May 15, 2012
Guest Blog: "I Became a Foster Kid At 8, And Was Expected To Not Be One Anymore at 21"
[Ed. note: This post is part of a series of blog posts Juvenile Law Center will be publishing during National Foster Care Month to call attention to issues facing foster youth who are aging out of the system.]
Love: unconditional, real, enduring, forgiving, forever, always, accepting.
Maybe I love easily, and maybe I collect people. This is probably because I know what it is like to have no one. I know one thing's for sure: being a product of the system has expanded my scope of what family means. It has also twisted and made more elusive the word we all know: love. You see, I became a foster kid at the age of eight, and was expected to not be a foster kid anymore at the age of 21. I lucked out though; so often, the stories of youth aging out of foster care end with them connectionless and transient. They have nobody to look after them. I asked someone the other day, "How do we as a system not check up on someone who lived in our care for any period of time, not to mention those who have grown up in foster care for the majority of their childhood?" We have to start recognizing that even though we fight hard to not be a foster child's parent, who else are they going to call? Who else has been there for them?
I lucked out, I found a forever home. The adults in my life came together. I found a foster parent who would fight for me, and most importantly, treat me like everybody else. The agency cheered me on and cherished my talents. It meant so much to me when they hung my artwork in their agency; I had never had that type of opportunity before. More than having accomplishments is having someone there to recognize them for you when you are blind to them. In some ways I still haven't learned to put faith in my accomplishments, and that is why I still need people who care for me. Even as a young adult, and a young professional, I need people to look out for me. Transient people get lost, and they fall hard. I don't want foster youth to become transient.
This Foster Care Awareness month, I am going to be bold and ask social workers and foster parents to put words like "unconditional," "love," and "forgiveness" back into their practice. What does it mean to really be there for our kids? What does it mean to really be there no matter what? How have you put into practice the words "unconditional," "love," and "forgiveness" in the last three months? I use these words because they describe true permanence, and are quite frankly what youth need to become adults.