This is not my typical type of post, I understand that some of you may scroll past it simply because it is a hard topic to discuss. I don’t want to make anyone sad or send anyone spiraling. My intention is to help raise awareness on the topic of the foster care system and the forgotten children who are living in it. For those of you who want to exit now, it’s ok, there’s no judgement. For those of you brave enough to continue past this point, Thank You for helping me raise awareness and supporting me on this journey. My hope is that by me sharing part of my story it will help others have a better chance for a better future.
As some of you know I grew up in the foster care system. In a system that doesn’t actually see you, hear you or care about you let alone your future. You see things and experience things that no child should ever have to endure. I want to take you on a experience. a brief look into the life of a foster child so you can see for yourself how badly the system needs to change.
Placed into foster care at the age of 4 I was taken away from my mom and step dad. I don’t remember too much except being shuffled around from home to home. I do remember that one day I was told that I was going to be adopted. The foster family sat me down and told me today was the day I was going to go to my forever home. I do remember being scared because I had no idea who was adopting me, but I was 5 by this time and still had hope. I still hoped to be reunited with my Mom, I had not given up on her. I did not want to be adopted by strangers but I also did not want to be moved from one strange home to the next. I was full of mixed emotions.
I was not prepared for the parents of my step dad to be the ones who adopted me. I could not understand why someone would allow me to be adopted by the parents of the man who had essentially destroyed my life. Already at this point he had been accused of sexually abusing a hand full of little girls. Which ironically no one believed because he was such a charismatic man.
Even though it was ordered by the court that he not come around me, there he was living a hop skip and a jump away, right next door on their land. I was made to have sleep overs at his house and he ate with us as a family for breakfast lunch and dinner. My new family told me that my step dad loved me and that he would never do anything to hurt anyone, and that I must have remembered wrong the nights he tried to sexually abuse me. They would tell me that I imagined everything. I was also told ” What happens in the family, stays in the family.” and to forget the past.
For years I lived in fear, My new Mom was like Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde. One moment she was kind the next she was a monster. She would pick up and use whatever was around her in heat of the moment to beat me with. The physical abuse from her hurt but not as bad as her words. The old saying ” Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a bunch of crap. I could heal the bruises on my body but her words never left me. In fact I still hear them replay in my head from time to time many years later.
At this point all I can say is… I was numb. I was in survival mode. I knew the only things I could truly count on in life was that each day I would wake up and have to protect myself. No one else was going to protect me. This wasn’t a fairy tale and I was not going to be saved. Slowly more and more every day I was loosing hope. The sun would shine and the seasons would change but nothing changed for me and I saw no way out.
One day while I was at school, I couldn’t sit back in my seat due to the bruises on my back. My teacher sensed something was wrong and lifted up my shirt in the back to reveal the bruises. She called child welfare, they came and removed me to be placed in foster care yet again. Honestly, I was happy to see them this time. I was ready to get away from my step dad that I feared I would never be able to be free from.
I once had hopes of being safe, being with my mother again or maybe even a family that wouldn’t beat me or maybe I could be with a family I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to sexually abuse me. Do you know what it’s like to be fighting for your life at such a young age? I was 3 years old when my mom met my step dad and my whole world began to destroyed around me.
I tried to be a good kid in each foster home or children’s home I went to. In the beginning I had hopes I would be placed in a good home with a good family. These hopes didn’t last too long, with each foster home there was either physical or sexual abuse. If it wasn’t abuse to me it was abuse to another foster kid in the same home. I couldn’t protect myself and I quickly learned I could not protect them.
I learned to stay away from the foster fathers in each home and walk on egg shells around the foster mothers. I could catch each of the times that one the foster fathers would let their gaze linger over my body or the other girls and boys. I knew what that meant. This place was not safe and I tried to be invisible. Everyday was a never ending nightmare that you never wake up from.
I had almost given up. I had no future dreams or plans for my life, no hope that I would even survive. Still going through the revolving door of the foster care system, still having to protect myself and fight for survival. A glimmer of hope appeared when I was 11, I was placed in a foster home with a family who I actually began to trust.
The foster dad didn’t have the same lingering eye’s, the mom seemed ok and they had kids of their own. A daughter who was my age and a son who was much younger. I wasn’t doing well in school, I was so far behind from everyone else from all the moving around I felt stupid. I tried really hard to do the best I could to make them happy but in the end they were disapointed by me and I was moved into yet another children’s home.
They said I was a beautiful girl but I would never adjust to being a productive member of society and I believed them. I was sent to other children’s homes, wilderness programs and foster homes. No one cared if I went to school, there was no education for preporation for life as an adult. I had no idea how to fill out a job application, no idea about credit scores, no clue about bank accounts. I was alone, uneducated and without a promise of a future. But I kept fighting.
I am grateful my story has a happy ending, I did not want to become a statistic. I was stubborn and yes even smart enough to educate myself rather quickly. I learned how to emancipate myself at the age of 17 from my family and the foster care system. It didn’t drastically change anything in my life except for the fact that I never had to go to another foster home. I still found myself in the grips of abuse from people I thought were family for years.
I am here as living proof that no one has to except being a statistic. We can all rise above! I haven’t had a easy life but I know that if I can make the changes needed to better myself and put myself on a path for my dreams to come true. Anyone can!!
This belief in myself took time however, it took healing, it took leaps of faith and it took strength. I never gave up on myself even when it felt like the world around me did. Sometimes I wanted to give up because it’s damn hard but at the end of the day I didn’t. Did I always make good decisions and somehow I was instantly healed and transformed? Absolutely not. These things take time, grit, gumption and persistence.
Unfortunately there are thousands of people in the world today that are still suffering. They are either currently in the foster care system or are now adults but they have yet to overcome the trauma that was inflicted on them. The amount of homeless young adults that turned 18 and thrust into adulthood without being prepared is startling. Up to 40% of the young adults that age out of foster care end up homeless within the first four years. With a system just based on survival they are not equiped to handle life as adults. A system needs to be in place to help guide them.
Everyone needs a home base, a family unit that has their back and without this they are vulnerable. I don’t have all the answers but I can happily say that are now organizations in place that are trying to meet these needs. This is a huge step in the right direction.
Statistics show that an average of around 20,000 kids age out of foster care once they reach 18 every year. According to an article by KTLA around 70 % percent of the human trafficking victims come from the foster care system. These statistics are from what the raid and rescue organizations report. These are scary statistics and I think we can find a way to do better then this.
The children in the foster care children started out in life just like you did, or your children. Full of life, hopes and dreams. What happened to them was not their faults yet they get judged and punished for the actions of others every day. Immediatly labeled “troubled” or a ” problem child” by society. Without healing and proper education for adulthood they are more likely to turn to drugs, alchohol and tend to have little to no healthy relationships with others. I would like to see things change for the better, we can do better.
If you are interested in donating to an organization dedicated to helping children in the foster care system or perhaps helping children who have aged out, I will include a few trusted organizations below. Let us remember that the children are our future. The children in the foster care system need love, support and education just like all children do. Let’s stop victim blaming them and step up in whatever way we can to help.
Did you know that you can make Amazon donate 0.5% of your purchases to a charitable organization of your choice? Just simply sign up at smileamazon.com and select the charity you would like to donate to.
Below are the best charities for supporting foster care children. Their focus is changing the laws for foster care children to help keep them more protected, providing essential care packages and educational support to foster children,
- Foster Care to Success
- Together we rise
- Think of Us
- Foster care to success was founded in 1981 and has a 4 star rating from charity navigator.
- Together We Rise was founded in 2008 and they focus on supporting ex foster care students in college and providing essential care packages.
- Think of Us was founded in 2014 and focus on giving the power back to those who have lived through the foster care system. They allocated 400 million to help vulnerable children in 2021 and has engaged 38,000 young people in the negotiations for changes to child welfare laws.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Sometimes we have to look at other’s through a different lens to understand their injustices and suffering. Until next time stay inspired and blessed. Feel free to like, comment and subscribe.