My name is Katee Barr-Moreira and I am 19 years old. When I was 4, my biological parents put my 3 siblings and I into CPS and I was placed into 8 different foster homes during the span of a year and a half. When I was first adopted, I was so excited to finally have a family and someone who cared about me and who would help me grow into adulthood. I moved from Denver, Colorado at the age of seven and a half to Peoria, Arizona with my mom, at that time. I was a straight A student throughout my elementary schooling until I turned 10 and entered the 5th grade. That was the year that I was placed into a shelter for the first time in my life. The beginning of 2006, I was moved into the first group home I had ever been in. She started to distance herself from me by saying she wanted to take me home one weekend, and then the very next weekend, saying she didn't. I remember one weekend the group home had a really fun activity planned for the girl's and I really wanted to attend. This activity was on a weekend that my mom was supposed to pick me up. When she showed up, I told her that I wanted to spend the weekend with the girl's, participating in the activity. Her response was to tell me that if she left without me, I wouldn't see her again. After that, I started to get into a ton of fights and arguments with the other girl's and had the police called on me multiple times. When those fights would occur, once I had calmed down enough, I would receive a gift from my "special friend".
Shortly before my 11th birthday, I was moved to another group home. My grades had started to fail because no one cared what I did, and I had started to feel out of place with kids at school. I started to receive tutoring for science and math and was told that I was really smart for my age. Despite this, school stayed pretty much the same for me. One weekend in 2007, this lady showed up at the house with box after box of books. I was really excited because I love to read and so I went and offered to help. I think I brought in maybe two boxes, and on my third, I sat down on the ground outside and started looking through the books. The lady introduced herself to me and told me her name was Maureen. A short while later, I discovered that she was my special friend.
Once I found out about Maureen, she really became involved in my life. I had known her for awhile before one of the staff member's decided to adopt me. Let's call her mom 2 1/2. I was really happy about that because my second mom had just given up her rights and I was really depressed. What I didn't know was that mom 2 1/2 was probably one of the worst mistakes of my life. I lost contact with Maureen when I moved into the staff member's home December of 2007. This staff member had been really nice to me and had even helped me when the older girls would pick on me. Being the youngest, I was the one always in trouble because nobody believed me. Things started to turn bad when mom 2 1/2 started waking me up early before school to dig holes beside the driveway to plant flowers. I was not allowed to sleep on the bed, and I was not allowed to leave the house unless she was home... which she hardly ever was. When I moved in with her, I was told that she was going to quit her job at the group home because I was now with her. That was a lie because almost every time she had to work on the weekends, it was to go back to the group home.
One night, things got heated between the two of us about something, and she told me to get up out of the chair I was sitting in. I told her no, and we went back and forth like that for awhile. It got to the point where she told me that if I did not get up out of the chair, she would grab a pitcher of water and pour it on me. Not believing her, I ignored what she was saying. She wasn't lying. As soon as the water was on me, I got in her face really close. I was beyond furious, and if she hadn't said, "Go ahead and hit me," and if there hadn't been a girl walking behind her, I might have done something I would have regretted.
I tried to tell my caseworker, but mom 2 1/2 would twist my words and make it seem like I was lying about everything. One time, she dyed my hair an ugly orange color. In March of 2008, she had come home and told me to pack my clothes because she was calling the Crisis Hotline to demand they take me away. On the way to meeting with the man who was going to pick me up, all she said was that she really wanted to adopt me and she started crying. That was one of the lowest parts of my life, and the only person I had to turn to was Maureen. I feel like that was when my life started to slowly pick back up.
When I was in another group home, Maureen was notified by one of my old house managers as to where I was. She told me that she had been trying to find me and that she knew mom 2 1/2 was a bad idea. Our first outing together was at a Denny's restaurant and Maureen was shocked about my hair color. All I could do was stare at my food because I was ashamed. I had only dyed it because mom 2 1/2 had wanted me to. The end of my 7th grade year, I started to become more involved in school and even tried out for my school's talent show. I felt like I was starting to fit in because Maureen was helping me by providing and paying for counseling sessions. My 13th birthday was spent at a camp for the group homes, and I had actual fun for the first time in 3 years.
The start of my 8th grade year, I was moved into the final group home that I would ever have to live in. At the beginning of the year, I was nominated to enter classes specifically designed for students that were incredibly smart. I was amazed and excited about it, but then I became really nervous and hesitant because my classmates would make fun of me for getting good grades. I just wanted to fit in and so I decided against joining. My grades improved and I even joined the softball team. In October of that year, Maureen introduced me to a couple who owned horses and lived on a ranch. I was so happy because that would have been the perfect life and it would have given me the experience I would have needed for my future career choice. They supported me in softball and even comforted me when our team lost at the end of the season. In March of 2009, I moved in with them and finished my school year with remarkable grades and friends that I was ready to start high school with. I was enrolled in 4-H for team penning and team sorting, which is basically corralling cattle while riding horseback with a team. During my freshman year of high school, I attended a high school specifically designed to teach students about how to treat and care for farm animals, the environment, and how to care for crops. I even attended some college classes in the spring of my freshman year. That school year was the first in many years that I completed with straight A's and I even passed my college classes. I was becoming closer and closer with Maureen, and one day, she let me call her Nana, and that is what she has been to me for so many years.
I had started to volunteer at the Love House Kids Program with my Nana, and I was able to see everything that she did for the group home girls. She created a Bible study group, a relationship group to teach the girls to expect the best for themselves and nothing less. She provided counseling and donated bags and boxes of clothing, shoes, and school supplies to the group homes to hand out for the school year. I watched her as she associated with different people and would accept nothing less than the very best for the children and teenagers living in group homes.
My world seemed complete, but the new mom was very controlling and the threat of them not adopting me was always mentioned. I was not allowed to wear anything that I truly wanted to wear, I was not allowed to choose who I hung out with, I was not allowed to do my hair how I wanted to, and the mother even controlled how I did my chores. When I tried to do something that would have made things easier for me, I was told to complete the tasks the way that she wanted them done. I had moved out there because I had wanted to learn more about horses and to finally have a family, but I was rarely included when the couple would go out riding. I felt that everything was falling apart around me. Things would get to the point that the woman's biological daughter would actually step in and stand up for me. Sophomore year I was 15 and it was a really hard year for me. I went through a rough patch where I had started to feel so trapped in my own life, that I was contemplating ending it. I would lay in bed contemplating what they would do if I was gone, and the answer was always the same, "They would be so happy, they would throw a party." I was so ashamed of what I had wanted to do, that I couldn't bear to tell my Nana or my best friend at the time. However, I wound up telling my friend during lunch at school the day I attempted it. Once I was done telling her, I begged her not to tell anyone else. She promised, and told me that she was going to get some food. I am so thankful that she went and told my school counselor, because talking about everything that was going on in my life really helped me. I did not want the couple to learn about what I had wanted to do because I felt as though they would not understand me. My school counselor called mom #3 and explained to her what I had said, and when she found out, that was the start of the end of that possible adoption.
November 21st, 2010, mom #3 took me to a meeting to decide where I was going to go. I was crying so hard because despite being miserable, I loved them for taking me in and treating me like their daughter, and for letting me stay in contact with Maureen. I refused to be put back in a shelter or group home. I knew that if I had been placed back in one of those placements, I would not have been able to make it.
One outstanding thing happened to me that day that changed my life. I was placed in what was supposed to be a temporary placement until the adults in charge of my life decided where I would go. It was around Thanksgiving, and the house was filled with the smell of delicious food and the sounds of laughter and family. Even though I was scared, my new mom nudged me in with the rest of my family, and I never left. The best day of my life was October 13th, 2011. It holds a couple of very special occasions for me; my adoption, and my Nana's birthday.
Even though I am 19, I will always look back on my life, on everything that I went through, and everything that I did to myself, and I am so thankful for my special friend who became so much more. All of the guidance and support that I received from my family and my Nana, even if it was for the smallest, stupidest thing ever, has created the young woman I am today. I hope that the next girl like me that comes along with their story, can also have a happy ending that is filled with love and support thanks to the Love House Kids Program.