How could you hurt a child? That is a burning question for Rose Ludwig of Fostoria.
A victim of domestic violence for more than 26 years, Ludwig was able to escape the chaos and make something positive out of her broken past. She has written a book about her ordeal to give hope to others experiencing abuse, either as victims or abusers.
Her message is especially poignant during April, when many agencies strive to make the public more aware of domestic violence and its consequences.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
Rose (left) and Marvin Ludwig have hosted numerous foster children through the years.
"You don't have to repeat it. It's a vicious circle, but you do not have to repeat it," Ludwig said.
The author has lived in Fostoria for 33 years with her second husband, Marvin. She has three children by her first marriage and he has two. In addition, they have been foster parents to 83 children, mostly teens, in Seneca County.
Even after becoming disabled in 1993, Rose continued to take in youth.
The Ludwigs were featured in newspaper articles in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
They continued as foster parents until 2001 when Rose's physical condition became too difficult to manage.
Rose said she started writing memories of her past in 1979 as a coping mechanism. That was the year she moved to Fostoria to distance herself from the city in which she had been abused and the people who had hurt her.
Her marriage had ended in divorce, and she was determined to protect her three young children. She met Marvin while working as a waitress.
"I had nothing, but I found paper. ... and I started jotting down from the time I could remember, which was 4 years old. Any time I wasn't working or spending time with my kids, I would jot down notes," Rose said. "I had it almost finished in 1988."
Then she was injured at work and went through major surgery that required a year off work.
Rose said she was not one to remain idle. Her children were in school, and she wanted something to occupy her during recovery. When she and Marvin kept seeing billboards about foster parenting, they decided to take the training and open their home.
"I always wanted eight or 10 (children), but that didn't happen. ... I said (to Marvin) 'Can we do it?' He said, 'Sure - whatever.' We love kids," Rose said. "They had nobody that would take difficult kids."
Some of the staff at the Department of Job and Family Services knew of Rose's domestic abuse, which gave her an understanding of the homes some of the youth were coming from. Before long, the Ludwig residence was full, and the couple treated the foster children as they would their own.
"I loved it when we had five or six teenagers, but it was a little difficult with one bathroom," Rose said.
Her main message to all who came through her doors was, "Don't throw your life away."
Referring to her own experiences, Rose tried to explain things do get better, and they could make changes to have happy, productive lives. She encouraged them not to depend on "the system" to take care of them, or to wait for things to happen.
Her advice was for them to use their talents to avoid boredom and frustration and take control of their own lives, as she had done.
"The hard part about it is, you don't know what happens to them, but I do have 10 adults right now - who were teenagers - that I know where they live, we talk, or they're on Facebook with me. It's a wonderful thing," Rose said.
Whenever a foster child told Rose, "You don't know what it's like," she would ask them to explain his story to build trust with the youth.
Sometimes, she made home visits to meet with the parents and educate them in an effort to get children back with their families. She has received several letters thanking her for her work with troubled teens and turning them in the right direction.
Rose said she believes her abuse enabled her to identify with their situations.
It broke her heart to give up foster parenting, so the book became an extension of that work.
"God just kept telling me, 'You can't give up on kids, just because you can't take care of them. You need to write your book, and you need to let people know,'" Rose said. "This is raw. ... It is not Dr. Phil. It's not from a professional. ... It's the truth."
The author's daughter, Tricia, was instrumental in getting the book written.
Although Tricia knew of family members who had died, she did not know about Rose's childhood abuse.
"I got the pages out, and they were so fragile and mixed up, but she took a couple months to type it. ... She missed work a couple days, she cried, she called me," Rose said.
The book was produced by Creative Space Publishing. The softcover book also is available as an e-book. It can be purchased at the Cafe Restaurant in Fostoria and online at Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.
A second book about her foster parenting experiences is in progress, but finding ways to protect privacy is proving to be a challenge.
Rose said she has given away about 100 books to family members and friends who have asked her how she survived. Some say they "couldn't put it down," while others have given it to their difficult teens to read.
The author is pleased to be making an impact on other people.
"People need to learn to live on their own and make a difference in the world ... and not just sit there and do nothing. That creates anger and frustration. I used my God-given talents to move on," she said.
Faith was an important element that sustained her. She and Marvin attend Rock Solid Church of God in Kansas.
"It was faith. It was God because I made it through some things kids and people don't make it through now. I really felt fortunate ... I had a way to go," Rose said.
Having seen the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, she has kept those substances out of her home.
One regret Rose has is not being able to make peace with her mother, who is deceased. To compensate, she tried to show the love she never received to those in her care.
"They thrived on it, which made me feel so good when I laid down at night," Rose said. "I am an advocate and mediator to this day, to anyone."