A Foster Youth’s Journey to Discover What Love Is

Growing up in foster care, Gloria Lopez always struggled to understand love, but now as a parent herself, she knows firsthand. Photo courtesy of Gloria Lopez

Love is a selfless thing. It’s affection given by someone who doesn’t desire anything in return. Love is said to be given by family but sometimes family are not by blood, but instead whom you chose.

When I first came into foster care I was 12 years of age. Despite my fear of anyone finding out what happened to me it all came out. I thought my family would be there for me and show the reaction I desperately needed.

Wrong. My family turned their back on me when I most needed them. I always wonder “how can they believe him over their own blood?” “How can a mother put a man before her own child who she birthed?” All these questions spinning in my head feeling all the pain of the rejection and remembering how my mother ripped my necklace from my neck. It was a special necklace that she gave me when I was younger.

But I didn’t tell my mom what was happening to me. I never told my mom because of fear, fear of many things — fear of my mom not being happy, fear of losing my family, fear of not knowing. Ironically that’s what you get in foster care. When I went to my first foster home I was really scared. I remember falling into depression, not wanting to do anything and crying all the time. I was in four foster homes that were not the best.

I will never forget the best foster home I’ve had. My eighth grade counselor Mrs. More was such a kind, wonderful soul. She treated me so nice and made sure that all the things CPS did for me were for me and were spent on me and my needs. She was there for my son’s birth, my high school graduation, and many more important events in my life. She also adopted a son whom she loves and cares so much for. I can’t forget how she always cared so much and did so much for me when I couldn’t give anything in return more than my gratitude.

Later, I got approved to live with my best friend Esperanza. We were so excited because we are more than friends — sisters. Her family opened their home to me. Her mom, Melinda, who I call “mom” was always there for me and she loves me like her own. We were so close before me being in CPS. Every day I saw how hard she worked for us all by herself. She dressed, fed, took us out to eat, took us to the movies and the park — all these things and yet she was a mother of six plus me. She always told her kids she loved them and it wasn’t just words, it was her actions. Never did anyone help her pay for our bills and she never received anything from CPS to help. I’ve never met anyone like her; she pushed me to want to do well in life. She was a young mom and worked hard but was able to talk to us and understand us and how we felt.

Melinda was there when everything happened to me and CPS got involved. She was the only one around me who believed me and she was there supporting and loving me, something my own family didn’t do at the time.

I was with her only for a year because I became pregnant at age 14 and I was scared. I didn’t want to burden her with another person to care for.

Today I have love and a whole lot of support. Despite all the negativity I graduated, I have a job and I’m a first generation college student. But most importantly I’m the mother of a wonderful kid who gives me strength and motivation to do it all.

Thanks to all those people who showed me love and did not expect in return anything at all. I know love and I know compassion and I’ll work hard to make sure I teach my son well. I’m proud that I can say I graduated with a child, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished while being a young mom. I kept going and because people doubted me I proved them wrong. Despite everything that has happened to me since I was young, I do not have anger. Despite being hurt in many ways by people I loved, I can say I am a better person.

Gloria Lopez was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. She is 19 years old and has a 3-year-old son. Lopez’s favorite hobby is doing make up and she hopes to one day become a cosmetologist.

This essay was submitted as part of Fostering Media Connection’s 2018 Youth Voice Writing Contest. This year’s contest theme was “Love Is.”

If you are interested in reading more news, guidance, and information around developmental trauma, read our annual special issue “Healing Matters: A National Resource on Developmental Trauma” by clicking here

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