My name is Ryniqueka Dowell. I am 21 years old and I attend California State University, Sacramento. I am a part of the Guardian Scholars Program, which helps former foster youth financially, mentally, and physically. They are here to make sure we succeed.
I was put in foster care at age 14 and stayed for four years. This may not be long to those of you who have been in care all of your lives, but it felt long to me. On the day that I heard that my sister, cousins and I had to go into state care I was terrified and very sad to leave my family. The night before we left I barely got any rest because I was soaking my pillow with tears. We all lived together and the thought of splitting up was scary.
Within an hour of waiting at Child Protective Services (CPS), our new families were ready to take us in. I hated the feeling of leaving my biological family and not knowing when I would see them again, of not knowing how our new families would treat us. I am getting a little emotional just writing this letter, because saying goodbye to my family was one of the most challenging and heartbreaking things I ever had to do.
I’m going to be straight forward with you: I hated foster care. I was inside my shell for a very long time. I didn’t want to talk to anybody and I didn’t want anybody to say anything to me. Some of the social workers seemed like complete liars; they would tell me one thing and then it would turn out to be the total opposite. Sometimes I thought they were saying what I wanted to hear just to make me happy. I was placed in five different homes within these four years.
I wasn’t getting treated like the other kids were, especially in the places that also had biological children. I haven’t come across a person yet that actually treats foster children as if they were their own. I don’t believe that a mother is willing to do the same things for her own child and a child that is not biologically hers. To me it seems that, in the back of their minds, it is already set that they didn’t carry you for nine months so they didn’t experience that emotional and physical attachment.
My first foster care placement didn’t go too well. My foster mother claimed the system wasn’t giving her any money to take care of my sister and I, so we went without clothes and personal items for two months. Then I ran away because I was told I couldn’t visit my hometown anymore. I was gone for about a month before I was forced to go back to my foster care placement. That very next morning I was awakened by a policeman, escorted to the police car and taken to juvenile hall. I wasn’t there for long so I’m guessing it all was to just scare me into never running away again. That was one of my worst memories of foster care.
My best memory of foster care was when I was moved back to my hometown after three months of living with complete strangers. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to get the chance to see my family again. When they separated us I thought that I would never see them, and it had a hold on my heart. So when I did get the chance I was one of the happiest people on earth.
Foster care had a huge effect on my life. I was being bounced around from house to house and the people all seemed so nice in the beginning but once you got to know them they weren’t so sweet and loving. At this point in my life I didn’t have anybody to look up to. I just did whatever I thought was the best thing to do. It sucked not having a person to encourage me to keep going regardless of the obstacles. I made some bad decisions, we all do, but I didn’t do anything that would stick with me for the rest of my life, nor did I let my personal problems get in the way of achieving my goals.
All I want to say to all of you foster youth out there is to never give up, regardless of the situation, and keep in mind that there is always somebody out there that has a life way worse than yours. If you don’t have a good role model, be your own. Follow your heart and do what you think is best. Please do not give up. Take advantage of the educational benefits that are available to you–other colleges have Guardian Scholars or similar programs, so take advantage of this opportunity for help. A lot of people are expecting us to give up and not make it and this is our chance to prove all of them wrong. Keep your head up and keep striving.
Published on May 6, 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.