Youth Voice Writing Contest 2022 — Finalist, Essay
When I was eight years old, I entered foster care for the first time, along with my brother and sister, in 2007. The system kept me and my sister together, but split us apart from our brother. This was the first time I was separated from him and not able to see him every day. Also, I was separated from my mother. She was my rock and a loving and caring mother. Our family dynamic was devastatingly broken. This separation greatly affected my view of the foster care system. For starters, my siblings and I didn’t know we were going to be placed in the system. On the day it happened, we were with our mother at the Department of Social and Health Services office in Tacoma, Washington. We usually accompanied her everywhere she went, but little did we know that we were walking into a nightmare. Ever since that day, I’ve never been the same person and I’m still very broken by it.
Because the system split our family apart, the separation gave me a lot of abandonment issues. Raised predominantly by a single mother, I lost two and a half years that I needed with her. My siblings and I had weekly visits with our mother. But, every time we had to separate after visitation, it reinforced my trauma of not being with her everyday like I used to be. I had never felt so broken and abandoned in my life and it’s all because of the foster care system.
Growing up with social security assistance, food stamps, and state assistance, the last thing I needed was to be separated from my mother and my siblings. We were all we had and the system tore us apart for two and a half years. No weekly visit could ever reverse the pain and trauma of me being separated from my family on a daily basis. Being in the foster care system and separated from my family made me more insecure about myself. It gave me a deeper survival mentality that I already had, coming from a low income household. No child should ever be separated from their parents the way my siblings and I were. I will never get over the pain of losing my family. I have and will forever have emotional scars from that day. My family and I deserved to be treated better than we were by the system, especially as an African American family.
The policies for family reunification in the system are toxic and damaging. Every young person in the system deserves the choice of how often and how frequently they can see their parents. Also, siblings should never be split up while in the system. The way my family and I were treated was wrong and unforgivable. Seeing my mother work hard and struggle to get us back was traumatic because the system took away her rights as a parent. We couldn’t live with her until she did what the court told her to do to get us back. No single Black mother deserves to be treated the way my mother was treated by the system.
My separation from my mother was even more of a nightmare because my time with her was stolen. After my siblings and I were able to live with her again towards the end of 2009, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2011. How much worse can life get? My mother fought for her life for two and a half years and died of cancer in November 2013. My life has been a daily nightmare ever since. I have very deep emotional anguish and pain because of the lost time taken away by the separation and because I was, once again, wrongfully taken from my mother. Foster care was the catalyst in wrongfully taking me away from my mother. Cancer was the second and permanent time.
Due to these experiences, I struggle everyday with loving myself and feeling like I have to reaffirm myself in more ways that I’m a great person and a hard worker who is kind, caring, and loving. This was a role that my mother would have played in my life. She’s not here to love me and take care of me like a mother is supposed to. The child welfare system’s treatment towards my family and I made me more insecure and made me feel unloved. My family and I did not deserve to go through what we went through. My mother didn’t deserve to die. She’s supposed to be here. She’s supposed to see me.