Jenna’s journey through a jumbled family
October 22, 2014
It was a dance party no eight-year old should ever have. Jenna Wanna-Kriegel’s mother would lock her in the bathroom, play music, and tell her to have a dance party of her own. Then go down stairs and have a party with drugs and other friends. “She would always play Jennifer Lopez,” Wanna-Kriegel said.
Wanna-Kriegel, senior, was removed from her mother’s custody at age eight. Before that time her mother was involved in drugs and alcohol. She could feel the effects the drugs had on her but didn’t realize what they were at the time. “I was little so I really didn’t know what [the drugs] were,” Wanna-Kriegel said.
Not all the times with her mom were bad, though. Wanna-Kriegel’s mother used to take them to an amusement park called Valleyfair, however they didn’t have a lot of money.
“She would leave Valleyfair, come home, and wipe the stamp on my hand so I could get in free,” Wanna-Kriegel said.
She was at school in second grade when she was taken from class into the principal’s office. There was a caseworker named Ann. The caseworker asked Wanna-Kriegel a bunch of questions about her home life, her mother, and the drugs. From there, they went to the middle school to pick up her sister, Brittany.
The caseworker took them to a parking lot across from their house and explained to the girls that she was going to go in to get some of their things.
They were being removed and taken to a foster home.
The foster parents were two men named Dwayne and Jason Kriegel. “The day went from bad from worse. They gave me food. My mom didn’t worry about feeding us, so I would have to feed myself. All I ever ate was Ramen or ravioli. It was like gold for us at Dwayne and Jason’s,” Wanna-Kriegel said.
She stayed with them for two years and when she was ten the Kriegel’s adopted her.
Her mother was not thrilled with the adoption. Wanna-Kriegel had hardly spoken to her mother in the two years she was gone. Her mother asked her if the reason she wanted to be adopted was because they had money.
“I was mad because, why would she ask me that?” Wanna-Kriegel said.
The summer before eighth grade year Wanna-Kriegel moved from Minnesota to Illinois with her fathers. High school there was quite different there then when she later went to North. She knew a lot of people at that school while here she doesn’t really know anyone.
The other students at the old school were very harsh towards her about her parents. She went to a school were kids were quite judgmental towards people unlike themselves. “They hated gay people. Whenever I would mention it they would yell at me,” Wanna-Kriegel said.
Even before high school there was hate towards her because of her parents. “There was this thing going on called Vote No in Minnesota. If you vote no, it is to keep gay marriage a possibility but if you vote yes, it just removes it permanently. I got made fun of all the time,” Wanna-Kriegel said.
After getting into a fight with her dads they all decided it was best to send her to live with her aunt here in Omaha. Her aunt is also a foster parent so there is still a steady stream of children coming and going in her house.
At North the comments about her parents did not stop altogether, while they did become less frequent. In the first month of math class another couple of students were discussing gay people. That’s when she informed them of her gay parents.
“The first question anyone ever asks is ‘guys or girls?’ and when I say guys it is always way worse so there like ‘Why? How does that work?’ and I say well I was adopted and this one kid was like ‘Oh well I’d rather be an orphan then have two gay dads,’” Wanna-Kriegel said.
Wanna-Kriegel found her place at North by aiding for Ms. Holley with the special education students. She spends much of her time down there helping the kids and working in the Just Friends program as well. Wanna-Kriegel says she would love to continue working with special needs children after high school.
To Wanna-Kriegel, nobody should judge anyone without knowing their whole story. She has seen what terrible things some children go through, because of all the foster kids she has met.
“You never know someone’s story, like they could be a total jerk to you and just mean and in the background they could be getting abused,” Wanna-Kriegel said.