Many youths have suffered at the hands of the foster care system in a variety of ways, but there is still hope. Practically, help will never be provided by the individuals we are told to trust because that isn’t reality. But, there’s always judges and attorneys that can help. Over time, there’ve been individuals with or without disabilities who’ve suffered so tremendously, leading to laws that are put in place to protect, elevate, and influence change. Unfortunately, these new measures aren’t easy to find when in need unless you’re looking in the right place.
First, I’d like to emphasize that being in foster care or being put up for adoption isn’t the worst alternative in the world. I know it sucks, and you’re probably crying your eyes right about now. But, as a former foster youth, I wouldn’t trade being an aged-out foster youth for the world due to the hardships one goes through as an adult. I’d say, personally, we have more advantages than most. To name a couple, attorneys for youth are provided to youth with a full history of your past and current trauma. Persons, whether it’s you or your child, benefit from a priority list, which comes in great urgency in the event that you live in a community with a high population rate. This means you are encouraged to know who your attorney is and how to find them at all times. Attorneys, by definition, are appointed to a person in order to fulfill their specific desires, if applicable in court. This decision can be a dire/fatal stepping stone to you or your child’s future. Not utilizing your attorney will and can pull you down a dark tunnel you may never escape, let alone instill trauma incapable of undoing.
In addition to knowing that your life truly isn’t over and that you have the best chance of success, you can establish a foster support system that ensures all your needs regarding disabilities are met. Next, you must reach out to your social worker and tell them your short-term and long-term desires. Yes, you can do this without telling strangers what you aren’t willing to share just yet. Simply, be precise and straightforward, and stick to what you require in order to accomplish your vision. Now, ask plenty of questions. Ask who your lawyer is and how you get in contact with them because every foster youth has one, whether they’ve been in trouble or not. This will likely be your family court lawyer who is responsible for ensuring your agency is providing you with everything they are supposed to under penalty of law. So, if your social worker isn’t complying with you or communicating fast enough, your lawyer will handle everything you need, from Social Security Income (SSI) to a clothing voucher, by representing you to the judge.
Finally, the judge has the final say regarding your SSI/other needs like individualized education programs (IEP), which may very well be necessary, shouldn’t ever be something to be ashamed of, and guarantees your success in the long term. The judge is in charge of many things like deciding whether or not the youth can have a voice by allowing youth to finally tell their truth in court. This allows the judge, attorney and parents to officially gain the truth in order to make the most just decision. This establishes a positive result as guardians often try to mute the child in order to sway the judge and obtain their chosen ruling regardless of whether or not they know their desire to be unfair. Judges are there to keep a watchful eye on the progress that the foster child’s case manager has made in terms of fulfilling their role. They will search for whether or not the case worker knows of the child’s distress and exactly what steps were taken to ensure a resolution. Also, the time frame of the events/goals have to be met by a certain time, or it will be proven that the youth has been neglected by the parents, new guardians, and foster care system at the hands of the social worker themselves.
Overall, seeking help from a higher system is always an option, especially if you have special needs. This does not mean you aren’t normal — there’s no such thing as normal! You are loved and protected. Losing trust is a part of life, but remembering to follow these steps is essential because there’s always a system that will help.