Samantha came to us when she was only 11 years old. Her adoptive parents brought her to the Versailles Campus with alarming stories of her behavior.
At age five, Samantha was taken away from her biological family and placed in protective custody, along with eleven other siblings. She was adopted by a wealthy family who saw her on a program called Thursday’s Child.
Early in the relationship it was clear to Samantha that she was a disappointment to her new mother. “My adoptive mother wanted a girly-girl. She enrolled me in several classes like gymnastics, music, and dance. I failed at everything.” She shared that her mother’s disappointment soon abuse often leaving knots and bruises.
Her mother’s expectations for her were exacting. She was instructed to clean her room, but it was never good enough. As punishment, her mother would take everything in the room, pile it into a five foot tall pile in the room’s center, and tell her to start over. Every day she had to clean everything again.
In first grade, Samantha’s mother put a lock on the outside of her bedroom door—only unlocking the door so she could go to school. “Mom would leave a container of cereal and milk in the room, but I was lactose intolerant. Sometimes I was desperate to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t get out.”
When she ran out of cereal, Samantha would sneak out the bedroom window, hide in the family dog’s house and share the dog’s food. “One time they left my door unlocked, and I grabbed the first thing I found in the fridge—an entire carton of eggs.”
One terrible day their family dog killed the neighbor’s cat after the cat jumped the fence into the backyard. It was devastating to Samantha. “My mother put the dead cat into a plastic bag and forced me to walk by myself to the neighbor’s house, ring the doorbell, and tell them it was my fault—that I killed the cat. It was horrible.”
She believes her adoptive parents exaggerated stories of her behavior in an attempt to justify relinquishing her to state’s custody. “I was afraid to go home after school. I thought I was going to die. One day I just collapsed on that tall pile of clothes and begged God to help me.” Not long after, she was referred to KyUMH. The day she was dropped off, was the last day she ever saw her parents.
KyUMH became the refuge for which she had prayed. Initially, Samantha was quiet, rarely speaking up or asking staff for help. She also had a difficult time explaining what she had been through. As part of Samantha’s therapy in her first months, staff allowed her to keep some food in her room, and to wear clothing three times larger than she needed.
Over time, she began to learn that food was readily available and felt safe enough that she didn’t feel the need to hide in oversized clothing. The staff encouraged her to record her thoughts and feelings in a daily journal. Samantha has kept all of her 20+ notebook journals written while living at KyUMH. They contain diagrams and descriptive details about her former abusive home life. It was through required writing in her journals and attending group therapy sessions that memories were shared of repeated abuse by another family member beginning when she was eight years old.
Around third grade, the family moved to Kentucky. On the journey, Samantha sat in the backseat. “Mom asked me to get a cola out of the cooler, but the lid was jammed, and I couldn’t get it loose. She kept demanding I give her the cola. I kept trying, but I couldn’t pry it open.” Her voice escalated and then she abruptly pulled the car over. Samantha ran in fear, but her mother caught her. “She beat me in broad daylight, while all these cars went by.”
Samantha still has the note that came with the quilt she received when she arrived. Contrary to what her parents described, KyUMH staff remember her as kind-hearted, quiet child who always helped others. They believed in her and her ability to rise above the pain to create a new life for herself. She says it was the first time she was believed and affirmed by adults. She speaks fondly of many staff and remembers several activities such as trips, special parties and the weekly movie night. One of her favorite memories was when the country singing duo, The Judds, sent a big care package after she wrote a fan letter to them.
After graduating from the KyUMH program, she moved to another home until graduation from high school. Then at 18 years old, a kind family welcomed Samantha into their home as a foster child. “They taught me how to cook from scratch, grow a garden and make compost.” She has stayed in contact with them over the years. She went to college at Morehead and EKU and studied Cultural Anthropology, Spanish and Chinese. She did not complete her degree, but now wants to do so and publish a book about her life story—to help others in the same situation.
When she thinks about her time at KyUMH, she recognizes how people who believe in you can help you through tough times. That is why she is compelled to give back by volunteering with the homeless and at the local animal shelter. Samantha’s resilience is a tribute to her strength and her unfailing hope that life can be better. We are grateful to Samantha and the other young people we serve for inspiring us and reminding us that God has a greater plan for each one of us of hope and a bright future.