was strong enough to help you endure. I enjoyed your post very much. Also wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog to check it out. I appreciate that very much!

  9. Ken, you might as well just be my brother.
    You are just like them, and same stories, different details. It’s bittersweet to read you. I want to read more.

  10. Thanks for always reading and commenting. I’m humbled that you see my victory! Your responses are always so poetic. You could do a post of all your responses. 😉

  11. I read this Ken, and the only thing I can think of to say is, ‘It’s an honour to know you. I feel simultaneously uplifted and humbled by what you have written. And how fitting that a wave should represent the climax of despair, but more importantly, of ultimate Victory!

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