By Sequoya Griffin
Key Purpose Books, LLC, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-9992325-0-7, 443 pages, $14.99
When Sequoya Griffin was 4 she entered foster care for the first time. This would be a pattern that would continue for the next few years, with Sequoya often separated from her siblings. Finally, when she was 6 years old, Sequoya was removed from her mother’s care for the last time, which led her to multiple placements with her two younger siblings, but separated from her youngest brother and three oldest siblings. From there her life would take many turns, which Sequoya shares in the new book “Goodbye, SaraJane.”
In Las Vegas, Sequoya and her siblings would live with several foster families, but had the opportunity to stay connected to their older siblings and their black cultural community. All of that changed when Sequoya and her three youngest siblings — Stanford, Reyonna and Elijah — were adopted by a white couple in New York and disconnected from everyone and everything they were familiar with. Upon arrival in New York, the siblings were greeted with the colder climate and given new names; Sequoya became SaraJane at age 10.
While living with Neal and Karen Carlon, “the four,” as they became known, were subjected to emotional, mental and physical abuse. They were malnourished and medically neglected, tormented by their new adoptive family. In many ways, Sequoya and her siblings lived in a vindictive hell that they were be unable to escape despite numerous reports to social services. Finally, Sequoya managed to make her escape by having a mental breakdown that took her out of the Carlons’ home.
“Goodbye, SaraJane” is a harrowing tale of four siblings’ experiences in the foster care system. Separated from their older siblings, uprooted from their cultural ties and subjected to abuse at the hands of their adoptive parents, the book is evidence of why it’s important to factor in many things when making a permanency placement for children. It showcases the importance of culture and connection to people of the same race and the lasting connection many children feel to their families of origin.
Fortunately, Sequoya and her siblings escaped the madness of what was supposed to be their “forever family” and have found peace in their adult lives, reconnected to friends and family from their earlier years. There is much caseworkers and case managers can learn from Sequoya’s story in ensuring that the permanency options considered are truly in a child’s best interest.
In reality, Sequoya and her siblings would probably have fared better by staying in long-term foster care in Las Vegas where they were connected to their black culture than they did after being uprooted to an abusive, dysfunctional white family in New York. “Goodbye, SaraJane” is definitely a book worth reading. — Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel