Being in the foster care system can be a very rough experience. I struggled with never being able to go to the same school, not being able to make friends or build relationships, and never having any kind of stability. I developed depression and severe social anxiety being around adults, my family members, and my other peers. It didn’t matter where I went. I never stopped feeling like I wasn’t wanted. I felt like I was the outsider looking in or like I didn’t belong.
I lived in a group home for a little bit after I went into foster care. Unfortunately, the first group home that I was in had to close down due to a lack of money to pay the staff. Despite the shutdown, I feel that group homes are a safer option than foster homes for teenagers. If something bad happens in the group home, the staff would be alerted straight away and can report anything to the appropriate authorities. If abuse happens in a foster home, the abuse could be covered up easily without the presence of staff supervision. When I told my foster mother that her grandson tried to fight me, she took his side instead of being neutral. She was even rude enough to tell me that it has happened in the past and that I should forget about it.
Sometimes, the problem with foster families is that they often make the assumption that because a child is in care, no one cares about that child. I do believe foster care can be a good thing for small children, but not for teenagers. When I was a young teenager in foster care, I got arrested by the police numerous times. I admit, this caused stress for my foster mother because she had to collect me from the police station. I also used to stay out late on the street and did not come home until the next morning. So, I am going to be fair because I know that being a foster parent can be a very stressful job, and finding a good home can be the luck of the draw.
However, in my experience, it is sometimes easier for there to be a misunderstanding between a foster parent and a teen than a misunderstanding between a foster parent and a child. In any kind of situation I had with a foster parent, group home staff, or law enforcement, the authority figure was always deemed right, and I was wrong. Due to this power dynamic, I feel that it is very easy for teens in the system like me to get caught up with the juvenile justice system.
Being in the foster care system and dealing with the juvenile justice system was hard for me. Most times, I hated it. But, if I could go back and change something, I wouldn’t because it helped me become strong. It helped me build passions. I hope to advocate for change in the system. If I didn’t face what I did, I wouldn’t have realized the change needed in the system. I believe that when there is a necessary change to be made, the best way to find the root of the problem is to experience it firsthand, and I have.
I will admit that my situation has not been 100% negative. There has definitely been a bright side to my story. I have recently found a wonderful and loving aunt that has begun to help me with all the new challenges that come along with becoming an adult. While living in foster care, I learned tolerance for other people. I also learned to adapt to big changes fast and well. The road has been long and difficult for me, but I can say that I am glad and grateful to have met people that have come into my life along the way.