I am a former foster youth and identify as Black and Latinx. A student with my background in college is not common, yet here I am, a fourth year student at the University of California, Riverside graduating this Winter 2022.
Growing up, I had a lot working against me. I wish I could say I had an easy childhood that shaped me into the woman I am becoming — but it was the opposite. Growing up in foster care, I never felt like I belonged or had a home. Being Black and Mexican, I was always told I would “never be Black enough” for this or “never Mexican enough” for that. Being the only biracial student in elementary and middle schools that were majority Asian and white was extremely difficult — to attend a school all day and not see yourself in other students or staff was isolating.
I never knew what to do with my hair, it being so curly. It was thick, frizzy and, in all honesty, untamable. I remember day after day how my hair commanded so much unwanted attention in comparison to the straight naturally styled look my peers had.
I loved learning and reading books; however, in this biracial skin, with my biracial hair, I dreaded going to school every day. I remember during my first day of school a girl asked me, “Why does your hair look like that?” How is a 7-year-old first grader supposed to respond to someone who has not met someone biracial like me?
I would get asked why I have brown skin while my grandmother and grandfather are light skinned — people would probe, question, and sometimes act entitled, asking me personal questions like, “Are you adopted?”
Being placed under my grandparents’ care was a blessing but also very confusing. It was extremely difficult being continuously picked on and having grandparents who didn’t understand what I was going through as a mixed-raced child. Due to the foster care system not providing them with the educational resources and support services needed to foster a biracial child, I started to view myself as ugly and weird, not having anyone who understood me in the world.
The foster care system failed at preparing this biracial kid for the world—a need that is overshadowed and ignored. Unfortunately for me, diversity and self-love weren’t something I learned about until later years in high school and college — a little too late.
Diversity should be addressed for younger foster youth, as well as foster parents. All foster youth are not the same. Each foster youth has their own unique identity, and if the foster care system provides resources to acknowledge that, foster youth will have a greater ability to succeed.
Fast forward to now: I am a 23-year-old college student, and I know that I am enough.