by Alyssa Castro
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in We’Ced Youth Magazine Issue #2
I am the youngest of five siblings. Growing up my two older brothers and two older sisters weren’t a part of my life and I never really understood why. My parents were in and out of prison most of my life, due to their struggles with substance abuse. Years went by and when my father was released he married a woman named Sylvia, who became my stepmother. They had a child of their own and when I found out I had a younger brother I told myself that I wanted to be there for him.
[pullquote_right]Shortly after, my father relapsed and I lost contact with both him and my brother. Through another family member, I was informed that my brother was taken into the custody of his older sister. Child Protective Services (CPS) eventually decided the home he went to was unsafe and placed him in foster care.[/pullquote_right]
When my brother was 11, his mother died of cancer. I remember being there with my brother during days that her cancer had gotten very bad and the chemotherapy more intense. I remember days when she wasn’t able to walk or hold down any food and days where my brother and I would sit and play video games together while my father nursed my stepmother. I would ask him questions trying to gauge where his understanding was on my stepmom’s sickness and he would tell me things like, “I know my mom’s sick but she’s going to get better, God will help her.” I remember attending her funeral and my brother rushing into my arms with tears streaking down his face. I held him and comforted him as best I could.
Shortly after, my father relapsed and I lost contact with both him and my brother. Through another family member, I was informed that my brother was taken into the custody of his older sister. Child Protective Services (CPS) eventually decided the home he went to was unsafe and placed him in foster care.
When I found out my brother was in foster care, I was distraught. I didn’t know how long he’d been there, where he was or if he was safe. I decided that in order to begin trying to find my brother I needed to find my father and since I had no way of contacting him, the only way to find him was is if I saw him roaming the streets by chance. A couple weeks went by and I was on my way to a Building Healthy Communities event and as we were driving down 16th street in Merced, a man walking the street caught my attention. It turned out to be my father. I yelled at my friend to stop the car. I got out of the car and walked toward him and as soon as our eyes met all I asked him was how could I find my brother. He couldn’t even give me an answer.