Barbara Calhoun SWK 358 The book, finding fish, is a poignant autobiography of the life of Antwone Quenton Fisher, an African American boy who suffered a tumultuous childhood in a foster care setting. He was born on 8-3-1959 in a Cleveland prison to Eva Mae Fisher. She was incarcerated for the shooting death of his father, her boyfriend at the time, Eddie Elkins. Initially, he spent his first few weeks of his life in a Cleveland orphanage. Then he was fostered by a wonderful woman named Mrs. Nellie Strange. She lovingly cared for him for two years.
One 10-11-1961 he was placed in the foster home of the Reverend and Mrs. Pickett, an African American couple who came from southern black heritage. Mr. Pickett was a kind man with a doctorate in medicine and his wife, the abuser, was the matriarch of the family. For the next eighteen years of Antwone’s life, he would suffer terrible physical, verbal and emotional abuse in this home, even though he would have a total of thirteen social workers “monitoring” his case. In the Pickett’s home, Antwone had three foster siblings; Flo, Dwight and Keith.
Antwone suffers so much chronic abuse that he never feels confident enough to tell any of his social workers about his abuse. He is even sexually abused by Willenda, a babysitter who cares for the children at times. Antwone is finally kicked out of the home around his sixteenth birthday and he finds himself at George Junior Republic, a reform school for boys. Even though he isn’t a trouble maker, he loves being there because he finds teachers who really mentor him. While he lives there, he is able to take tests and graduate early from high school.
Unfortunately now he has “graduated’ from the foster care system since he is eighteen and he is forced to become homeless and sell drugs for money. The best thing that ever happens to him is when he enrolls in the United States Navy. While serving an eleven year term, he develops self confidence and was well respected for his work ethic and his wonderful poetry writing. After the Navy, he works for three years as a federal corrections officer, and then he lands a job as a security guard for Sony Pictures.
The book concludes with Antwone finally finding his enormous extended family. He also has a brief reunion with his mother, who lives in the Longwood housing project in Cleveland. Antwone overcame a childhood of extreme abuse to become a vibrant, gifted and talented man. He survived living in the foster care system by developing a vivid imagination, writing poetry, and a love for artistic expression. The first cultural aspect found in this book is that of religion and spirituality. In the Pickett home, religion plays a key role in the home. Mr.
Pickett, Antwone’s foster father, is the Reverend at the Holy Temple Church of God and Christ and the family attends his church every Sunday. The book states “Church can be every evening on weekdays and on Sundays, its all day” (Finding Fish page 64). Each time Antwone and his foster siblings are taken to church, they are expected to sing. The book states “We would get up from our seats and file past Reverend Pickett and traipse up to the choir loft in the back and sing. ” (finding fish, page 103, 104). The children were the choir of the church.
During church services, the children were also expected to give testimony as the book states “Each of us kids had to rise for testimony and we said the same thing; ‘Thank you, Lord, for my mother, father, sister, brother. Please pray for me. ’” (finding fish page 105). The children were made to behave like rigid soldiers in church and never question anything that went on in the service or what Rev. Pickett preached. One time Mrs. Pickett found out that Antwone was not actually singing, just moving his mouth, and she made the kids all walk home from the service.
The textbook states that “the role of the church in African American families goes beyond the spiritual. Religion not only provides a social context but also a mechanism for survival. ” (Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, page 31). The Pickett’s never missed a Sunday for church and even held a Friday night special service where the children were made to kneel and pray to find the Holy Ghost. Mrs. Pickett coached them saying “Come on chu’ren, yawl gone get the Holy Ghost and ev’rything gone be all right with God! ” (finding fish, page 52).
The church services were very emotional “ a frenzy, dancing, clapping, stomping their feet, fanning themselves, breathing in and out with deep sighs, even crying and talking in tongues and shouting things like ‘Praise the Lawd! ” “Glory! ” and Hallelujah. ” (finding fish, pages 51-52). Language is the second cultural aspect of the Pickett Family in the book. Mrs. Pickett insists that the foster children refer to her as “Mu-deah” a southern black term of respect for a matriarch, a contraction of “mother, dear’” (finding fish page 45). This, I believe, was a way for Mrs.
Pickett to elevate her stature as the matriarch of the family. Mrs. Pickett often referred to her foster kids as “niggas” in a derogatory sense. In the book she says “Niggas, I’ll take ya back where I gotcha from. ” (finding fish page 63). She continually talks down to the kids, hardly ever using their names to address them. In another instance in the book she says “Which one of you low-down niggas put-cha pissy night clothes in this here vacuum?! ” (finding fish page 69), She uses this manner of conversation due to her southern black heritage. The book states “Mrs.
Pickett is a product of the rural south which is evidence of her close ways, expressions and her relaxed easy manner. ” (finding fish page 25). Another example in the book is when she says “Niggas ain’t nothin’” (finding fish page 36). Mrs. Pickett also uses a lot of non-verbal communication cues as well. In the book is states “ When she was in her fussing mode, Mizz Pickett put her left hand on her hip, jutting it out, and leaned her upper torso into me; with her head rocking from side to side, she shook her right index finger at me almost at the tip of my nose. (finding fish page 63). Presentation was also very important to Mrs. Picket. Whenever she had to appear at the social services offices her attire was carefully chosen as the book states” There’s nothing dainty about this full-figured, brown skinned, middle-aged woman, but she holds the patent-leather purse in a real dainty way on her wrist with her hand turned up. I think to myself that this must also be meant to add to her look of a woman of high social standing. ” (finding fish page 37). The third cultural aspect of the Pickett Family is the child abuse and neglect in the household.
According to our textbook, “Family rules are repetitive pattern of interaction that family members develop with each other. These patterns begin to be accepted by the family as a code of behavior or assumptions about how to act. ” (Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, page 28). In the Pickett home, Antwone assumes the Pickett’s are his parents and the book states “At the time that I realized the Picketts weren’t my parents I came up with the idea that some awful hospital mix-up had taken place and that my real mother and father were looking for me and would find me at any minute” (finding fish, page 27).
According to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Children in foster care should be provided with basic definitions of terms such as foster care and foster parents and related child welfare terminology to help them understand their new environment. ” (JCAPN, May 2008). Even though Antwone was born into a ward of the state, his foster parents made no attempt to explain his situation to him. Not only did Antwone and his foster siblings suffer chronic abuse, but they also were victims of mental anguish and neglect.
The journal states that “Some studies show that over half of children in foster care may experience at least one or more mental disorder, and many (63%) are victims of neglect. ” (JCAPN May 2008). In the home, Antwone is even sexually abused by a babysitter named Willenda. According to KRS 600. 020 “ Abused or neglected child means a child whose health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when his parent, guardian, or other person exercising custodial control or supervision of the child: e) commits or allows to be committed an act of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or prostitution upon the child” (Week 4 Class handout, page 11).
It says in the book he never spoke of this event mostly because “the unspeakable shame I felt about what went on with her in the basement, and my unspeakable shame that maybe it was my fault. ” (finding fish page 44). Another instance “Mizz Pickett grabs my arm and begins to beat me with the flaming newspaper. I scream and scream as she and Willenda laugh and laugh. ” (finding fish page 490. She keeps many areas of the home secured with locks “her bedroom, the freezer, cabinets, closets, and pantry. She even threatened to padlock the Frigidaire. (finding fish page 46). Antwone was delayed medical care for a broken arm, which is another violation of KRS 600. 20 which states “Does not provide the child with adequate care, supervision, food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care necessary for the child’s well being. ” (Week 4 Class Handouts, page 11). In the book, because the soles of his shoes are so worn out, he slips and severely injures his arm. He is not taken to the hospital for three days. By then, the book states” I would need intricate surgery involving two pins to reattach my funny bone.
But first, because of the swelling, I had to remain in the hospital for three days with my arm elevated. ” (finding fish, page 188). Antwone suffered chronic and severe physical, verbal and emotional abuse while locked into the foster care system. According to the journal, “The social setting of child welfare, more specifically, foster care, has created a “systemic constraint” on children where they are prevented from experiencing a feeling of competence or from being able to voice their concern. ” (JCAPN May 2008).
Antwone’s loss of self esteem and self worth while living with the Pickett family is evident when he writes “All hope of rescue gone, from then on I resigned myself to living in a combat zone. This meant learning to be on constant high alert, reacting to most situations either with flight or fight, and seeing others as either friend or foe. ” (finding fish page 63). Another example in the book states “this was when I changed, when I had to divert and channel my powers of imagination to my defense against the increasing difficulties surrounding me. ” (finding fish page 72).
The fourth cultural aspect of the Pickett home was that of poverty and depravity. According to the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty, the author states that “Poverty is the extent to which an individual does without resources. ” In the book, even though the Pickett’s are compensated for “caring” for the foster children, Antwone is hardly ever given any money. In one incident, he takes some nickels from the Pickett’s bedroom. The book states “For the first time, I felt the thrill of picking out a handful of two-for-one-cent candies, paying for them, and having money left over. ” (finding fish page 73).
He continues to take spare change from their bedroom, as do his foster siblings. Unfortunately he is caught and was beaten, “The next thing I remember was being in my bedroom naked, tied by my arms to the end of the cot, and she was whipping me with a switch made from a thin green branch from a bush in the backyard. ” (finding fish, page 74). Mrs. Pickett complained to Mrs. Blum, one of his social workers, that he was a thief and a liar. The book states Mrs. Pickett saying, “He’s the worst young’un that ever was, and the biggest liar that ever lived. And I always say—if ya lie, ya steal. We all know he’s a thief. (finding fish page 80). The worst example of depravity in the autobiography is when Antwone does not receive any Christmas presents, only Keith, who is favored by Mrs. Pickett. After seeing their sad faces, she says “what yawl doin’ down here so early for? Ain’t nothin’ under that tree fuh ya. ” (finding fish, page 86). Upon recommendation of his psychiatrist, Mrs. Pickett makes him a bank from a Clabber Girl baking soda can. Since Antwone thinks this money is his, he takes some to buy candy with on the way to school. When Mrs. Pickett finds out, she lets him know he isn’t free to take that money.
In a phone conversation, she tells a friend “Lawd have mercy, this nigga’s stealin’ from hisse’f! ” (finding fish, page 93). When Mrs. Pickett forces Antwone to leave her home, he leaves with barely anything, as the book states, “Mizz Pickett appears at the door holding two folded A&P brown paper grocery bags she has ready. She tosses them into the room, as if she’s skimming stones on the water, telling me, “Put ya mess in these. I don’t wont-choo takin’ none of mi’ niice suitcases. ” (finding fish, page 199). All he ends up taking is a few pairs of underwear and some pants.
According to the JCAPN journal, “Many adolescents will age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 years old and will find themselves with little, if any, financial, medical or social support. (JCAPN May 2008). Of the aforementioned cultural aspects I have found in the Pickett family, I do not agree with the manner that religion and spirituality were introduced to the children. I believe the foster children attended church out of fear and God’s love was never introduced to them. In the Pickett’s church, the service was more of an outlet for pent-up emotions and also another way to dominate the children.
I believe that Dwight only claimed to have “Found the Holy Ghost” that night to win the favor and respect of Mrs. Pickett. I also do not agree at all with the child abuse and neglect the foster children endured in the Pickett home. According to KRS 600. 020 which states “Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or emotional injury as defined in this section by other than accidental means. ” Week 4 Class handouts, page 11). Children need structure and boundaries in the home, but in the case of Antwone, he was in a dysfunctional home. Our textbook states “Children are often cast in dysfunctional roles.
For example, a child can become the scapegoat for the family’s stresses and thus sometimes the victim of abuse. ” (Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, 8th edition). I believe Mrs. Pickett was unhappy and took it out on her foster children. According to the JCAPN journal “Clinicians and researchers agree that, in order for an adolescent to become a successful, healthy, and well-adjusted adult, they must be given support and assistance to successfully meet major developmental milestones. ” (JCAPN, May 2008). Antwone had thirteen different social workers and even a psychiatrist and he was never removed from the Pickett’s care.
I find this deplorable! When Antwone had surgery for his broken arm, the hospital staff should have reacted on his behalf, since his care was delayed for three days. This was an obvious case of neglect! According to the NASW Code of ethics which states,” The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. ” (NASW Code of Ethics). The very people paid to look out for his well-being as a foster child failed him miserably.
The other cultural aspect I do not agree with is the language Mrs. Pickett uses when referring to the foster children. To call them “niggas” instead of their given names is so demoralizing. Also, to require that the children refer to her as “Mudeah” is terrible. How can she require them to call her by a term of respect, while she does everything she can to cause them physical, verbal and emotional abuse?!! According to our textbook, “Children who are emotionally maltreated by a parent or even siblings suffer feelings of being inadequate, isolated, unwanted, or unloved. (Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, page 215). Bibliography Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, 8th edition, Cynthia Crosson- Tower, 2008. finding fish, a memoir, Antwone Quenton Fisher, Harper Collins, 2001. A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Ruby K. Payne, PH. D, 3rd revised edition, aha! Process, Inc. , 1996. Children in Foster Care: A Vulnerable Population at Risk, Delilah Bruskas, RN, MN, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, (JCAPN), Volume 21, Number 2, pp. 70-77. NASW, National Association of Social Workers, Code of Ethics. Week 4 Class Handouts, Handout 1, page 11