If it wasn’t for foster care and great foster parents that never gave up, I might be dead or in prison. Foster care saved my life from the brutal child abuse. As an innocent child, I paid the price for my parents rage and selfish mistakes. I credit my loving foster parents who worked with me over the years and helped me transform my bad behaviors (from child abuse) into great behaviors. I am truly grateful to have had a compassionate and empathetic social worker who found me the right foster parents to help me deal with my many behavioral and emotional needs. Foster care saved me on so many levels. I would not be who I am today without it.
A lot of children are in foster care because of child abuse and neglect. Child abuse is incomprehensibly hurtful and damaging to a child long term. I have been on the receiving end of child abuse and it has haunted me throughout my life. I’m not talking about a spanking once in a while. I am talking about inflicting severe pain on a child with the intent to cause physical trauma out of a parents rage. I am talking about an out of control adult inflicting horrific pain on their own flesh and blood, a helpless little child. Most mothers and fathers would protect their children from any harm, even die for them, but some soulless mothers and fathers are more than willing to hurt their kids physically, sexually and mentally.
I still remember very vividly one of the most horrific abuse incidents that happened to me when I was five years old. It is so embedded in my soul that it feels as if it just happened yesterday.
When I stepped through the door, I could hear an argument going on between my mother and stepfather. I also remember a few yellow Coors beer cans around the living room. My mother asked me to do something. I defied her and said, “Screw you!” but really using the F-word. This wasn’t the first time I had said these words to my mother. In fact the F-word was one of my favorite words at that age. But this time when I said it, my mother snapped. With anger in her eyes, she grabbed my arm and tried to pull me up the stairs. I resisted and fought back. I was yelling and she was yelling. It was very chaotic.
I was hitting her and she was hitting me, but eventually she overpowered me. She pulled me up the stairs to the bathroom and physically forced me to the sink. While holding me there, she turned on the hot water full blast, running it until the steam was rising profusely. She kept yelling at me and telling me how bad a kid I was and that I was the devil. I remember her yelling at me uncontrollably. I think she must have totally snapped.
What she did next was unfathomable. She restrained my body and forced my tiny left hand under the scalding hot water.
I was screaming, out of control and trying to pull my hand from the hot water. It hurt so much as she held it there. I screamed “Mommy stop, Mommy stop!” I was crying so loud, it hurt so much. I could not believe my own mother was doing this to me. It was like my life was flashing before my eyes and my whole body was shutting down. It was like she never heard me. I then yelled “Mommy, you’re hurting me, it hurts mommy, let me go, I love you.” I tried to get away but she looked at me with intense anger and said I was a bad kid. I thought I could get away, that I was stronger than her. But I couldn’t. I was only five years old. I was helpless and completely at her mercy. She held my hand under that hot for so long that when she let me go, the skin on the back of my left hand was burned off. It was all pink. I have had this scar ever since, on my body, in my heart, and in my mind.
I remember the pain. I feel the pain. I smell the pain and I see the pain. Never will I forget the memory of what was done to that innocent little five year-old boy. It is difficult to really describe the feeling of the hot scalding water burning off the majority of the skin on the top of my left hand. You could literally pull off parts of my skin. It was awful!
All the other physical abuse I could deal with, but this particular incident altered me physically and mentally forever. This was the final tick for the time bomb that was about to go off. I was no longer an innocent little boy. I was now overcome with a sense of shame and anger that would last for years. I realized I was no longer good enough and that I was not really loved. I felt worthless and unwanted.
I now hated my mother. I hated her for not sticking up for me, and for not loving me. I hated her for hurting me and not protecting me. I was her son. Hate is such a powerful word and I don’t use it lightly, but if there are two people that I hated for a long time, it was my mother and stepfather. They were supposed to protect me. I recently discovered from my foster care case files that my biological father brutally abused me as a baby. Thank you to all of the foster parents who save lives and restore love in these precious children. You are heroes. Because of great foster parents, I, Derek Clark, grew up to become an international motivational speaker, inspirational foster care speaker and the author of six inspirational books. All of these great achievements happened because my foster parents saw something inside of me that I could not see in myself…Greatness!
Please take a moment and watch motivational speaker Derek Clark’s video on never giving up and never limiting life.
Written by Derek Clark, Motivational Speaker and Survivor of Child Abuse
About Motivational Speaker Derek Clark
Derek is an inspiring motivational speaker/trainer, a featured expert on CNN Headline News, The Ricki Lake Show and The Steve Harvey TV Show. Google has ranked Derek #1 “inspiring motivational speaker” out of 16 million listings and is ranked #1 for “stories about never giving up” out of 320 million results. He is the author of six books including “Never Limit Your Life” and the “I Will Never Give Up” book series.
Derek Clark’s life is one of resilience and redemption. As a child he suffered unthinkable child abuse, abandonment and emotional distress before being turned over to the psychiatric hospital at age five. His 13 years in the San Francisco bay area foster care system reflected an early life of humiliation, aggression, emotional distress, overwhelming anxiety and being wrongfully labeled. Eventually, with the help of foster parents and mentors he defied the artificial limitations imposed upon him.
Derek knows first hand how to cope with adversity and overcoming hardship. His past has never held him back from accomplishing what he set his heart and mind to.
As a motivational speaker, author and singer/songwriter, Derek has spoken from Australia to Canada including a President of the United States. His true-life trials and personal triumphs have inspired organizations with his message of hope and unwavering perseverance.
His maxim is to make no excuses. He has turned his situation from a victim to a victor, equipping him with the Wisdom and the Will to never give up.