Tales from the Frontlines: Jason & Rico

Posted by on Jun 5, 2015

Over the years, I have worked with countless children and their families. And to me, each child, each family I encountered (and encounter still, to this day), has a profound story to tell.

Each and every one.

Sometimes, when I learn of a child’s history, the traumas, the amazing obstacles she has had to overcome, her absolute bravery, I think to myself, there is a story there.



A story worth telling.

And I suppose that is why Finding Pony became a book. brothers

In 1997 I was a young social worker, and newly pregnant with my first born child. I had recently transferred to adoptions and was assigned the task of matching kids legally available for adoption with potential adoptive  families. For the most part, this was a really happy job, far more positive than when I worked in Family Reunification, because it was kind of like the end of the line for the children in the system–their final stop, their finding of their forever families.

But some of the kids’ stories broke my heart in half.

I will call him Jason, for the purpose of this story.

He was about eight years old when I met him: kind, polite, and handsome. And nothing short of brave. He lived in a scummy old trailer with his mom and infant brother (I’ll call him Rico).

Mom happened to be a drug addict, and a prostitute to boot, so she would leave Jason and Rico alone for long periods of time.trailer

As in hours. Days.

So what happens when a little tiny baby doesn’t have any food? Well, he cries. And cries. And cries.

Jason was just a kid, and had been warned not to leave the trailer, under any circumstances. What could a little kid, barely in second grade, possibly do? But see, he knew his brother was suffering, so he did what any brave, selfless big brother would do.

He stole for him.

Jason loved little baby Rico so much that at night, he would sneak to the mini-mart and steal anything he could to sustain him and his brother. Chips. Crackers. And formula.

They existed like this for quite some time, until finally, someone noticed the raggedy little boy lurking around the store, and realized that something wasn’t quite right. Not long afterwards, Jason and Rico were put into foster care.

holding-hands I’d like to tell you that everything turned out wonderful, and that they were adopted together, to wonderful parents. I really would, because that would be a very happy ending to an otherwise sad story. But unfortunately, that is not how Jason and Rico’s story ended.

Yes, they were put into foster care. Yes, their foster parents wanted to adopt them, together. But ultimately, Jason started doing what any little boy who had experienced severe neglect and trauma would do. He started acting out. A lot. And eventually, the foster parents decided they couldn’t handle him anymore, and he had to removed from their home.

I was the one who transported him to his next foster home. And though it was over eighteen years ago, I still remember that ride, remember his stoic little face, his pinched cheeks, his jaw lifted, resolute with his fate and I remember thinking this: all you wanted was to protect your brother. And now, we have torn the two of you apart.

I thought:

I have failed you.

We have failed you.

The system, society has failed you.

You did nothing wrong, but be brave,

and we failed you.

I left CPS, shortly therafter.

I was pregnant, and had only been married two years, and wanted to experience motherhood without having to work. Besides that, I was tired, and a little traumatized myself. CPS had taken its toll on me. I would not return to social work for over ten years.

Jason was only one of many, countless, sad stories. In the years to come, as I raised my children, I would lie awake in my bed, my babies close by and my husband next to me, and I would think about the kids I worked with, and what they were doing now. Did I make the very best possible decisions for them?

Did I ruin their lives?

Rico ended up getting adopted by that first foster family. Jason, I later heard from former co-workers, ended up bouncing around to many different foster homes, his ultimate fate unknown to me.

But I never forgot him, and his story. His bravery. And I wanted to honor that. Jason’s story is really why I ended up writing a story about a boy who ultimately just wanted to protect his sister, and tried to find her.  I might not be able to write a better ending for the Jasons out there, but I can at least honor their struggle.

I see you. I remember.

Happy Friday, everyone.


  1. I’m hanging on wanting to read more. Beautiful writing Kara.

  2. I am honored by you saying that, Stephanie. Love ya, girl.

  3. You speak humanity’s heart language. Thank you for remembering, sharing, and giving voice to these spirits that have such profound stories that need to be heard. It is through your art that we as a society have a chance to edify ourselves and refine our, sometimes, lost sense of perspective. Thank you. I look forward to reading your book and the many more to come.

  4. Oh, Kara. I sit here crying…and I am certain your book, born from the sad story of this little fellow, will pierce the hearts of your readers.
    Wouldn’t it be something if he stumbled across your website, and recognized himself,and it somehow helped him heal..
    God bless you.
    Love, Auntie DeeDee

  5. Thank you for telling the world this story and it was an amazing story it touched my heart.

  6. Thanks for being the voice for the voiceless, fatherless, and motherless. Sadly, this is the fate of so many children in our children’s school and community. Thanks for sharing their stories.

  7. I can’t wait to hear how you put the stories into words. We do serve an amazing population of heroic children!

  8. Kara, I’m excited to read your book. The blog keeps you wanting more. I don’t think I ever knew this about you….that you did this type work. Or maybe I knew but didn’t think about the pain you must have endured helping the Jason’s and Rico’s in this world. Good work. Thx for sharing your blog.

  9. Kara,

    Beautiful, sad, and compelling. I can’t wait to read your book. It sounds like it is written from the heart and it can’t get any better than that.

  10. Thank you for “seeing” and sharing Kara.

  11. Thank you, Kathy!

  12. Thank you, Karen. I am excited to share it.

  13. You are welcome, Jana. Thanks for stopping by and reading, I really appreciate it.

  14. And I honestly feel that I have worked alongside of heroes, like yourself. You rock! Miss having you as my director/supervisor.

  15. Hong, thank you. That means a lot. You will also do amazing work in your new job as a school psychologist. Bless you.

  16. Susie, thank you. <3

  17. DeeDee, some of the kids I have worked with are so brave. I hope and pray that he has already healed from this. There are so many kids I still wonder about.

  18. Thank you Renee. I hope to share more stories with you all. <3

  19. I remember….. it was always hard to hear…the sadness… beautifully told. Thanks for the happy endings…

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