A Life Shaped by Foster Care

Rhiannon-LargeMy foster care experience began when I was 14 years old. For me foster care was foreign and scary and created a lot of complex emotions–many of which I still carry with me. I believe the experience has had a huge role in determining who I am today, both as a person and as a mother.

As someone who entered and exited care as a teenager I can tell you that the situation is not an easy one. I struggled with questions about who I was and the kind of person I wanted to be. When you are a teenager, you are bound to get in trouble. The difference between being in your own home and a foster home is that every mistake is magnified and analyzed by a whole team of people. One mistake can make people’s entire vision of you change.

I remember my experience as a time of growth which is funny to me now because at the time I felt like I was being held back. I was very independent and used to caring for myself. Suddenly I needed permission for everything I wanted to do and getting permission (since it had to go through social workers) often took so long I wasn’t allowed to do the thing I asked for. I thought I was ready to take care of myself and I didn’t want strangers intruding on my life.

I also remember my time as lonely. Yes, I always had sisters or brothers in these homes. but it was not the same, and I found myself constantly missing my own sister and brothers. I missed out on so much of their lives. I don’t think that would have been the case without foster care. Even though I was the one who turned my father in for drugs, I missed him and the rest of my birth family. I missed my friends.

But there is an upside to this. I got to meet a huge network of people that have been my support as an adult. And after aging out of foster care, I was reunited with a foster sister I grew very close to when I was adopted at 18, a situation that makes my story even more special to me. Through my adoption I have gained a lot more brothers and sisters. I might have felt I was lacking in people as a teenager but, now that I am a mother, through this network of people I met, my daughter has an enormous amount of individuals to spoil her and make her feel loved.

My advice to others in foster care would be to try to develop patience. It is a frustrating place to be in and there are a lot of rules that seem unfair and without reason. For example, not being allowed to watch television unsupervised or not being allowed in the fridge without permission. You live with people who have different beliefs, religions, tastes in food and music than you do. BUT you are a part of an incredible network of people who are going through similar situations. I would tell you to become aware of the other foster care alumni and to befriend them. Lastly, I’d tell you all to GO TO COLLEGE! There are so many scholarships and programs to help with this process, do your research and better your life.

My foster care experience was not easy and I resented a lot of the members of the homes I lived in. I felt like they didn’t know me and yet were judging me. I never felt accepted. Growing up though, and working to become a foster mother myself has made me realize that their job is hard too. Opening up your home and your heart to children you know you have to say goodbye to is not without stress and heartbreak and not all parents can deal with this the same way.

Looking back, I have had a lot of difficult moments in foster care and a lot of hardening was done to my heart. I struggle still to trust others and expect everyone to abandon me. Nevertheless, I have a lot of good memories too. Memories of sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, as well as extended family members that I might not have contact with but who have helped me to become the woman I am today.

Published on May 12, 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.