Shimaine's Story

 
shimaine.jpg

“My case manager came to me and was like, ‘Shimaine, if you don’t start doing something with your leadership skills, you’re gonna fail.’ She said, ‘either you gonna run away or you gonna get locked up. So, you have to make a decision.’ Once I started doing Georgia EmpowerMEnt, a lot of things started becoming very clear to me, honestly. Very, very clear to me. Just about my healing journey, I started like, you know, learning myself, learning my words, knowing that things that happened to me wasn’t my fault - actually accepting that and knowing that they were telling me the truth, you know, and swallowing that pill and saying, ‘Hey, Shi, you know, you’re a great person. I know things wasn’t the best for you but look where you are,’ you know, and I kinda kept moving.”

Shimaine grew up in Albany, Georgia. At a young age, she experienced sexual abuse in the home from her stepfather, and she began running away. The Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) got involved, and when she was 9 years old, her mother took her to be admitted to a mental hospital, where they put her on medication. Shortly following her release from the hospital, she was placed in foster care.

After experiencing a number of different placements, she was in an altercation where the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) became involved, and she was placed on probation. For every violation following that, she was incarcerated - moving from foster care placement to juvenile detention and back again more than seven times. When she was 17, she got involved with a program called Georgia EmpowerMEnt, which started her healing journey.

Now 21, Shimaine works as a Regional Impact Liason for the Multi-Agency Alliance for Children where she supports and advocates for foster care alumni in South Georgia.

Interview with Shimaine, conducted by Joann Self Selvidge for The Juvenile Project (TJP) on March 04, 2019 via phone in Columbus, Georgia.

Joann: Let’s just start out easy. Tell me your name, how old you are and where you are currently living.

Shimaine: My name is Shimaine Quimbley. I am 21 years old and I currently live in Columbus, Georgia.

Joann: Let’s go back and we’ll do this chronologically. Tell me about where you grew up and your early childhood and what your family was like, what your neighborhood was like, what your experiences in school were like in your early years, like in elementary school.

Shimaine: Growing up, let’s see, it was very challenging because of how my household was and the things that were taking place in the home. So, I dunno, it was bad. Like, as far school, school was great. My elementary school, I went to Magnolia Elementary in Albany, Georgia. It was a great, great school. I loved it. I had a lot of friends. I was always a people person so making friends wasn’t an issue for me. It was always going back home trying to keep that smile on with what was going on at the house. So, yeah, that was pretty much it with growing up. It was the same thing, I got aftercare when I was 8, um, so, like I said, growing up was kind of short for me. All the fun kind of stopped when I was 11.

Joann: Do you have any siblings?

Shimaine: Yes, I do have siblings. On my mom’s side, it is a total of 5 of us. I have an older brother, an older sister and I have a younger brother and a younger sister. I’m the third child. On my dad’s side of the family, it is a total of 3 of us. I’m the only girl. I have an older brother and I have a younger brother.

Joann: Who were you living with before you went into care?

Shimaine: I was living with my mom.

Joann: Describe what that household was like. Were all of her children with you or did people kind of move in and out?

Shimaine: No. So, everyone was in the home. So, when I was younger, it was only me, my older sister, my older brother. Like I said, none of the kids in my whole family has ever been in care - I’m the only one. But, it wasn’t like in and out until I got older and I kept on going back home, trying to reunify my, you know, my family and everything and still, like you know, shut out, kind of decided to stop all that. My sister was the only one that was kind of in and out because her and my mom had, like, a rocky relationship. They used to fight a lot, like, fist fighting stuff. So, my mom would put her out and she would go stay with my grandmomma or my grandaddy for years and then she’d come back. Then, as my brother got older, he was doing the same thing, you know, runnin’ in the streets and stuff. Well, he was in the streets and he had a lot of females so, he was just like runnin’ in and out of the house, you know? He wasn’t there at one point and then he was. So, it was just a lot.

Joann: You said your other - well, you talked about your sister and your brother… what was it that happened that where you ended up in foster care?

Shimaine: My mom’s husband, he’s currently, um, they’re currently still married now, he, um, abused me, um, sexually as far as like touching me and stuff, making me do things I didn’t want to do, um, having his friends over, you know, watching everything of that sort. Then, also, physical abuse, fighting. I fought my mom. I fought pretty much fought everybody, for real. Just, really, unstableness and being mindful when I was younger, I was um, socially, I was an innocent child. I didn’t know that the world could, you know, be so evil. Or people could not have heart as mine. So, growing up, I kinda did turn for the worse because of what was going on inside my house and also, keeping that same ‘be quiet’ mode - don’t say nothing because you love your mom, you know?

Joann: Well, who did you tell?

Shimaine: I actually told my, uh, so, DFCS started coming to the house or whatever and even when they started coming there when I was younger, um, they didn’t say anything. My mom took me to this, well, she didn’t take me, she took me to the hospital when I was 8 years old and I got admitted to a mental facility in Louisville, GA. I was only 8 - I was getting ready to turn 9, no, I’m sorry, I was 9 about to turn 10. That was my first time ever being placed anywhere or anything of that sort. I was there for a couple of months. I went back home. DFCS came into the home and everything. That was when I started speaking, you know, not more so to DFCS, not talking, I was, like, running away a lot. DFCS became more concerned like, ‘okay, she keeps runnin’ away. Why is she runnin’ away?’ My mom was saying like, ‘oh, she just going through it, you know? She just need to take medicine.’ So, they put me on medicine. DFCS then took me out of the home and they just started asking like, I was they type, I never talked. I didn’t start talking until I was like 12-13 years old, like, I wasn’t talking at all. I was just, you know, reacting such as runnin’ away, lashing back out at my family or whatever the case may be. Um, but I didn’t start talking until 13. And, I actually, like I said once again, I didn’t talk, um, I ran away. The police, um, the police was asking me questions. I told them that, you know, her husband was touching on me and stuff. Then they took me to this place called the Lily Pad located in Albany, Georgia by CB, the main hospital and they did all the tests on me and they seen that, you know, something was going on sexually and everything… questioned me. I did a lot of polygraphs and everything. We had court and all that stuff was going on for years and years. So, that’s kind of how it transpired. It wasn’t like I just, you know, told one person. It was like, uh, like, I was just acting out and then they started asking more questions and then I started, like, talking.

Joann: Did you have any, uh… when you were growing up , you said you had good experiences at school. Did you have any adults that you could trust? That you could talk to?

Shimaine: Oh, yes. I had a lot of adults that I could trust. Like I said, everybody loved me. I was very smart. One teacher, her name is Miss Nash, I still love her to this day, um, but she was my 6th grade teacher. But, I have been knowing her since I was in elementary school because she, like, she was always at every school. And then, you know, I had a couple teachers that I could say I really loved. I know my 3rd grade teacher, Miss Mackenzie, she was always strict on me but she was, uh, she loved me. She prayed with me and everything of that sort, kept me on track. There was a lot of teachers that I say I loved but once again, I can’t go to them. I was young, so I couldn’t like call them or nothing.

Joann: At what point, like… so, tell me, when you went into foster care, did you have a placement? I heard that you... you just said that you were, you spent some time in the hospital, in a mental health hospital, but did you actually get placed into a foster home? Or how did DFCS… how did things happen? Like, kind of, over time? Did you have any sort of…

Shimaine: Yes ma'am. So, DFCS moved me to my first… after I got out the mental hospital, after a couple weeks had passed by, like, it just weeks and I ran away. DFCS came back in and put me in my first placement. It was Open Arms located in Albany, Georgia, also known as ‘The Bridge’. I was there for over a year. That was my first official placement. After I disrupted that placement, then, you know, I started going to more placements and stuff like that. But that was my first placement and that was like weeks after I got out of the mental institution.

Joann: And that was a group home?

Shimaine: Yes ma’am. It was a group home. It was a coed, boys and girls.

Joann: And then you said you had another disruption? At what point did things shift where you became involved with the juvenile justice system as well as DFCS?

Shimaine: I got on papers when I was, um, I was thinking, I think I was 15 years old? Yeah, I was 15 because I was in middle school and I got on papers, um, because I fought, you know, acting out - disrupting placement, breaking in people’s stuff, breaking people’s windows and stuff, you know? You can only do so much before someone charges you. But that’s how I got on papers, just disrupting a lot of placements, you know? So, I got on papers like that. I got committed and I got off papers when I turned 18 years old. I completed my plan.

Joann: So, when you said you got ‘committed,’ how many… did you have to serve time in DYS?

Shimaine: Um, yes. Well, everytime I disrupted a placement, I got locked up because, of course, that’s violation of probation. So, everytime I… and I disrupted about 7 placements, for real. I disrupted a lot because I always wanted to go back home. That’s why, like, it just was so bad because I just always wanted to go back home even though I know home wasn’t a safe place for me, I always wanted that mother love that, you know, my friends used to have or whatever the case may be.

But, uh, yes ma’am. I was in detention for awhile. Even before I had got into, uh, well, when I first got into care, they had locked me up because I had ran away. They got me for - that was when you could lock a child up for being unruly, you know? ‘Unruly’ was actually a charge back then. So, then, they had put me in Albany RY [Regional Youth Detention Center], located in Albany, Georgia. I was in Albany RY for some months, like, they had me in there for a long time. Then, when I got out, that’s when they started placing me, um, as soon as I got out, I didn’t go home, I went straight to Open Arms or whatever. Then, that’s when they had put me on papers because I was just bad then, like, I had just got bad, you know? I was fighting, you know, just not wanting to accept the help.

Joann: So, obviously at a certain point, you’re having to navigate all of this with or without any sort of adult support. Was your mom able to be there with you? Like, what…

Shimaine: Oh, no. Honey, no. Nuh-uh. We gonna just pray for her, okay? No ma’am. None of my family has ever been there for me. My only family that has been there for me is my dad’s side of the family. Um, that’s the only family I had during this whole time. My Grandmother was a big supporter, her name is Yvonne Latimore, and my Auntie Shel, her name is [inaudible name]. Those were my two strongest supporters during this whole time of me being care. As far as my mom’s side of the family? No. Everybody was trying to protect our last name. Everybody wanted to uphold the Quimbley name because my grandmother was the Dougherty County Coroner which is Albany, Georgia. She was a coroner so everybody wanted to be like, you know, make sure that she, you know, her limelight didn’t dim because, you know, one of her daughters was going through something. So, everybody kinda shut me out, honestly. I had no support. Nobody believed me, period. Everybody kinda left me. That’s why, you know, it’s kinda hard… it’s kinda hard going back, you know, and trying to let them in because throughout all these years they left me. I know my Auntie Missy on my mom’s side, she was the only one that actually gave me support, so, I can’t [inaudible] with her. Her name is Missy Quimbley, well, now, Missy Quimbley Dicks. But, um, she was as big support while I was in care, too. But she was the only one on my mom’s side that actually supported me. Everybody else? No.

Joann: On your dad’s side of the family, your grandmother and your aunties that you were talking about, did anybody ever… I mean, did you have an attorney? Did you have any time at any point when somebody… I mean, you were at DFCS. There’s this whole, this gray area that goes back and forth with child welfare, with juvenile justice. Like, at any point, were you offered an opportunity to talk with an attorney and did you ever have a relationship with an attorney at any times when you were charged?

Shimaine: No. I only spoke to my probation officer. DFCS did let me know when I was like 17 that I had a guardian ad litem. I met only one time. I met him at the end of my trial period with my step father that did everything or whatever. But that was pretty much it. I literally met him one time. That’s it.

Joann: I had a guardian ad litem once and I never actually even met the person in real life. So, I can relate. So, you said that you were, uh, was there ever any opportunity to be able to try to press charges? You said there was something about your step father?

Shimaine: Yes. I wanted to charge him, um, or whatever. He was locked up for a duration of time. My mom bonded him out or whatever the case may be. I know now that I’m older and, like I said, because I’m becoming more educated on everything, like, I’m very, very involved… um, I could have literally charged him and kept that, you know, definitely kept firm on it. But like I said, I really didn’t have a voice back then. The only thing I knew was that I told him/them, ‘hey, he did this to me. He did that to me. He made me do this. He made me do that,’ you know? That’s the only thing that I could say and put it into - because I was only a child - and put it into an adults hands to make him pay for what he did. So, now that I’m older, yes, I do deal with a lot mental issues because this man is free and, mind you, I do have a littler sister and a littler brother that’s by him - but, if he did this to me, you know, I think all the time will he touch them, you know? Or whatever the case may be. But my mom, she’s so blinded by love, or whatever, that she don't even care.

Joann: Mmhmm. You said at one point they did, one of the hospitals, they, you know, examined you and did the tests and they confirmed, um… and you also said that the police were interrogating you, you were on a polygraph. What happened with all of that?

Shimaine: When it came down to the polygraphs and everything, the whole family got polygraphed, or whatever, at this place. I think we went to Thomasville. That was the first place that I went and got polygraphed but it was over days, like, we had to go back days after days to keep getting it. Once the polygraph stated that yes, I was telling the truth, yes, I do have some mental instability, or whatever the case may be, or because of what has happened to me, that’s why they no longer would put me back in to the home. That was when they had locked him up but my thing was there was no evidence. There wasn’t any… no evidence for them to say, ‘hey, he sexually assaulted her,’ or ‘he sexually abused her.’ It was more like me talking. Even with the polygraph results, it was like still, it wasn’t enough. Honestly? I think it was enough. I think I just wasn’t educated, or whatever. It was so many people - my whole family was backing this man up. It was like everybody was pointing the finger at me - wasn’t nobody pointing the finger at him. So, it was me fighting my whole family, trying to get them to see he did do this, you know? And then, also, going through that process, you know, starting looking at myself like, okay, do you start lying, you know? Do you start, you know, or whatever… mind you, when all this first started, my sister - my oldest sister, he touched her, too. Like, he touched her. Like, touched her touched her. She was all for it, like me and her was in it together. Then this hefer gonna get on the stand and she lie. And she was like ‘I’m lying. He didn’t do anything,’ and she went back home. Me on the other hand? Nah. I didn't say that. I told the truth. I didn’t say that, you know? I told what happened, you know? I’m not gonna go back home and have this man do that same thing to me. I’m sorry.

Joann: Did you ever get any sort of, uh, support that helped? Like, you obviously, you had commitments, you were in the hospital, there were obviously a lot of the placements, I’m sure, had some sort of like counseling. Did anything help?

Shimaine: Can you try and break it down - help with what?

Joann: Yeah, I think that’s probably an inadequate question on my part. In terms of being able to deal with the trauma and recognize that there was a trauma and recognize that this was something that you were going to be… you know, it’s like, so many times when I’m talking with people who have an experience where they have been abused and they have and obvious trauma and at some point they come into contact with a system that recognizes that there is a trauma and says that it’s supposed to support the trauma and doesn’t really… they have services but the services don’t do anything - they kind of typically make it worse… So, I guess my question is, like, once the system got involved, what were the things that they were doing that were making it worse? And was there anything that they were doing that was kind of providing any sort of support as a survivor or any sort of support just as a kid? Just as a kid who is having to be isolated and removed from family support…?

Shimaine: As far as supports, I had a lot of, like I said, I came into contact with a lot of people that really wanted to support me. It was all about me wanting to accept that support, me trusting that support, me building that bridge for that support and not burning it. My case manager, she would file it like, um, she was always there for me during my whole case plan. The only issue is that I had with my case worker was, um, it was more like during my time in care, like, I feel like nothing never got settled with me and him as far as nothing happened to him. That’s something that I always kinda held onto during my whole time… even from when I just aged out in October, you know? That was still something that held firmly on me. He never felt like, you know, he never felt anything, he just living, like, lavish, like all this stuff, and I’m going through it, making it day by day or not no more because I’m good, you know, just kinda struggling. All my supports have always been there. Georgia Empowerment - they were a big support. My mentor, Naieva. My old mentor, Antoinette, she was more like a sister to me, honestly. Like I said, it was really just like, you know, actually allowing that help, allow my supports to be my help instead of me just saying, ‘okay, well, they here for me,’ or whatever, but am I going to allow them to help me.

Joann: During all this time when you were having to deal with the other side of, just… there’s DFCS and then there's the system and you’re going back and forth, back and forth. Were you having to physically move to where you were having to move around with schools? Like, what happened in terms of any sort of consistency with school after, like, once you got to middle school and then high school? Were you even in the same city or were you having to, kind of, move around?

Shimaine: Yes ma’am. I moved around. I’ve been to a lot of schools. In Albany, I went to a total of, so... For elementary schools, I went to Live Oak Elementary and I went to Magnolia Elementary. For middle schools, I went in Albany, Georgia, I went to Dougherty Middle and I went to Merry Acres Middle. As far as high schools, I went to several high schools. I mean, this is the worst... As far as high schools in Albany, I went to Westover High School and I went to Dougherty High, in Columbus, Georgia; I went to Jordan High and I went to Northside High. Then, I also went to… well, there was like 3 other schools but they were like institutionalized so… as far as the placement doesn’t do public school and stuff so they have their own schooling on campus so they call it whatever that they call it their name, or whatever. But I know 2 of them was in East Dublin, Georgia and the other one was in Douglasville, Georgia which was closer to Atlanta.

Joann: Where were your dad’s side of the family, like your grandmother and your auntie, were they all still in Albany this whole time?

Shimaine: So as far as my grandmother and my auntie, they, um, they’re from Waycross, Georgia, so, my whole dad’s side of the family, they from Waycross, Georgia and Florida. We do have some in Albany and Atlanta but we mainly, I don’t talk to them like that. As far as them being there, like I said, they were there, they just weren’t there everyday, every other day, every week, every month. But, they were there. I knew that I could call my aunt or my grandma if I needed something - I knew I could call them. Once again, being in placements, you can’t just pick up the phone and call, you have to wait for your phone call day and hope they answer the phone.

Joann: Yeah, yeah. Were they every able to come and visit you at any of the placements?

Shimaine: No, my Aunt or my Grandma, they wasn’t able to come but they always wrote letters, send me money, talk on the phone with me, send me stuff on my birthday and, you know, Christmas and stuff holidays... they always, you know, they make sure I was good for the overall part - the important days - they were there, like, for real. As far as my mom’s side? Nah. They weren’t there.

Joann: So, in terms of the actual placements, like the facilities where you were staying - not on the DFCS side but on the DYS side - describe me to some of the conditions because obviously, there are lots of different types of facilities and some are really harsh and some are not so harsh. So, kind of describe to me, kind of, like the best to worst or worst of the worst, or whatever. Tell me about, like, what sorts of treatments that you were getting that you felt like you shouldn’t have been getting?

Shimaine: Are you talking about as far as my support? Or, as far as the placement?

Joann: Not as far as the supports but just, I mean, well, I guess just as far as like your day to day existence, right? So, like, it’s one thing to be in a group home where it’s like, you haven’t done anything wrong, you’re supposed to be… you’re in the group home technically speaking because you don’t have a stable place where you can stay that’s a home. So, you have to have a placement outside of the hme. And then there are facilities where they’re like, ‘you’re here to be punished,’ you know? So, you know, I’m just trying to kind of think… basically, I’m trying to ask you what the facilities looked like? Like, what was your living arrangement? What was required of you when you were there? How did they treat you?

Shimaine: As far as the placements, like I said, all of them were pretty much institutionalized. So, you have cameras, um, you know, you have a routine everyday - it’s not like you can get up when you want - you get up and do hygiene, you go to breakfast, you clean up your room, you know, you go to school, whatever the case may be.

Joann: Were you ever in bunk bed rooms? OR did you have your own room and your own space?

Shimaine: No, I always had a roommate in all my placements. The only placement I did not have a roommate in was my 2 foster homes, I was in 2 foster homes or whatever. Both of them was located in Albany, Georgia, both on different sides of town - one was on the west side and the other was on the east side. But those, um, for the one… the most current one I was in before turned 18, it was only me in the room. I didn’t have a roommate. But the first one, when I was 16 or whatever the case may be, I did have a roommate. It was another girl in the house so me and her was on bunk beds, or whatever the case may be. As far as my other placements, I’ve always had roommate. When I was in a treatment facility, I had a roommate. But then, once I got, like, umm… like, I went down to a regular facility, it was like a house, kind of like an ILP house, I had roommates until I was fixin’ to leave, until I was gonna graduate high school. Then, they put me in a room by myself.

Joann: You mentioned ‘ILP’, tell me what that means and what that process is like.

Shimaine: ILP stands for Independent Living Program. It’s for kids that are currently in foster care. Pretty much how it works is once you graduate high school, you can go into ILP to get your own apartment, or whatever the case may be. You have more associations with the outside world, as far as I can say, um you can have your own cell phone - things that other kids in care are not privileged to. Also, I did not go to a TLP. That is a Transition Living Program. That’s where I have a staff, you know, that try to coach me and buy groceries, you know, paying bills. I did not go through that process, they moved me directly to the ILP, or whatever. So, yeah, but the ILP for that placement in Columbus, it wasn’t like free, it was just like being on campus, honestly, because we were so close knit, honestly. We did not have the freedom to, you know, have phones. I had a phone but, like I said, we weren’t supposed to have those freedoms there so I wouldn’t even consider that as an ILP.

Joann: What’s the age for that? Is that 18 to 21?

Shimaine: No. There was a girl in there as young as 14. For [inaudible] ILP in Columbus, Georgia, it really all depends on how your behavior is on main campus and how you’re working your case plan. You can be 14 years old, 15 years old and you can go up there.

Joann: Okay. So, it’s not like extended care, like, it’s not according to your age? It’s just according to where you are?

Shimaine: Yeah.

Joann: Okay. Is there such a thing as extended care in Georgia?

Shimaine: Yes it is! We just passed it last year to extend it to 21!

Joann: So, you just turned 21, so, did you get to benefit from that at all?

Shimaine: Um, no, I did not. But it’s definitely okay, honestly, it’s really not about me anymore. Like I said, I’m the next generation, so, my position right now is I’m officially alumni care. I’m just trying to make sure that everything gets passed down to those that are still in care to reap these benefits. I know in 2020, the money will start getting generated as far as putting into place. So, I’m really, really excited to be a part of that transition and that collaboration with other sites, other agencies, other organizations nationwide. So, I’m not really concerned about me anymore, just concerned about just improving the system all around.

Joann: Well, okay, I have questions about that but I wanna stick with your story for just a little bit longer. So, you said that you never did transitional care, why was that?

Shimaine: I don’t know. They just skipped it. They just moved me straight to ILP.

Joann: Was that from one of your foster homes? Did you go from foster home straight into the ILP?

Shimaine: My last foster home when I was 17, I was a freshman in college. I think I was 18. Yeah, I was 18 years old fixin’ to be 19. I left there and went straight into the ILP in Albany. It was called [inaudible name] and I got my own apartment and everything. But, yeah.

Joann: Okay. Wow. Let me ask you some bigger questions because I obviously… I remember I’ve had this experience a few times trying to do, like, a chronological interview with people who have been in foster care and it’s like, it totally… it’s just like, it gets kind of haywire because it’s so hard to remember, ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened, then this happened,’ because so many different things happened, right? So, I’m going to ask a question in a different way. If you think back on these experiences, what were the kind of most significant experiences and turning points in your life following the age that you first went into care? So, if you kind of think about how you… you obviously had to grow up before you were 8, 9, 10, 11 years old because of what was happened at home but in terms of coming into your own as who you are now, you are very different, I mean, you are the same person but people mature at different speeds and they come to realizations at different times in their life. Then, there are some people who are full grown adults who just don’t have their act together ever. But, you know what I mean but it’s like you obviously have come to an incredibly far place. You have come to a place where you can talk about these things somewhat objectively and you are 21 years old which is older but it’s still really close to all of that. So, I’m just kind of curious what your personal significant turning points have been.

Shimaine: My turning point in all of this, uh… I don’t know, honestly. Are you asking, like, when did I decide to grow up? Or when … I don’t know. Help me out right now.

Joann: Okay, okay. When did you decide to grow up? Is that what you just said? (laughs)

Shimaine: Yeah, like, I don’t know. (laughs).

Joann: Okay, let’s put it in terms of hurting and healing, right? So, obviously, you still have some wounds that are open but you also have areas where you’ve healed and I’m just curious where the healing has come from.

Shimaine: As far as like, um, thank you, that’s way better. As far as hurting and healing, um, right now, honesty, I can really say I am still healing from everything. The process started for me healing was when I was 18 years old and I started doing… I’m sorry. I was 17 years old and my last placement brought up something called Georgia EmpowerMEnt. Once I started doing Georgia EmpowerMEnt, a lot of things started becoming very clear to me, honestly. Very, very clear to me. Just throughout my journey, I started like, you know, learning myself, learning my words, knowing that things that happened to me wasn’t my fault - actually accepting that and knowing that they were telling me the truth, you know, and swallowing that pill and saying, ‘hey, Shi, you know, you’re a great person. I know things wasn’t the best for you but look where you are,’ you know, and kinda kept moving. The healing process is still going now. It’ll probably take me years and years to actually heal from everything that has occured in my life from the age of 8 to 21 because those were my years in care. I am still hurt by, um, definitely a lot, you know? Still, for holidays, not being able to go home for holidays with your mom or your sisters and brothers, you know? Holidays are the worst days for me. Sometimes, I wish they weren’t on the calendar. But, you know, still dealing with things but just having the heart and the relationship with your supports, within yourself, and not afraid. And people in religion - within your religion, you know, knowing that this is, it’s going to be okay, you know, and not dwelling in that. I think that the reason why I healed and move forward with life is because I realized if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to make it. I wasn’t. I was literally going to drown myself in sorrow and pity and, you know, and what I want and what I never had. So, I had to make myself see me for not for what I had been through but for what I can bring to other people, you know, and seeing how people follow me. When I was doing good or bad, I had people always following me. I didn’t know why, but now I know why. It's kind of like you taking that and running with it and I am a very, very determined and motivated human being. Nothing can stop me. Like, I don’t stop at really nothing, honestly. If I want it, I’m definitely gonna put the actions to get it done.

At the end of the day, you know, I’m healing. I start my therapy next week, so… because, like I said, some nights, some days, you know, you cry, you know? Because I’m still hurt, you know? It’s still a scar that will take years to start even having a scab on them for them to start healing because it’s precious, it’s precious to be human. You know most, as I say civilians, they have families, you know? They have, you know, aunts or uncles, friends they can go stay the night with. I personally don’t have that. Those are things that, you know, you weep about, you cry about, you grieve about those things, literally, because those are things that you miss still that you never had. So, yeah.

Joann: Wow. How did you find Georgia EmpowerMEnt?

Shimaine: Georgia EmpowerMEnt found me, actually. I was in my last placement, last lockdown placement, I can say, so, you can kinda understand placements. So, I wasn’t brought home before I got my last lockdown placement. I was in my last lockdown placement, um, I was a sophomore in high school, attending Jordan, um, getting ready to transfer to Northside in Columbus, Georgia. My [inaudible] came to me, her name was Miss Davita Herr, she came to me and was like, ‘Shimaine, if you don’t start doing something with your leadership skills, you’re gonna fail.’ She said, ‘either you gonna run away or you gonna get locked up. So, you have to make a decision.’ She was like, ‘I’m not gonna beg you, nuh uh. I’m not fixin’ to sit here and try and sugarcoat it for you,’ she was like, ‘but, I feel like this right here would be great for you.’ She always complimented me on my leadership position and how bold I was to stand out of a crowd. I never was afraid to raise my hand. Nobody else raise their hand or ask a question because it seem like a dumb question - I’ve never been that type.

So, I started doing it. It was me and 4 other girls, 5 of us total. As I started it, I loved it. I loved the leadership position they gave me , you know, constructing agendas, you know, making plans, having goals, visions, ambitions for one another and also, I was [inaudible] in region 10, which is Columbus, Georgia, I’m sorry region 8. It was just like, it was amazing. After I left that placement, a lot of people wonder how did I get back into it, because I thought it stopped - after I left there, I thought it had stopped. But, no, it didn't. When I left that placement, they didn’t put me in the ILP home, they took me to my sisters in Albany, my older sister. I was staying with my sister for about four months. But, even when I went and I stayed with my sister, I called MAAC - that’s the Multi-Agency Alliance for Children. I called them and I was trying to see how can I stay involved. MAAC then told me, ‘Hey, you can become a regional coordinator for region 10 since you’re staying in Albany because Miss Antoinette just graduated college. So, you can take her position.’ So, then me and Miss Antoinette started bonding, mentoring and things like that. So, that’s how I got back into the work. But, um, it’s all me. I just kept it going. Now, I’m their Regional Impact Liason for the whole South Georgia. I’m just loving it.

Joann: That’s awesome. So, how long has that been now? It’s been… awhile. Four years?

Shamine: Yes, it’s going to be 5.

Joann: So, tell me what it was like transitioning out of all of the care and a place like… what did that process look like?

Shamine: You mean transitioning into adulthood?

Joann: Yeah. I mean, just no longer having to, you know, being able to be done with all of it and being released from it. I mean, you said, you mentioned that, you know, obviously because I’m assuming that part of your care plan was to try and mend relationships with your family which, of course, was not or doesn’t sounds like it wasn’t working. So, I’m curious how you were able to be released from it if it was just a matter of age? Or what the process was like, like what you had to do in order to be released and what was any sort of follow-up.... If you had any sort of follow-up care or support services or anything once you’re released?

Shamine: So, I wouldn't use the word ‘released’. That sounds so bad.

Joann: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean - I just meant like confirmed to be, you know, when you were… (laughs) ...I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t meant that.

Shamine: It’s ok. You saying like, ‘exit care’. So, you know, [crosstalk]. But, I say you’re great, you’re fine. I love it, I love it. (laughs).

Um, the process, so you know, when you turn 18, you do have a choice to sign-in or sign yourself out. I signed myself back into care when I was 18 years old. Once I found myself back into care,they put me in my last foster home, like I was telling you about, in Albany on the West side. I was there for a couple of months and then they moved me to the ILP program where I got my own apartment.

Transitioning into being an adult was really, um, I can say scary but then I can’t say scary because I wasn’t scared. It was more of a learning experience. You know, learning how to pay bills, learning how to filing your taxes, learning how to save money, knowing that if out here with no money, you’re not going to make it - whether you in care or not, period. You know, it was really a self-taught thing, you know? Kind of going back to foster care in general, a lot of youth forget that you’re not going to be in care forever. You’re still gonna get older and if you don’t know these things whenever you get out, make sure you have someone to help you. If you don’t, you’re gonna fall because you’re not used to having that responsibility of adulthood realities. Me being an ILP, I have some of that adulthood realities thrown at me. I was not responsible for paying any bills because they paid all my bills but me being the person I am, I always ask questions. I always learned how to do it. So, once I turn 19 years old and start paying all of my bills because they was paying on my behalf at that time, just havin that responsibility of knowing how to do it. Then, me being me, I always wanted more, so, I got a job at a bank. My first real job was at a bank, DOCO Credit Union in Albany, Georgia. I was so blessed to work there. I was there for over a year, so, having that great amount of money because they pay you very well, um, having that money and knowing what to do with it, knowing where to place it, you know, at the right time so you won't injure yourself or any goals you may have. I started using IDA, stands for the Individual Development Account, it’s for [inaudible statement]. Like, you put in money and match out $1000 for $1000, you know, you can match up to $3000. I matched for my first car with that and that right there, also, that’s going back to your support. You was getting support, that was support. IDA was for foster use, so I used that to get my first car. It was just like, you know, it’s really a self thing. You have to want to learn. You have to want to get out here. Some people are so used to being comfortable in a system that once they actually out here, they are dumb to everything and then you have to educate them and you can’t, you know, judge them because it’s not their fault because the system cradles you. It cradles you to your routine everyday. Even if you’re in a foster home and your foster parents are paying for your phone, the foster parents cradle you til where they don’t give you the knowledge to be successful once you’re out of care. They have the right to say they don’t want you after you turn 18. They can put you out, you know? Then you’re gonna find yourself back into care because you’re gonna be homeless so you're gonna need a placement. It’s kind of like that, right? It’s just the will of wanting to grow out here, wanting to be something. I think that’s why I caught on so quickly and moved so quickly because I refused to fail. Like, being in EmpowerMEnt taught me that, like, the universe is my limit. Like, I have so much, you know, power, strength and love inside of me that I never knew I had inside of me. I never knew people loved me so much. I never knew I was capable of a lot of things that I’m doing now, you know, people always used to down me. So, now, it’s like I’m moving like can’t nobody gonna stop me, like, period. Nothing can stop me

Joann: Where do you think that came from?

Shamine: It came from the inside. Georgia EmpowerMEnt just brought it out. I don’t know. Well, and then my support.

Joann: But it started with Georgia EmpowerMEnt. So, it was basically just whatever it was that they were doing that was helping you to find it inside yourself and reclaim it, right?

Shamine: Yeah.

Joann: I don’t mean to simplify it like that because that’s not, obviously, but um…

Shamine: Oh! Oh, no! You said it right, exactly right because Georgia EmpowerMEnt gave me no other option. Like, it was either, ‘Shimaine, look at yourself - accept this, use it as you know how. Or, go this other route where you’re lost, where you’re confused and get locked up. Get killed.’ Like, that’s literally how I took it. I was afraid, you know? I had been locked up months, I was bullied when I was locked up. So, you know, it's kinda like I wasn’t built for that, you know? So, I rather try this than purposefully go back to that.

Joann: You know, I guess it was kind of subconscious that I said, ‘to be released from care,’ but I think that what I said and the way I said it, it comes from some of my perceptions just based on what people have told me about certain types of systems like being, you know, it’s like… there’s this blending of different systems. So, there’s certain types of treatments in one system that you would not really attribute to a care environment. You talk about, like, lockdown placement and you talked about foster homes and I think a lot of people who haven’t experienced foster care, make an assumption that you go from foster home to foster home to foster home - that there isn’t this in between when the system is trying to find you a new home. The other thing too is in a lot of places, like you said, it was a violation of par - is that what you said? It was a probation violation?

Shimaine: A violation of probation. Mmhmm. Yes ma’am.

Joann: So, in other words, from a certain age, you’re considered, I mean like, did you basically have that label? Or did you have probation continuously throughout the entire time? Or how did that work? Or were you on and off?

Shimaine: No. I was on like the whole time, like, from 16 to 18. No, I’m sorry. It was 15. I was younger because I was on papers for about 4 years, for real. Yes ma’am. I was on paper for the whole time, honestly. It wasn’t an on and off. Once I got on probation, they immediately committed… So, being on probation and being committed are two different systems. Being on probation, you can get off after 3 or 4 of doing good, or whatever. Or going to school. Being on probation is minor in some standpoint, but being committed, you’re committed. You’re going to be committed for, they gonna give you the duration of 3 years, 4 years. They gonna tell you and they gonna you what you gotta do. When I first got committed, they put me on an ankle monitor for a whole year. No, no. It was like 6 months. I had to charge my monitor everyday and get it signed by staff from my group home. If I didn’t, then that was a violation of my probation. Either they can come give me 30 days in the RY or they can, you know, put that penalty on my record. So, it can either extend my time for being being committed or it just, you know, really lock me up pretty much. So, it’s just a lot of consequences. But, like I said, I passed all mine - for my direction being on a monitor, I did all that. I still got all my stuff, my sign-in sheets and all from when, back in the day. I keep everything, you know? It just let me know where I come from.

Joann: Mmhmm. Were you committed more than once? Or was it just that one time with the ankle monitor?

Shimaine: It was just that one time. So, I got committed, well...that same day I got committed, I was getting transferred to another placement - Twin Cedars. My last placement I was getting transferred there. I was already on papers, or whatever, but because it was a lockdown facility but it’s not no gate around the campus. Like, you can walk off campus. But now, there's cameras in this place. Then the doors are locked or whatever the case may be. But you can easily bust through the door and run away because there’s no barrier to keep you in except for the door being locked. So, they put me on an ankle monitor so I won’t run away because I was a flight risk, you know? I was known for runnin’ away from places. That’s why I was on ankle monitor for that duration of time just to prove to them that I’m not gonna run away and I’m going to do what I got to do or whatever the case may be.

Joann: What was your charge? What were you found to be delinquent of in order to get the commitment?

Shimaine: The only charges on my record was… man, I had a lot of charges. I had terroristic threat to my Grandaddy. I had, um, run away. I had a lot of probation violations. Unruly child. Assault, because I had fought somebody, or whatever, and I got an assault charge for that - or battery, whatever that is. Like I said, everything got dropped when I turned 18. They expunged my whole record because I completed everything. But everything happened when I was younger. Like, this stuff didn’t happen when I was like 16. It happened when I was like 14-15. Like, it happened early. A lot of my charges, well, all my charges came from my family, you know? I think that’s why the judge looked at it differently like, ‘I mean, of course this child gonna act crazy with her family. Like, that’s the reason why she’s in DFCS now.’ I think that’s why a lot of my charges didn’t really bother me because, like I said, I was never the one to hit my family first or be aggressive. They used to jump on me so I just fight back. They used to lie on me so I get made and I fight them because they are lies to where I get locked up. I’ve been in several mental institutions. I wasn’t just in one. I was in several because of my mom lying on me saying that swallow too many of my medicines because, you know, DFCS put you on medication. They listen to your parents. They don’t listen to you. They put me on all this medicine and my mom, sh would lie and say I flushed my medicine when really she flushed my medicine. So, they would take me back to the facility to reevaluate me or whatever. Man, it was so much. For real, so much.

Joann: When you were in that last place where you were on the ankle monitor and you had the commitment, it was basically because they didn’t want you to leave the facility?

Shimaine: Yup.

Joann: It wasn’t in response to a very specific, discreet example?

Shimaine: No. Nuh uh.

Joann: Okay. You said that at no point ever did you... you said you never had an attorney or anybody in terms of…

Shimaine: Nope. I ain’t never talked to nobody about my case. I ain’t never talk to nobody about helping. Nobody talked to me. I only talked to my probation officer and that was when she came once a month or once every two months to come see me, period. That was it. Like, for real.

Joann: At what point did you get a probation officer? Like, what, like at what point was that? You said…

Shimaine: I was, like 15, yeah...

Joann: Yeah, 14-15?

Shimaine: Yeah.

Joann: Okay.

Shimaine: Because I was in Columbus at that time.

Joann: Okay. Was that because your family was holding charges against you? Or was that because of the facility?

Shimaine: No. It’s because I was fighting and running away.

Joann: So, was the facility the ones that…?

Shimaine: Yes ma’am.

Joann: Okay, so, I’m just trying to kind of figure out who it was that called. Were there resource officers? Did you have confrontation with actual law enforcement? Or was it just facility security or whoever it was?

Shimaine: No, it was the youth in the facility that I had confrontation with. I’ve  never had confrontation with an adult or the law. It was always youth that was living with me.

Joann: So, you would have a confrontation with other youth and then basically you would get written up and then they said, ‘okay, you’re in trouble. Now you’re on probation’?

Shimaine: Oh, no. They'll call the police

Joann: Okay, that’s what I’m getting to, so, at some point they would call the police. So, you had interactions with law enforcement?

Shimaine: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah.

Joann: Tell me what would happen, like how you were treated by the officers. It wasn’t like someone internal, like, some sort law enforcement officer was coming in. Tell me what that was like. I’m mean, I’m sure you had it happen more than once.

Shimaine: Coming into contact with law enforcement, I mean, I love them. Like I said, I mean, I love police officers. They always help me. They always got me out of trouble. They always, you know, told me what was right and what was wrong. Anytime I came into contact with law enforcement, like, be mindful - anytime I fought while I was in DFCS, it was because they hit me first. It was because somebody hit me first. The only time that I hit somebody first was when I went on that, well, when I was just going through all it and I just started fighting people. But they didn’t call the police that night. But any other time, it was always self defense. But, if the group home charged both of y’all because both yall messed up their property, both yall fixin’ to get charged. They don’t care who hit who. So, anytime the police come there, they definitely ask me what happened. They always nice. They ask us what happened, you know, and then we’ll go from there. But as far as your charges, that comes from the placement.

Joann: Okay, so the placement would call the police officers. The police officers would come and get you. Then there would be some sort of paperwork, you would talk to them and there would be some sort of paperwork. As a minor, as somebody who is underage, like, did you sign paperwork? Or did the probation officer just kind of show up? I’m just trying to kind of figure out what the actual, like, in other words, what the paper trail would be for the system. I'm just kinda trying to figure out what, you know, if it was pretty standard if it happened over and over again, you know? You are in the custody of a police officer… and then what happened? What happened when you were no longer in the custody? Where did you go?

Shimaine: So, if you’re in placement the police officers don't’ take you to jail. They just come on the scene to diffuse the situation and if somebody gonna get charged then they gonna get charged. But they can’t take you, especially if you’re on probation. They will have to contact your probation officer and then the probation officer will have to be the one to come and pick you up, to either take you to detention or to see if you need another placement. So, I’ve never signed any paper for a police officer or anything because that’s not how it… once you’re joint, it goes differently. We don’t sign anything. Anytime I fought and I went to jail, I fought, the police came to scare me. The next day, I’m gone because my PO came to pick me up in the Sheriff’s car or she came in the county car pretty much.

Joann: Okay. Okay, cool. Thank you. That answered my question. I was just trying to figure out who would transfer you. Because in most circumstances outside of a dual system, law enforcement would be the ones who would be transferring you. But in this case, it would be the PO.

Shimaine: Yeah.

Joann: Okay. It’s just so complicated when everything is intertwined and it’s different from state to state to state. Which is one of the reason I asked about extended care because, you know, in talking with people who are in California who are in care, like, I’m assuming when you mentioned you had an IDA that that was provided by your employer?

Shimaine: No, the account is for all foster youth in care, current and former. An IDA account can last, uh, it does last up until you’re, I think it’s 26? Gimme a second so I can give you some accurate information. But, yes ma’am, um, until you're 26 years old and you can just match out. It’s kind of like a match farm to where if you want to match for your rent, or your car note, or your car insurance.

Joann: Okay, cool. So, it is a government service specifically for you because of your past experiences in the system?

Shimaine: Mmhmm.

Joann: Okay, cool. Well, I know that there’s been a huge amount of change in Georgia in terms of the juvenile justice system as well as DFCS. So, I want to, I know… and we’ve been on the phone for an hour so, I want to respect your time. I don’t want to keep you. But I just wanted to kind of just get kind of an understanding of where you are in terms of the work that you're doing and kind of, you said that you just had, extended care was approved and the funding was going to go into effect in 2020… what are your goals right now and what are the goals of the people you are working with in your work?

Shimaine: I’m sorry. Can you ask that for me one more time?

Joann: So, are you working full time for Georgia EmpowerMEnt and MAAC now?

Shimaine: Yes ma’am.

Joann: So, at what point did you get the position where you got to be working full time with them and what are your roles and responsibilities and what are your goals?

Shimaine: So, I’m not a full-time worker, I’m a contract worker with MAAC, just the company. And then I contract through other organizations within MAAC such as Lee, that’s part of education. Then I am a part of the court team and also their policy team. So, I am active on all of their boards. But I am only contracted through MAAC and then through Lees for education.

How did I get the position through MAAC? MAAC had an open position the beginning of last year for the Regional Impact role, or whatever, for the whole, um… the whole state.

Joann: Yeah, so this is the one where you were working with Antoinette to do the transition? Is that what you said?

Shimaine: No.

Joann: Okay, that’s different. Sorry.

Shimaine: I’m sorry. When I was working with Antoinette, that was when I first started EmpowerMEnt, like, when I first graduated high school and I wanted to stay active. Antoinette, you know, she graduated from Albany State University so she was staying in Albany so she was their coordinator. But then she started working for MAAC, like, she a full time employee. So, nobody was down there to coordinate, so I did get that position, or whatever. But, within that duration of me working there, you know, I was still heavily involved in a lot of the work, not only with Georgia EmpowerMEnt but a lot of national organizations. So, like I said, about the beginning of last year, MAAC had posted on their website that they were hiring for Antoinette’s position because she got a promotion. So, I then, of course, I applied for it because I knew I could do it, you know? They then told me that I couldn’t get it because I had not graduate high school, I mean, I’m sorry, I didn’t graduate from college. I’m still in college now. So, I was like, ‘oh, oh my gosh!’ So, I never took it as a ‘no’, I always took it as, you know, just take it by a different angle. So, I restarted again a couple weeks later, asking them, ‘hey, is there anything else that I can do bigger? I wanna do more. I wanna do bigger.’ Then they gave me the position that I am in now, a Regional Impact Liaison. I had a interview process, as well, and I got it. That pretty much is, I coordinator all the regions in the south. I educate them on their rights, their responsibilities, school, medicaid, literally, the whole 360. That’s what I do. I also, I don’t go that hard all the time. Sometimes, we have, you know, chill leaders where we’ll focus on just what they want to do in life, you know? Or, recognizing birthdays in case they’re in a placement that they came on their birthday and the placement didn’t recognize it, youknow? So, I have a birthday for the once a year, twice a year, for everyone and we just have a big party, or whatever the case may be.

But also, what my main goal is is to give the youth voices, youknow? Let them express their concerns to me and me not only listen but take it back to my team and see what we can to help them to better their situations where they are now. But, yeah. I mean, my goals for this work is a lot, man. My goal is to create change in a more stable and respectable way to where we can see the data is actually improving. And not improving in a negative way, but in a more positive stable way to where we can say we are not only doing our job, but if you know what I mean, we’re doing our job to where these kids are not leaving the system homeless. These kids are not leaving the system not knowing, you know, and then they have to come back, or whatever. And we can only help them half - we can’t give them the whole now because they signed themselves out. So, my goal is just, you know, to give what I didn’t have and to do it in a very effective way to where everybody can understand and everybody can get something from it. And just to be real, because I’m real.

Joann: What are you studying and where are you in your college?

Shimaine: I am a sophomore at Albany State University and my major is Sociology. My goals for when I graduate college is to do exactly what I am doing now but hopefully to have my own business. Like, I already have my own business now but, like I said, it’s just now starting. I’m still going through the city process to pay for it and everything of that sort. Hopefully, my business will be off the ground, you know, for me to continue doing what I’m doing because I never want to be like a CEO of a big company or whatever. I simply want to do what I’m doing - traveling the nation, speaking on behalf of foster case, helping educate and training, you know, to kind of stabilize it. I don’t want to be in the limelight. I just want to be the one is making sure everything is being done correctly and me stepping in and helping out where needs to be, you know? That’s kinda my little, my field.

Joann: So, theoretically, if they did have a full time position that required a degree, would you apply for it? Or do you wanna…

Shimaine: Oh, I surely will! Oh, yes ma’am!

Joann: Well, you know, because you can be a business owner as well as being a full time paid employee. But, sometimes people don’t want to do that. They just want to be like, ‘no, I’m just gonna be free!’

Shimaine: No, I’m gonna do it. I’m going to do it. Most definitely.

Joann: Okay, I was just clarifying. Well, cool. I’ve taken so much of your time. I don’t know, is there anything you want mention, that you want to bring up, that I have not asked you about?

Shimaine: Um, the only thing that I just want to add on, or whatever, because I know it’s dealing with juvenile justice, is a lot of youth that are in care that, you know, that are joint, they are not educated on, you know, attorneys or their rights. So, being in JJ, we do have rights as well. And sometimes, they do collide with our DFCS rights and responsibilities. So, I do want to, you know, definitely try to learn that within this experience right now. Also, even going back into just the work that I do, definitely diving deeper because that is a big issue that I do want to raise up. A lot of these kids, we know that, you know, what they’ve been through is very traumatic, that they still feeling from it and trying to move past it. If we don’t educate them, or whatever, and not more so just, you know, talking to them, but if we don't’ lead by example then I feel like we ain’t doing nothing. But yeah, that’s pretty much it.

Joann: Well, yeah, I mean, to me, that’s been what’s most confusing to me about all of this - anytime anybody that has a joint involvement is, well, wait, you know, you have certain rights. Like, you have a right to speak with an attorney. You have a right to respond to your charges and it always sounds like that’s just something that just kind of, it’s like, ‘well, no. They just kind of came in and did it to me and I didn’t really have a say.’

Shimaine: Right.

Joann: It's almost like, ‘well, that doesn’t really apply in this case,’ or, you know? That’s what it sounds like and I'm like, still, there’s a difference between DJJ and DFCS. There’s a different. It just seems so fluid and then, like you said, I definitely want to follow-up with you a little bit more about that because I have a lot of confusion about that and I’m just trying to figure it out. I don’t know how, even if that is still shifting and changing or if that’s pretty much in stone, like, the certain rights that you would have. Like, you said, they are colliding or they’re sometimes, you do or you don’t is a question. I men, you said that they would collide, that the rights would collide between one system and they other. So, I definitely want to follow-up about that. But, anyway, maybe another time.

Shimaine: Yes ma’am.

Joann: So, thank you for your time. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

 
Staff