This year, Fostering Media Connections (FMC) launched its first-ever Youth Voice photo essay contest sponsored by Walter S. Johnson Foundation and invited current and former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 24 to submit a collection of three photos that speak to their foster care experience along with a short written narrative explaining ‘Their Foster Care Experience’ photography.
Throughout this week, we will share the winning entries. The winning essays also appear in the September/October issue of Fostering Families Today, FMC’s magazine for foster parents.
Today we are sharing the work of 3rd place contest winner, Qualyn Wilson. Check back all week to see the work of our other top finishers.
My foster care experience defines me. Out of experience, we grow. Being in care has challenged me in ways one could never imagine. I’ve been on the verge of suicide many times within the 12 years in care and even after. As one ages out, the past does not just disappear. It affects me forever. I always feel alone and like no one will ever fully understand me because no one goes through exactly the same thing.
I used this picture of trees as a symbol of individuality. No tree is exactly the same even if they are all the same. Likewise to all foster children. The way I handle things, act, believe and live is based upon all my experiences. The system both helped and hurt me. I was in so many homes, shelters and situations no child should have to go through. All of these various influences on my life, religion, morals and values has challenged me to raise myself.
I believe that things happen for a reason and there is a greater purpose for my pain. That is why I believe it was meant for me to find this quote during a mission trip of picking up after a Moore tornado. I have a path greater than my foster care experience. My last photo represents the light at the end of a storm and how beautiful the future can be.
Qualyn Wilson was in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services foster care system for 12 years.