Student talks of surviving child abuse - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Student talks of surviving child abuse

Alaina

Alaina Anna Carns, 20, is a psychology major at Lansing Community College.  Photo bty Mallory Stiles

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles
Editor in Chief

The U.S. foster care system is presented as a trustworthy alternative to abusive, neglectful homes, but there are many kids who had to grow up in it, who say differently.

LCC student Alaina Anna Carns, 20, said she entered the system at a young age and, as a result, has more than a few scars she could have lived without.

According to nfyi.org, only 3 to 4 percent of former fostered youth will obtain a four-year college degree. However, Carns doesn’t let the odds scare her away from trying her best every day at LCC.

She is a first-semester psychology major who is currently taking a 12-credit course-load. She picked psychology because she said where sees her career going, she will certainly need it.

“I want to work in the foster care system,” she said. “I was in it since I was 2. So, it’s just a way for me to give back.”

Carns said there are very specific struggles she worries that only a former foster kid would understand.

“You don’t have that mom or dad connection that other kids do,” she said. “You don’t get that. If you are lucky, you get to stay with your siblings, and you guys either grow closer or it tears the relationship apart.”

Carns went through 10 different schools and 12 different homes. Her own sibling relationships struggled as a result. Carns wanted a mom and dad, her siblings didn’t, but in the end, it didn’t matter.

“You always get treated differently because of where you came from,” she said. “You aren’t their bio-kid so they couldn’t care less. You are just another kid in their house.”

Carns said her father died of an overdose when she was 6, and even though her mother is still alive, her life-long habit of drug abuse is what put Carns in the system in the first place, and it breeds a lot of resentment.

“When my mom was pregnant with me, she was drinking and doing drugs the whole time,” she said. “She thought it would kill the baby but it didn’t, it just gave me bad health issues.

“I was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and that can sometimes cause issues when you are older, like speech impediments and learning disabilities. I was also born with drugs in my system. I almost overdosed as a newborn. They had to pump my belly.

“As a result, I have a liver that accumulates more fat, meaning I can’t eat certain foods and I also have hypoglycemia and high blood pressure.”

Carns has constantly had to overcome hurdles put in front of her at birth, but that was just the beginning of her pain.

“The foster-care system is supposed to be a safe haven for kids; it wasn’t for me,” Carns said. “I got sexually abused the entire time I was in the system by my different foster dads. I was locked in a basement for being Mexican in one home. They said I needed to be in a cage.”

The abuse didn’t stop until she picked up the phone and dialed 911 at 14 years old. Her whole life had taught her to fear people in uniform, but she was desperate for help.

“The last time I was sexually abused, I called them and realized that cops are heroes,” she said. “That cop saved my life. From that day on, if I had an issue I would call. Sometimes, on the very worst days, I would call and they would just come out and sit with me and talk.

“I would hug them and cry on their shoulders.”

Police influenced her so much that she almost became a police officer, but realized that she specifically wanted to help kids like her.  

Though her road has been long, there were people along the way who understood her potential almost immediately. One of those people is a former foster mom of Carns, Wendy Chaperone.

“I like spunk,” Chaperone said. “We have done a lot of foster care and I like girls that haven’t given up, because a lot of them have. So, we met Alaina at a TGI Friday’s at Brighton.

“She did hair, she did her makeup. She did everything perfect, but we go to sit down and she just can’t talk. She is so shy. So, we started playing this game – red or white, steak or hamburger, Coke or Pepsi – and she just opened up and was this amazing girl.”

Chaperone said the most stunningly beautiful part of knowing Carns has been watching her take power over her own life and develop a voice of her own.

“She is actively creating a good life for herself; she isn’t just waiting around for things to happen,” Chaperone said. “She doesn’t want to be a victim. She is my daughter in everything but the name.”

Carns said she never really had hobbies growing up, but now loves to sit outside and soak up the sun. She also likes getting tattoos, watching “Full House” and babysitting because her love of children is all-encompassing.

On her hardest days, she said the children are what keep her going. She wants to be the gift she was never given: a safe adult.

“It is hard to find the strength to keep going sometimes,” she said. “I have my bad days but I know that if I don’t push myself, those kids won’t get the help they need.

“Breaking the system is my motivation.”

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