Progress and success post-foster care isn’t linear. I’m still on the path to clean up the pieces from the trauma of the system. Life ebbs and flows, and I’m still working on that. Being out of foster care doesn’t mean you’ll have all your ducks in a row. I’m still working to flip my ducks face-up sometimes.
When I was in extended foster care, I was really upset with my placement, and felt very frustrated especially with my foster parents and the lack of communication. For a long time, I wondered if asking how much they received for my support each month was an OK question to ask. I felt like I was being taken care of at the bare minimum. I got a job to provide more for myself, but it only paid $9 an hour, which wasn’t that much at the time. I knew I wasn’t fully happy there, but I was afraid that I would be worse off in the unknown. I was trying to just survive and be happy in the situation while living off the money they thought was enough for me. The system told me this is what I should accept. This made me feel not important and disposable, or just like a dollar sign in their minds.
The more I started asking questions, the more foster parents got upset with me. I was 18 and getting $20/week from them to support myself. I couldn’t get extra money from them for clothes or transportation, and they wouldn’t pick me up from anywhere. Besides $20/week, they paid for food and my phone bill which was $20/month. My foster parents refused to teach me how to drive, even after I got my permit, and didn’t want me to practice driving in their cars. I missed out on all those milestones for navigating the adult world because they were not available or interested in supporting me.
Still, at 26, I’m trying to put pieces together and catch up to milestones. It’s not a race, but I feel stuck trying to navigate the adult world. I feel really let down and abused by the system. I’m still trying to put pieces together. It’s a learning curve, for sure, but it has gotten easier over time. I’m in a place where I can look back and reflect on my experiences. I now know that I did not deserve the care that I was given or the pushback every time I wanted to advocate for myself or ask questions.
Fosters deserve honest and caring answers to all of their questions. The dismissive response and empty answers I received made me feel like I did something wrong. I wish I had more support during those formative, transitional years — driving a car, learning to do taxes, and more — so that I can be a well-rounded adult now. I wish they would have cared for me to succeed in the future instead of just surviving on a day-to-day basis, and thinking about what I truly needed instead of just checking off that I was fed.
I think the thing I would want to change about or rewrite about my experience is that foster parents and the system need to listen when spoken to by foster youth. When Fosters are coming to you and saying things don’t make sense, just listening and engaging with plans can help. There’s a difference between when people listen and hear you. Are you able to accept what I’m saying so you can help? Don’t dismiss me when I tell you my ducks are drowning just because yours are in a row.