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Observations from a Foster Child

Updated on July 17, 2014

The Good and the Bad

Many kids in foster homes have a lot of emotions that are hard to get out. It's important to let them know they can make a difference in the community.

Michael Franti

I was watching a television show the other day, a rarity for me, but I’m glad I did. “Last Comic Standing” was the show, and on this particular episode one comic was talking about being a foster child as a youngster. He said that his definition of the foster system is where they take a child who has been abused, neglected, and/or mistreated, and put that child in the same, exact situation.

In many cases, that joke is the truth.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people like my two nieces in North Dakota, who have dedicated their lives as foster parents, and who provide loving homes for some very needy and deserving children.

I have lived under both conditions.

For the first nine months of my life I was in nine foster homes. During that time I was unresponsive, listless, and blind. It turns out that I had “Failure to Thrive Syndrome,” a situation where a child does not develop properly because they have received little or no nurturing.

Finally I arrived at my tenth foster home, and nurturing was given, and an adoption was arranged, and I lived a fairytale childhood filled with love.

The good and the bad.

A very loving family
A very loving family | Source

I Was One of the Lucky Ones

I fully understand, today, just how lucky I was. If I had not been adopted by such loving parents, who knows what my life would have looked like sixty-odd years later. We all hear the stories of abuse. Most likely some of you have seen, firsthand, the horrors of poor foster care.

Currently there are over 600,000 children in foster care in the United States. There is a term for them that I find interesting and oh, so telling. They are called the No-Rents, short for NO-paRENTS.

60% of these children are eventually adopted by their foster parents. That, of course, means that 40%, or 240,000 of them, are not.

Let’s look at some more statistics so we can better understand the plight of foster children.

  • 54% of them earn a high school diploma
  • 2% of them earn a Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 84% of them become a parent
  • 51% of them are unemployed
  • 30% of them have no health insurance
  • 25% of them have been homeless as an adult
  • 30% of them are receiving public assistance.

But those are just statistics, cold numbers that give us some indication of the severity of the problem. To fully comprehend what it means to be a No-Rent child, one must look at the psychological and emotional damage done at an early age.

What It Feels Like

Let’s take a look at just a short list of negative effects that can stem from foster care:

  • Trouble bonding in later life
  • Feelings of rejection and loss
  • Feelings of anger
  • More likely to suffer from chronic illnesses
  • More likely to have behavioral, emotional and developmental problems
  • At a higher risk to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Suicide is much more likely among foster children once they reach adulthood
  • Much more likely to have eating disorders
  • Lacking in vital structure that a stable family environment can provide.

But the subheading clearly states “what it feels like,” and the bullet points above really do not deal in the raw emotions that a foster child deals with daily.

I can only speak for myself, but I suspect there are many out there who will understand, and nod their heads in agreement, because they have felt, and they are feeling, the exact same things.

A loving extended family
A loving extended family | Source

My Case

Please note that I was adopted by a very loving family. I was raised with love. I could not ask for more love from adopted parents. I was never abused, always supported….in short, I am the dream scenario when talking about foster care.

And yet I understand, all too well, the negative effects of foster care.

I remember clearly the feelings of being the outsider and loner growing up. I still feel that today. At family picnics as a child it was obvious who the adoptee was. Put me in a crowded room today and I feel alone and disconnected.

Bonding is a word that other people use. I do not understand it. I hear the term all the time, but I have not lived it. There is a disconnect between me and others around me. I do not trust easily. I do not trust love at all. I have a hard time trusting in friendship. Allowing someone to truly know me terrifies me and always has. For much of my life I have been the consummate actor, saying my lines, taking my assigned place on the stage, delivering a performance that was, and is, masterful….but it is often just that…an act.

So we have a sixty-five year old man who has known love for sixty-four of those years, but who was greatly affected by the one year, that first year, when he did not know love.

Yes, I am a No-Rent Kid, and proud of it.

So What Do I Do?

Weep not for me. I live a good life, and many of those things that bothered me for so many years no longer affect me. The secret, of course, was in gaining awareness and being willing to work through the acres of personal crap to find the truth.

I was a broken kid who did not know how to heal.

I was a broken adult who did not know how to heal.

Today I am, if not healed, at least feeling pretty damned good about life.

And that, my friends, is huge progress.

My father told me, while I was growing up, to always move forward. That’s what I have done, and it has served me well, and I will continue to do so.

Yes, I am a No-Rent Kid, but that does not have to define who I am.

The answers had to come from within
The answers had to come from within | Source

Final Thoughts

I remember meeting someone back when I was in my thirties. Their name escapes me now, but their words stay with me, and I recall them whenever I think of the foster child system.

During our conversation, they told me that they had been a foster parent for ten years, and then they said, “yes, it’s a great way to make some extra cash.”

I was saddened when I heard it then, and it still saddens me today.

Foster parenting should never be about making some extra cash. We are talking about the life and welfare of a child, and that is about as serious a matter as you can imagine. My nieces do it right. They are foster parents because they love children. Sadly, that is not always the case.

No-Rent Kids, I am one of you. I understand. I do not have a magic pill that will make it all right for you. I wish I did, but all I have are a few observations, and I hope they have helped you. Do not allow your foster childhood to define who you are. Only you can do that, and a change can begin today if you want it to.

God bless you all!

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, thank you for always being so forth coming and telling like it is on this and so much more. My cousin was actually first a foster kid (baby) and then was adopted by my now 90 year old aunt. The speech he gave her 90th birthday brought me to tears and said so perfectly that he couldn't have asked and gotten a better mother. Sometimes, it all works out for the best and others not so much. Thanks for the reminder here about both ends of this coin. Have a wonderful Thursday now.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine, and hooray for your cousin and aunt. I love the good stories of success and love. Enjoy your day my friend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      You know, I never understood why people would elect to be foster parents, then treat those kids so badly. I've heard horror stories. Then you shared with us what that foster parent said so long ago, that's it's a great way to make money. That's just plain sick. Children are not commodities. They are treasures who should be nurtured and loved.

      Thanx for sharing this Bill. I've learned some things about you I didn't know.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      Our system has to do more due diligence when investigating whether a foster home is safe and nurturing. It is despicable to hear of so many cases where children are abused and the foster parents( I hate to use the word "Parents") are just in it for the money or something worse. You always bring something important to the table, billy. Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome.

    • peeples profile image

      Peeples 2 years ago from South Carolina

      This post hits me close to home, just 2 days after the 16th anniversary of being taken from my parents and placed into the system. It's amazing that after 16 years I still suffer with the things you mentioned, but I guess my childhood followed by 32 homes in 4 1/2 years leaves some damage. I've learned to love that damage because it has made me, well ME! Good to hear that someone else still feels the side effects years later. Makes the rest of us not feel so alone in our journey. Voted up Bill, we are all thankful for your sharing!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, you would be amazed to know the number of foster parents who do it for the money. This is a sick world we live in, and yet there are some incredibly wonderful people in it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks breakfastpop....despicable is a perfect word for some of these "parents" who want to make extra cash at the expense of a human life.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hello Peeples....your story is a nightmare compared to mine, my friend, but we are both survivors and we have both carved out a good life for ourselves....so hooray for us...for you...for me...and thank you for sharing part of your story.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      Super article, Bill. Hopefully, these words can touch someone's heart

      and give them a platform on which to stand and give them a new lease on life.

      After all, most humans simply want to be understood and accepted. And,

      that need rarely changes as we go through the years.

      I am so glad that you were fortunate to be raised in a loving environment. Otherwise, there would be an empty page on HP every morning and there would be no wise words of enlightenment.

      Happy Thursday to you, my friend.

      DJ.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      I did know a family that took in numerous foster kids, and the one child who stayed with them turned out very well, and I know they loved him dearly. So it must have been the genuine love that made all the difference.

      What a nice tribute to your parents.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      That last comment I have heard before as well.

      My son and daughter-in-law adopted two of their foster children and adopted a boy from Guatemala. It brings tears to my eyes to think how they have given children who would have lived a horrible life had they stayed in their situations. Of course we don't think of them as adopted to "foster" kids. They are just our kids. I am glad you got a loving family Billybuc. And I am glad you are living a quality life, a happy life. God has truly used you in my life. Blessings, brother.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DJ! I am the poster child for all that is right with foster care....and I will forever be grateful.

      Have a super day of research and writing my friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      ologsinquito, love can cure many an ill, don't you think? :) Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lori, and God bless your son and daughter-in-law. We need more like them in this world.

      Blessings always my friend.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing the experience. I am glad it was positive!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      well so am I, Michelle. :) Thank you!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Excellent information, sure am glad I was adopted.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan

      Wow, what an excellent article. I worked for an agency that placed foster children in Oregon. It was a sad state of affairs. I hope to become a foster parent myself one day soon. I can't think of anything sadder than starting out in life without loving parents...truly breaks my heart. Voted up and shared!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Eric! Thanks buddy, and power to the adopted kids of the world.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Brie, and bless you for working for that agency. I'm not sure I could handle that kind of sadness on a daily basis...no, I know I couldn't.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan

      I have a very thick skin ;)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      When i think about you being blind and uncared for the first year of your life, makes me sad. How could anyone treat a baby that way? I have thought about being a foster parent. There's a family in my town who had two, a boy and a girl. They couldn't keep the boy due to his anger, the girl is doing fine. I often wonder what horrible things happened to the boy to make him so unmanageable. Thank's for writing your story....

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      and a very big heart, Brie. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, I suspect you would be a wonderful, loving foster parent. Thank you for reading my friend...all we need is love.

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

      I have friends who are foster parents and I can't praise them enough for the love and care they give to the children in their care, sometimes for short periods and sometimes for many years. What is hard is when children age out of the system and they get turned out on their own with little or no guidance. It's like they turn 16 or 18 (depending on the age in the state of residence) and they are expected how to know how to fend for themselves. I agree the system needs a lot of work, but I'm glad to read your success story. You are indeed one of the lucky ones and your parents were lucky too. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rachael, the system, at times, drowns under a sea of paperwork and overworked officials. I love reading about people like those you mentioned. It gives me hope that more kids can be saved. Thank you for sharing that.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 2 years ago from Hudson, FL

      A great way to make some extra cash? Yuck. If you're not doing it for love, you should find another way to make an income, in my opinion.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lizzy, that's probably the opinion of anyone with a heart. Just my opinion. :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, you're blessed to have overcome your early "Failure to Thrive Syndrome." Thank God for foster parents like your tenth who do it for love and not just for the money. I tried once to become a foster parent, didn't make it officially, but always glad to contribute my two cents. Every child is a promise, and there is no nobler work than helping each one fulfill his or her purpose. Thanks for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, I love that line...every child is a promise. True words my friend. Thank you.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 2 years ago from North Carolina

      Bill,

      This is such an important topic and I learned a lot about foster children. It is sad that 40 percent are not adopted. I am glad your story had a happy ending. This gets one thinking about supporting a foster child. Well done!

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore

      Wonderful post on a subject that is not too common, but important

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm very glad that you found such loving parents, Bill. I wish all foster children were as lucky. Thanks for an informative hub about an important topic.

    • Hankscita profile image

      Sandy 2 years ago from Florida

      Another really excellent Hub. Very forthright and honest.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      600,000 children in need of foster care is quite surprising. I also find the number of children who become parents a comfort. It means they value family life and learned it is a good foundation. Your sharing will help someone along I'm sure.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Important hub, dear Bill. I am so glad there are many who have their heart in the right place to provide loads of love to children, however, it is disturbing to know there are those out there in it to just make a buck and then neglect or abuse a child in some manner. The foster parents should be screened to the highest degree before being allowed to take on any child.

      I do hope those who truly have love in their hearts and plenty of it to share with a child read this and become a foster parent, especially with so many children in need of a loving home.

      Have a lovely weekend ahead. Keep on loving ...

      Blessings always

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tammy, so nice to have you drop by. I've missed you and I hope you are doing well. Thank you for your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you MG....I hope you are well. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am one of the lucky one, Alicia. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Hankscita. Very much appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great observation Dianna. Thank you. There is always hope, isn't there?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for your thoughts, Faith. This is a sad situation in many cases...joyous in others. I agree, foster parents need to be screened extensively to protect these kids.

      blessings always my friend

      bill

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

      What, if any, major reform(s) of the foster care system in the USA or in particular states would significantly improve the situation?

      How helpful and important are supplementary programs such as Big Brother Big Sister and mentoring programs? Besides becoming a foster parent or adopting, what can individuals do, on their own, through their churches and such, through schools, through neighborhood networking, and through nonprofit organizations, to make life better for no-rent children?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All great points, Brian. My main concern is the government getting involved. I have very little faith in bureaucracy, and in this case it costs lives. I love your suggestions much more.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great write here and so much to know about here.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much DDE!

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 2 years ago

      I've heard both the good and the bad before and your story illustrates the problems the kids do have. I remember one kid in school who was being moved around from one foster home to another, but all in the same area so he went to the same school most of the time. Sadly, many kids made fun of him because he didn't have "real" parents. Now as an adult I realize these kids shouldn't be shunned (by both kids and adults). These kids need stable influences in their lives and if it can't be a single set of parents, it should be the teachers, clergymen, scout leader, or someone. Other adults should step up and be the stability or one constant in the kids life if at all possible.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheila, it can be horrible, and your suggestion is right on. Someone needs to step up and help...we are a community, and we are only as strong as our weakest link...plus, my friend, it's just the right thing to do as human being.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 2 years ago from USA

      I believe in the goodness of people, and I'd still like to believe that the majority of foster parents get in it for the right reason - to help the children. The fact that you are focusing on the negative aspects is disheartening. I was a foster parent for about 10 kids, and believe me, there is no money in it. You get about $25 a day, which sounds like a lot, but that is a little more than a dollar an hour for childcare. You could get paid a lot more money for a lot less hassle doing practically anything else. And that money goes to pay for babysitting, utilities, clothing, food, school supplies, activities, etc. I paid a lot more out than I got in - financially it was a net loss for me. The fact that foster parents are assumed to be in it for the money and neglectful made the job much harder - there was less support in terms of time and emotional support from other people, and even from the caseworkers.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have never been a foster parent but a school friend talked me into looking after some kids of the day time and 3 big kids I fed breakfast and got off to school every morning. It was a nightmare cause I had my two under six and I can't begin to tell you what a nightmare that was and then I had two little boys younger than my son and daughter and those were the sweetest babies God could have made and every morning they were starved and wet and on Mondays I knew they had not eaten all weekend and I had to soak the diaper loose from the baby's butt and start a week of healing it. After I finally reported it I never saw them again and had to wonder if anyone else ever cared. So apparently being good is not encouraged; only being quiet.

      I hear Obama is offering over $6000 a month to be foster parent to illegals and I bet he gets a lot of takers but I can tell you there is not enough money for me to ever take on that role again and you were very lucky to have those parents, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Millionaire, thanks for your thoughts on this, and for sharing your experience, strength, and hope.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, thank you for sharing that. I have grave concerns about the $6000 offer from the administration. I'm afraid that kind of money will only bring out the undesirables in droves....and I hope I am wrong.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      To have a strong foundation that includes someone who loves you and can teach and guide you along the way ... that is priceless. How sad that you did not have that during year one, but I am so happy that your parents came along and provided the nurturing you so needed. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      A very powerful hub, Bill. It made me stop to think about the many things in life in general that I take for granted. Glad to see you overcame the difficulties and achieved life at its fullest. Thanks for bringing this home to me.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you for sharing such a powerful and personal story Bill! Glad you were able to rise above it all to become the man you are today!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Flourish. If my story helps others then fantastic. I love that I can write about it all and be of some help to those who feel they are alone.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, lifegate....and thank you for your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you vkwok...life is good my friend.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      It takes a very wise, patient and dedicated person to be a foster-parent. I know I could not do it, even though I know how to communicate to children, as a parent and as a teacher. It takes someone very special.

      The fostered children I have known have been lucky ones too; loved and cared for by some of those special people.

      It's amazing what the first year of childhood can give a person, it's evident how much happens within that year to make such a difference in adult life.

      I'm glad you were one of the lucky ones, bill, but sad that you had the trauma of that first year. You certainly come over as a compassionate, loving and supportive person yourself, so you've obviously learnt to overcome the bad times and develop as a person.

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, in all honesty, I could not be a foster parent either....we did adopt our son, but we knew it would be forever...it takes a special person to open their hearts on a temporary basis, but God bless those who can.

      and bless you my friend

      bill

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      a very good share, I remember some cases where people adopted for the money.. no other reason, and the State turned a blind eye until it surfaced.. it's sad.. Love should be the only reason...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Frank, you said it all in six words...love should be the only reason. Thank you.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 2 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thank you for sharing your story, Bill. I never realized you were in that many foster homes. I am glad a really nice family adopted you. Great hub and voted up!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jeannie. All's well that ends well, I guess. :)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It started out so rough, and it was so hard to heal from that. I remember foster kids when I was growing up. We played together and the people that had these three brothers, a pair of sisters, and a single young man with polio, were in it only for the money. They were all troubled kids, and it was not hard to see why with many of the things that they went through. Those foster parents that I spoke about, were just the icing on the cake.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, Deb. Those first few years are so important for a child....I was a lucky one indeed.

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 2 years ago

      What an interesting hub. I had the general impression from, some of your hubs, that your life had its fair share of ups and down, but I had no idea you were a No-Rent Kid...and to think you were even blind! Strange how they call it failure to thrive when you were not given anything a baby needs to thrive in the first place. Life is indeed an uphill battle. But along the way, we may come to learn bits and pieces of how to live, and even thrive---at least in moments. But, none of that can happen without love. I personally feel that receiving honest love from another human being is the best kind of healing there is. It's just nearly impossible to do it all on our own...

      Lovely, heartfelt article in defense of children everywhere, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      savvydating, thank you for your kind words, and I agree completely with you about love. I don't want to think about where I would be without the love I have had in my life.

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