physical or mental condition , he never received any treatment for the ailment . What Terry did receive was punishment . At first , it was a scolding from our foster mother . Then she began the whippings , to be followed by the bed we slept in being removed and the two of us sleeping on the floor . That too did not stop the bed wetting ( floor wetting ). Finally , we were moved to the bathroom , and slept in a porcelain tub to be awakened by the cold , penetrating water each morning . I never understood why I was punished , because I did not wet the bed . But I too endured the trauma of the beatings , and the early morning water torture . Research now says that children who are deprived of the connection between mother and child run the risk of serious emotional instability , such was the case with Terry . I was eight years old when I was adopted , Terry was 10 . Immediately upon moving from Mobile to our new home in Hartselle , Terry ( now Terrell ) began a rampage of miscreant behavior . At night , he would sneak downstairs and steal money from my father ’ s wallet . At first he bought candy with the money , then he turned to fireworks , ultimately to knives and BB guns . Our neighborhood was soon being terrorized by an unknown sniper , who was later identified as my brother . My parents did everything they possibly could do to provide the love and affection he desperately needed . For over a year they drove him every week to see a psychiatrist , but nothing worked , Terrell continued his miscreant activities . My parents took the guns , knives , and matches to the psychiatrist and asked for some type
of explanation , to which the psychiatrist told them that Terrell hated women , and that my mother ’ s life might be in jeopardy .
Was foster care a success or failure for my brother or me ? Let me throw another caveat out there , my brother ’ s mental ability was tested and measured in the genius range . In my mind , by the time we were rescued from foster care it was too late for Terrell .
My brother ’ s life was forever damaged and his genius level IQ , was never provided a chance to grow and absorb the love , affection , and security everyone deserves . Sadly , for him , at the age of 13 he was placed in a facility for troubled youths and died seven years later . To me , because of the randomness of fate , I survived .
Today , it is my hope that foster care has changed and that the lives of innocent children placed into the system , through no fault of their own , are protected , developed , and afforded some sense of a normal family life . I will finish with a couple of points related to my story . The reason we stayed in foster care so long was the fact that my birth mother would not show up to sign away parental rights . Our files tell us that she was contacted and agreed on numerous occasions to release us from foster care but never bothered to show up to sign the papers . Secondly , never at any time did a social worker or representative ask us how we were being treated , meaning , my brother and I served eight and 10 years in a foster “ hell ” through no fault of our own .
Johnny Burks pictured at a local book signing .
CULLMAN COUNTY SENIOR MAGAZINE SPRING 2021 | 27