Growing up I did not have what you would call an ideal childhood. My mother was on drugs from the time I was a baby and she was not in her right mind to take care of herself, let alone a child. I felt like my mother did not want me when she left me with anyone who would take care of me, usually a family member.
One day, when I was 10 years old, my family could not care for me anymore, so they called the Department of Social Services, and I was placed in foster care. I stayed there until I aged out at 19.
Life in foster care was very hard. I felt like the world was against me. I asked myself, “Why did this have to happen to me?” I would beat myself up and say that it was my fault I had to be there. I was separated from my brother and moved seven times. It was challenging because I never knew what new foster parents would think of me. I was living with strangers, and some of them acted like they cared when they did not. Some just saw me as a paycheck. There was no love.
One of my worst memories was coming out as a lesbian to my foster mom. I have been attracted to women since I was 11, but growing up, I was in denial about my sexuality because I felt like my peers would judge me. When I was 17 I had my first relationship with a woman, and my foster mom at that time talked bad about me to her own family because of my preference. When I was a high school senior she said, “I am not going to pay for a gay prom.” I took a job at a pizza place, so I could save up and buy my own prom dress.
I had another foster mother who told me I would not amount to anything. I wanted to prove her wrong, so I set out to do well in school. That was the best revenge I could have. I also did not want to end up like my mother. I knew that I had to do something better for myself and that I was destined for something bigger.
I graduated from high school, and went onto college. It wasn’t easy. Transitioning into adulthood from foster care was tough. I felt like I was left on my own. But I am making it. I have a full-time job and I am going to be the first generation in my family to graduate from college. That is a big accomplishment for me.
I also joined California Youth Connection (CYC). We advocate for current and former foster youth, working to make a better future for them. My hope is that when it comes time for other foster youth to attend college, they will not have the same struggles and worries I did. Since I have the opportunity to make a change for the better, I will. It is all about empowerment.
I believe that in order for foster care to be a better place, social workers should not have heavy caseloads, and should do surprise visits. Foster parents should be evaluated quarterly, and children should be able to visit their siblings. Youth should also be informed of all of their rights. People need to know that foster youth need love and care just like other children. We may need a little more guidance, but we are still human.
To the youth who are in care now, I would tell them to continue your education. It will take you far in life. No matter what, life will have its ups and downs, but it is about the way you deal with those encounters that make you the person you are. Believe me, life does come back around. Hang in there. You are going to love the person you become. The sky is not the limit – go past that. Always have an open mind and be open to experiencing new things. In the end everything you have gone through will make you that much stronger.
When I was younger, I always wondered why my mother acted like she didn’t want me. But as I got older, I came to realize that it was not that she did not want to be there for me – she just could not. She was an addict, and incapable of being the mother I needed. Once I understood this, I took responsibility for myself and my future, and it has made a big difference in my life.
Published on May 24, 2014 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.