Caprice – For Intuition Magazine, DesMoines, Iowa

Posted in Featured, Stories

The note at the bottom of her sixth grade English paper said “Don’t feel sorry for me, just adopt me!”

Later that day I met the writer; a girl with deep brown eyes.

“What’s your story?” I asked.

That question began a conversation which continued for many years.

Her name was Caprice. I was the school counselor in the small Iowa town where she lived with her dad.

“Ordinary story, no problems,” she answered.

Instinct said otherwise. She told me the notes on her school papers asking to be adopted were from her dream to have a mom, dad and siblings. She said the bruises were the result of her hustling on the ball field. And she explained that she arrived at school before most teachers even came through the door because she didn’t want to walk the mile to school, so Dad dropped her off on his way to work. Reports to the Department of Human Services (DHS) were returned as ‘unfounded’.

Four years later she wore a swimsuit without her usual t-shirt cover up during the swimming unit in PE class. The coach saw the bruises on her back.

“What’s your story?” I asked again.

This time the answer was different. “I lied before,” Caprice said. “Home isn’t safe, but at least I know what to expect. Years ago I was scared of what would happen if I told the truth. But I can’t keep living this way.”

The police and DHS arrived. Caprice needed a safe place to stay. The few foster-care families in this rural area were full. There were only two places with a free bed; a nearby juvenile detention center, and the guest room of my home. It was an easy choice.

We each took a chance, but it paid off. We seemed to fill some empty spaces in each other’s lives: for her, a maternal presence she could count on, and for me the daughter I never had. Two weeks passed quickly but it became a significant point in each of our lives. Eventually she was bounced through a series of foster homes, and since this was before cell phones and Facebook, we lost touch. Years later I was delighted to receive an email from her:

Hi Mary – do you remember me? I’ve been thinking about you for a long time. The last time I heard or spoke to you seems like forever ago. But I feel like God keeps you in my head. Call it crazy, call it weird, but I’m almost 20 years old, almost done with college (to be a social worker and work with kids in foster

care), almost married. Almost everything. I wish you could see where I am today. If you feel it in your heart, please reply or call. But if not, just let it be known that you changed my life. You put something in my heart that inspired me to succeed and become close with God. You cared when no one else did. You made a difference in my life. Thank you. Caprice.

Caprice and I were glad to find each other again, and we continue to stay in touch. It’s easy to think only ‘important people’ create change, but we never know the impact we can have in the lives of those we touch, or their impact on us. Without children of my own, I never expected the same children who call Caprice “Mom” to also call me “Grandma.” When we help others create change in their lives, we must also be willing to be changed.

Caprice is now a social worker and motivational speaker who has appeared before Congress regarding foster care. She is also in the process of writing a book about her teenage years, but as a busy mom, she doesn’t get much free time to write. Caprice is the center of a few chapters in my book Teachable Moments, sharing experiences about school counseling, to be published in 2013 by Golden Tree Communications.