This story was originally published in the December 21, 2006 edition of the then-St. Petersburg Times under the headline “All he wants is a mom and dad.”
ST. PETERSBURG — Shane Sheil wrote his Christmas list last week. He asked for only three things.
He didn’t think he had a prayer of getting any of them. But hey, it’s Christmas. What did he have to lose?
The first two items on Shane’s list were things most teenage boys want: An Xbox video game system and a custom skateboard.
The third wish was the only thing he really, really wanted — something he had been asking for since he was 12 years old.
Something no child should have to long for.
First family lost
This is Shane’s story, told in his words:
My name is Shane. I’m 16. I go to school at St. Pete High. I’m a sophomore, 10th grade.
I think I was born at Tampa General Hospital. I had two brothers, but they’re not around anymore. And I have a half brother and a stepdad. I have a sister, too. But I’ve never met her. My half-brother, I used to talk to him. Now my stepdad won’t let me ’cause I don’t live with them.
I’d been living with my stepdad since I was a little baby. My real dad died. Then, when I was 8, my mom died too. So I lived with my stepdad after that. I lived with him for about four years, until I got in trouble at school. I had a little pocketknife on me. So my stepdad kicked me out of the house. And I went into foster care. I was 12.
Another family gone
I started going from one foster home to another. Then I went into a group home, and I was there for about half a year.
From there, I went to another foster home, the Hixes. And then I went from there to another group home. Then I went to a family called the Spicers. And I got in trouble when I was there, for drugs. But that was a long time ago. And I’m over all that.
I went to this group home and they straightened me out. I got out of there about six months later and went to this lady’s house, Ms. Carol. And I played football there, when I was in middle school. I got a letter for it and a trophy.
But Ms. Carol, she had to go visit some relatives. So then I had to go with another family. And I ended staying with them for about six months. And then, they were really strict with their rules. So I got out of there when I was 14 and went to this group home in Pasco County.
I started going to Ridgewood High there. I joined ROTC. And I met this kid, Scott, whose parents said they’d give me rides. His mom and me became friends, and she started taking classes to become a foster parent. And she became my foster mom.
I loved it, living there. Just having a brother my age to talk to. Having a sister, Scott had a sister. I mean, I know I have a sister, it’s just I never met her. So when I had that sister there I felt really good.
All the places I’ve lived, that was the only one I really ever connected with — the only time I thought I was in a real family. I was there for almost a full year. It was the first year since fifth grade I went to the same school for the whole year.
It was kind of weird, though. I mean, Scott and his family, they had Christmas traditions and stuff. But I wouldn’t take part in them ’cause, you know, I never did any of that. So I didn’t want to mess up their time and all. So I’d just sit there and play video games.
Now I can only play video games when I go to the library.
I still cry sometimes. They were going to adopt me. But then I kind of messed up. Whenever they’d do a family outing I’d mess up. I don’t know why. I didn’t feel like I was part of them, their family or whatever. I just messed up.
Many houses, no home
So then I went back to the group home. And then, like three months ago, I got to go live with this lady and some other foster kids in the house where I live now. I don’t have my own room now. I share it with a 14-year-old, another foster kid. She told me she wasn’t here to adopt me. Just to help out.
It’s been almost five years — I’m sure I moved more than 12 times.
That’s a lot.
Someone to hang with
It’d be nice to have a mom and a dad. Or even just a mom. Or just a dad. But I’d like to have both, you know, ’cause sometimes there’s stuff I could talk to a mom about that I couldn’t talk to a dad about. And of course there’s stuff I could talk to a dad about that I couldn’t talk to a mom about.
I don’t know what a good mom or dad would do. I wouldn’t even want to think what the perfect one would be because then I would be making it up. I want a real one.
I mean, I don’t want a dysfunctional family. But I wouldn’t mind having a partially dysfunctional one. Nobody’s family is perfect.
I’ve thought about going to court and saying I want to live on my own, get a job and get out of the foster system right now. But I really want to have a mom and a dad. I just want someone to hang out with, you know?
I want to do family activities and stuff: go fishing with my dad or work on cars with my dad or something. I love working on cars. I can change a carburetor by myself.
Or I’d want to, with a family I mean, go surfing or something. Go to the beach with a whole family. Go to the movies, you know — just a whole bunch of family outings. Go crabbing with the whole family.
I definitely want a brother. It’d be great to have one around my age, someone I could wrestle with. But it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have a brother. Or a sister. Or anyone else but a mom and dad. Or just a mom. Or just a dad. It don’t matter.
I wish someone would actually be there for me, you know? I’m outgoing. I can bring joy. I just want to be adopted.
I’d do anything they asked. I’d help vacuum. I love to cook, grill.
I have this scene in my head, like how it would be: Me and Dad on the deck, grilling together. He’d be cooking his steak. I’d throw a little shish kebab beside it. We’d be out there, you know . . .
I just want one of them normal teenage lives.
No one to call
Last semester, when I got my report card I got a 3.4 GPA — that’s the highest I ever had. And I was, like, so excited. And Coach was letting everybody else use their cell phones and call their parents to tell them about the report cards.
But I didn’t have a cell phone. And there wasn’t anyone to call.
Coach gave me his cell phone, so I called my case worker. I guess she’s known me longer than anyone.
Coach was my football coach. I played football this year: wide receiver, running back, back-up quarterback. That’s just for offense. And for defense, I played linebacker, cornerback and safety. And then I also played kick return.
That was on JV. We went undefeated this year for the conference. We were conference champs.
And we had a football banquet at school, a dinner for all the football players and their families. And everybody’s family came. Except for mine. I was living in the group home then.
Some of the guys were like, “Where’s your family?” And I told them I didn’t have one. And they didn’t believe me.
They were like, “C’mon, there’s gotta be somebody.”
And I was like, “Nooo. If there was, do you think I’d be sitting here by myself?”
Then I started crying, tears all coming down my face and stuff. I put my face in my arms, but Coach saw me. He comes over, pats me on the shoulder, and says, “What’s wrong, Shane?”
“I got no family, Coach,” I said. “Would you sit with me?”
'They’ll have me’
I’m kind of afraid, sometimes, about what I’m going to do. If I don’t get a family, what happens in two years, when I turn 18?
I was going to join the Marines forever. But now’s not a good time. If I joined now, they’d put me right into that war.
I don’t know what I’m going to do, really.
I mean, I’m going to have a family of my own one day. I’ll make my own. And my kids will have more than I did, because they’ll have me. I’ll be there for them.
Sometimes I picture, when I have my own family, coming home from work. I’d have a white picket fence, a white house, two-story. I see that sometimes.
I’ve never lived anywhere like that. But I can see it.
Even then, when I got kids of my own, it’d still be nice to have a mom and dad. Or at least one.
To read the Times’ follow up story about Shane, click here.