Ever since I can remember, I have been involved in some way or another with the foster care system. I was placed in state care the day I was born. My biological mother, who became pregnant with me after being raped, was mentally unstable and suffered from a severe drug addiction. Because of her addiction I was born with a muscle defect and needed more than one year of physical therapy, otherwise I would have been permanently physically disabled. I lived with her on and off until around the age of two, and ultimately wouldn’t live with her again until I was 12.
Moving from group home to group home, and foster house to foster house, is what most of my early childhood looked like. I never felt like I was part of the loving, supporting family that I longed for. At just four-years-old I was repeatedly sexually abused by a foster sibling. Every time my parents would leave the house, it happened. It was an experience that I will never forget, occurring at a time in my life where all I should have been focusing on was playing with matchbox cars and eating little Debbie’s by the pool.
From there, I bounced between several more foster and group homes and wound up living back with my biological mother. The emotional and physical abuse became more frequent during this time period. She would come home drunk and exhibit violent behaviors. There were times that I was hit in the face until I was bleeding. She would hit me with lamps and ashtrays — anything she could pick up. One time she held a dish over me and smashed it above my head. My own mother made it very clear to me that if she could have aborted me, she would have.
On top of all of this, my education was suffering. I went to school up until 6th grade but at that point my mother pulled me out. She attempted to home school me, and she’d tell the social workers who came to my house that she was, but eventually she stopped. I missed over six years of schooling, and although I eventually worked hard to earn my GED and make up for lost time, I struggled. When I enrolled in college, I didn’t know things that I should’ve known, and professors weren’t equipped to deal with everything that I had missed.
By the time I was 16, I finally realized that running away was the better option and possibly my only chance at living a happy life. So away I went, off into the night on a bus. I was seeking help from anybody who would listen. During my time wandering the streets I met many folks who seemed helpful and full of love, but all they wanted was sexual pleasure for themselves and saw me as an easy target. Eventually, child welfare got involved again. They allowed me to be discharged to my mother against my wishes. When I saw her I was shocked. I froze. I wasn’t sure, should I turn around? Should I run? Should I scream? She told me things would get better but the neglect and abuse continued. I knew that I had to run again, so it was just a matter of waiting until I had the chance. One day, when my mother was going out to run an errand, I left.
I remember running as fast as I could with a suitcase. I was homeless for a short time again. On Valentine’s Day that year, my mother signed her rights away, saying she no longer wanted me. From then on until I aged out of state care I spent my days in group homes that were run by inexperienced caretakers and overseen by people who were only in it to make a quick dime. Life wasn’t much better. I was picked on and bullied in every placement. Slowly I realized that I was going to have to toughen up and portray myself as a mean kid who hated everyone just so that I would be left alone.
Eventually I was able to turn my life around, but not every young person is able to do the same. Life was hard and at times very dark, but it’s made me uniquely able to help and advocate for others. Today, I am a Youth Leadership Coordinator for the Parent Support Network of Rhode Island, and going into my second semester of college majoring in social work and law. In the future, I see myself excelling beyond measure and making a difference. If I fall down, I’m always ready to get back up. I’m proud to be an advocate for others in foster care who are going through similar struggles. Every child deserves the right to live a happy life and be loved unconditionally. Sometimes that’s all that they’re looking for.
Published on May 9, 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.