Finding Support and Encouragement in Foster Care

By Michaela Sanderson

Michaela-LargeAfter sitting down to write this, I begin to recall every memory I typically wish to forget. I began to think about my mom and dad’s frequent arguments, consisting of nothing but pure hatred for one another. I still remember the terrifying moments of watching my dad beating my mom. I was beyond angry with my father. Knowing him now, he isn’t usually a mean person, but my parents’ everyday drug abuse outweighed their love for anyone but themselves.

My mom struggled with mental health issues, always threatening to take her life when things got tough. She never stopped wishing she had provided better for her children, as we relied strictly on welfare. I went many years without running water. Recalling the inability to take a shower at home or not being able to wash my hands under a faucet are recent memories. There were times I went without food, heat in the winter, or days without even water to drink. Our houses were certainly not homes, but they were all that we had. Things were rough but I was forced to look at my life and consider it normal, I knew nothing else. I was a child and couldn’t change anything.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources was in my life for most of these years. Social workers would check on my family because of the constant moving from house to house and because I changed schools so often, as my mother kept running from my father. Eventually, I was removed from the home and taken away from my family. At the age of eight, soon before being placed back into my mother’s home, my older sister of sixteen passed away due to a rare disease. This difficult time was hard on everyone in my family and caused my mom’s mental illness to spark to its peak.

In the middle of the night, at the beginning of my sixth grade year, my mom once again threatened to take her own life. I thought this was another night like so many others, where I would sit for hours persuading her not to hurt herself. After many tears and a long talk, my mom pulled the trigger.

My mother was rushed to the hospital. After several nights under a doctor’s care, my mom walked out just fine. However, I was taken from our home for the last time. I was placed into foster care. My first home was called the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home.

After being there for about two years, I was placed into the home where I now reside. I was blessed beyond measure to be put in these two homes. Living in these unfamiliar environments, I have never felt unloved, unwanted, or uncared for, nor have I ever felt threatened in any shape or form. This was a major change in how I was treated and what was expected of me. I no longer had to face things alone. I was encouraged to advance in my schoolwork and become a college graduate.This reinforcement was certainly something I learned to deal with.

My life seemed to have reached some stability and I was doing well when I had to face one of my most difficult challenges yet. I had to cope with the unexpected death of my mother. She had a grand mal seizure in her sleep and it caused her to suffocate. I had always kept faith in her, to rise above all of her past. There were times when she was doing so well and I believed we would one day live as a family again, but God had bigger plans. Despite her passing, it is such a blessing to know that we will soon reunite in Heaven.

I have never stopped hurting from these experiences but, despite it all, I have overcome. I have a passion for helping people, which is why I have decided to major in social work at the prestigious university I now attend. I plan to earn my master’s degree in this field and change the world.

Being a child in foster care was nothing like I had once thought it would be. Movies tend to make foster care look like a terrifying place for children to be. My experience was nothing like that. I now have awesome supporters, a loving environment, and encouragement when I need it. Thanks to the foster care system, I have been given so many awesome opportunities. Things we never had money for when I was young, such as family trips and eating out, soon became an option for me.

Of course, foster care is not the ideal family. But I would love to tell future and current foster youth that anything is possible!! No matter your goals, big or small, they are nothing but achievable. There is no room for doubt, just believe.

Published on May 2, 2013 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.