Martha is overwhelmed by her own story. There are probably a dozen different ways that it could be told from various perspectives, but let me begin with what she would tell you, her story as she knows it, from her perspective.
Martha is a fourteen-year-old, twin to her sister Maria. She and her whole family emigrated from Ghana in 2006. They first lived in a house in Lynn and then moved to another Massachusetts’ town in 2007. She just started her eighth grade year this September, her second year at the same school, and she was loving her life.
One Tuesday afternoon in September, she was sought out by the principal of her middle school and told there was someone waiting for her at the front office. When she arrived, there were three police officers awaiting her. She was scared and had no idea why they were there. They asked her if she knew a man named Jacob. She answered that she did not. She was told that Jacob was her biological father and that they were going to take her to him. Afraid, disbelieving, she asked to call her mother.
She was not allowed to call home; she was put in a car and taken to a courthouse.
There at the courthouse she met Jacob, a man so happy to see her, a man with pictures and stories of a childhood she did not remember. She was brought into a room where a judge told her that Jacob was her father and that her family was not her family, and that she was to go with Jacob, leaving Massachusetts and her home.
Martha can be quite quiet and shy, but this was too much. “No,” she was able to say, “I will not go live with him.”
At 3:00 that afternoon the Department of Children and Families was called in, Martha was given a choice, she could either go with Jacob or self-submit to the system and go to live with a foster family. Martha did not know what a foster family was, but she chose it over leaving with a strange man.
A couple of hours later she was climbing the steps of a big blue house in Beverly. She came face to face with two white people. She was doubtful that this was a better scenario. As soon as she was able, she went to “her room” curled up in a ball and cried.