By Brian Rinker
The brothers escaped on a Sunday.
Matt, 14, Terrick, 12, and Joseph, 11 pretended to go to church that day in 2006, but in secret they had planned to run away and never come back. No more living with an angry grandmother who drank. No more beatings with the belt.
They stashed a black plastic garbage bag full of clothes next to a dumpster outside their grandmother’s apartment in Whittier, CA, and wore extra socks, shirts and pants underneath their church outfits. Their older sister, 23, was to pick them up at a nearby Burger King. From there, the brothers recalled, she was to whisk them away and raise them as her own.
So instead of stepping onto that church bus as they had done every week past, the Bakhit brothers walked to Burger King praying that whatever lay ahead was better than what they left behind.
Matt, the eldest, was the mastermind. At 14, a wrestler and high school freshman, Matt said living in the strict, abusive home stifled his maturity. How could he grow into a man?
“My grandma, over any little thing, would pull my pants down and whoop me with a belt,” Matt, now 22, said.
But freedom from his abusive grandmother didn’t mean an end to his and his brothers’ hardships.
Child protection intervened less than a month later at their sister’s San Diego home. The brothers remember a social worker telling them they would not be separated. They packed their belongings once again into plastic bags and piled into the social worker’s car. The brothers cried.
Despite the promise, 20 minutes later the social worker dropped Matt off at a foster home. Terrick and Joseph were taken to the Polinsky Children’s Center, a 24-hour emergency shelter in San Diego for kids without a home, or as Joseph calls it, “purgatory.”