I was 2 years old when I went into foster care. My birth mother was homeless and had a mental disorder. She would abandon my sister, brother and me for days at a time. As a result I went into foster care and had six different homes–some very abusive, even worse than the one from which I was originally removed. We were placed in one home where the woman who was supposed to care for us would leave for work and lock us in the closet while she was gone all day. We also were abused in a family that eventually adopted us. To this day, I have a fear of the dark and don’t trust people.
My 7 years in state care were rough, but I was lucky enough to go through the experience with my sister. She was with me the whole time, and we were eventually adopted by a family that had already given my baby brother a forever family. Being able to stay with my sister throughout foster care helped me feel a little bit more secure. I knew that I at least had a part of my family with me, and that we were able to help each other.
I remember sitting in front of a judge when I was in fourth grade; I was there to tell him I wanted to be adopted. I was happy because I would be with my siblings, but I was also scared because of our adoptive parents’ son’s cruelty. I thought we would be harmed no matter where we went, and figured it was normal, so I never said anything. We kept quiet to stay together. He would abuse us prior to and several years following our adoption and, when we did speak up, was never prosecuted for it. To this day, our parents don’t believe their biological child did this and it has divided our family.
I’m now an adult, with kids of my own. I still carry around the feelings I harbored as a child. I have an overwhelming sense of worry sometimes, that people will find out how imperfect and different I am. I don’t know my parents or whether my birthday is actually my real birthday. I feel like a lost soul and question everyone and everything, even my ability to parent correctly. If they find out I have no idea who I really am or where I came from will they wonder how I have the ability to care for my own kids? Or how I know how to bond with them? I am in constant fear that I am not good enough, and that eventually the people I love will just leave me. After all, that’s what everyone did when I was a child.
I am also obsessed with taking pictures of my kids. I fear that I will forget what they look like, because I have no idea what I looked like as a baby. I always record every happy moment, because I fear it may all go away someday. I am sure this is due to my experience in foster care and changing homes so often.
But I have also learned by being in foster care. It has shaped me into a strong person and has taught me to see the positive in every situation. We are not the product of our past. We can be whoever we want to be. Even though I have been abused in the worst of ways, I am a good person.
Children need to know they are loved and they have a safe place to turn. I feel the foster care system needs to provide counseling and safe homes for all foster kids. The people who work for the system need training on victim and child psychology so they are well equipped to handle the kids. Also, those who are licensed to be foster parents need to be doing it for the right reasons, not just to get a paycheck out of it.
My advice to kids currently in foster care is know your past does not define you! If you have biological parents with mental illness, this does not mean you will have it. Just because you were abused does not mean you will become an abuser. You are capable of being a good parent. You are capable of knowing how to love and be loved–and you will find people who are good and who will love you back. Remember that you are not different, you are beautifully UNIQUE!
Published on May 21, 2016 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.