A Rough Road to Success

Michael-LargeI went into foster care in my early teens. I remember it like it was yesterday. The long ride to an unknown house I would live in. With a family I had never met. Not knowing what to expect…How would I be treated? Where would I sleep? Would I have my own room? What kind of food would I eat? Were other kids there? ….Those questions and many more swirled around in my head the whole ride. I was very nervous with anticipation. The cold January ride from Philadelphia to central PA was only 2 hours, but seemed like it was taking forever.

I had just spent a couple of months in a juvenile detention center waiting to see what the courts would do with me. I was the youngest kid in the center at the time. I was so naïve. The other kids all seemed so street smart. I heard lots of crazy stories about bad home life, group homes, crimes they committed and more. It made the experience so surreal. I was just a shy little kid from the suburbs.

The day I was taken from my mom’s house is very clear in my mind. My dad was absent from my life. I had just spent a year with a physically abusive uncle. At the end of the school year, I was sent back to live with my mom. After only 3 months back with my mom and sister, I was removed from the house. They came and took me to the police department. Later that day I was dropped off at the juvenile detention center.

I was placed with a Methodist minister and his wife. They already had another foster boy the same age. There had been others before me. The remaining time it was just the two of us with an occasional day visit from residents of a local Methodist home for children until the day I aged out. I was treated like I was one of their own. My foster parents could not have kids of their own for medical reasons unknown to me. I had heard stories from other kids in the system about various forms of abuse, neglect and being moved from home to home. I did not experience that. The home I was placed in was where I lived until I aged out. It was the longest I lived anywhere in one place until where I am today. I guessed I had hit the foster care lottery. It was the first time I experienced a stable home in my life.

My only wish is that there was a program in place while I was in the system that would have helped me build confidence and guide me in a better direction in life. A program to help kids learn to be healthy, productive and grow in a positive direction. When I aged out, I moved out and found myself living on the street. After a few months I moved up to couch surfing for another year before getting on my own feet and getting a place of my own to live. I spent the next six years being my own worst enemy angry at the world for my problems. An affliction I have termed A-holitis. Maybe a good mentor program would have changed that? I don’t know. It sure couldn’t have hurt. Just cutting kids loose who age out, with no support line, is awful. I have learned that a failure to plan is nothing more than a plan to fail.

I am now a successful self employed business owner. I have a great wife and three great step sons and a home of my own. My foster parents are still in my life, lovingly supporting me today. I feel the foster care system gave me a safe haven to grow up in but did not give me the tools I needed at the time to succeed in my life and move on in a more positive direction. I had to struggle and learn them on my own through trial and error. I will be dealing with much of it for the rest of my life. I imagine some never get over the trauma of their youth. I was one of the lucky ones. And luck should have nothing to do with it!

Published on May 4, 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.