The Foster Care Effect

Rodney largeI’m Rodney Humphrey, a 25-year-old man. I spent 17 of my first 20 years in Child Protective Services. While in state care, I experienced my share of ups and downs – some worse than others. I had physically and verbally abusive foster parents. Sometimes my body was bruised by belt buckles. When I was just 6, I got whipped with switches from the rose garden – with the thorns still intact. I was moved about nine times. I lived in foster homes, shelters, group homes and a couple of hospitals. I felt unwanted and became a social outcast and an introvert.

When I was 12, my sister Serenity and I were separated. I remember that day, my foster mom packed all my things and dropped me off at a shelter. Serenity and I shared the longest hug goodbye. I didn’t trust anybody after that.

To make things worse, I was thrown into a residential group home with kids who were much older than me – everyone else was between 16 and 18. I was picked on, manipulated and at one point I was almost molested by an older child. I was laying in my bed and he came and held my face in the pillow. I was kicking and screaming, basically fighting for my manhood. From that point on, I started skipping school, stealing things, following the same unproductive path a lot of young men in foster care do. I was becoming a statistic. I was headed down a path of destruction and I didn’t even care. I figured no one cared about me, so why should I?

I continued to get into many fights, and was eventually sent to an alternative school. It was a scary place – there were metal detectors, police officers and K-9 dogs everywhere. I continued to do cruel acts like stealing from the teacher’s purse, picking on weaker children and being disrespectful to authoritative figures. That year I repeated the 6th grade due to my behavior.

One of the staff members at my group home happened to be married to my cousin Tina, whom I had never met. He introduced us, and Tina started taking me to church with her. When I was 13, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. After years of being forced to go to church and sleeping when I got there, I finally heard the truth. I was in the dark all those years and didn’t even realize it. Things didn’t change for me overnight. I was still unruly, but I was a work in progress. A couple years later, my best friend Isaiah Jones was gunned down due to street violence. It made me realize how short life is and how quickly it could be taken away. I didn’t want that for me.

My sister and I were reunited when I was 16. And at 17, I met the woman who changed my life forever. Her name was Gwendolyn Thomas – Ms. Gwen for short – but she became “Momma” to me. She was a single foster parent with a huge burden to carry. She had 11 foster children. To this day I still can’t see why she dealt with me. Maybe it was faith, maybe God predestined it.

Momma showed me all the love I was deprived of, so naturally I returned it. She cooked meals for us every night and encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be. She bought me clothes and shoes. I never really wanted for anything. When I acted a fool she told me to get it together. I wound up graduating from high school – something I thought I’d never do – and attended the University of Houston-Downtown. Now, I’m a hip hop recording artist going by the name “Pro-Found.” If you know the definition of profound then it’s fitting. I make conscious music and I tell my life story through it. It’s deeply inspiring and motivating.

What I would say to other kids going through foster care is “you’re not alone.” I’ve been where you are and I know what it’s like. Set small attainable goals for yourself, and you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. Success is more than just wishing, it’s a process. Sometimes we go through things in life to strengthen us. Believe me, I wouldn’t change anything I’ve been through or anything I’ve seen.

But I would change something about foster care. States should conduct more thorough investigations on the people they allow to foster children. Sometimes, people will give the illusion that everything is all fine and dandy, but behind closed doors they are the worst people to let care for kids.

As for me, my life wasn’t always pleasant, but it made me who I am. Now I can face the world, and say “I refuse to be another statistic, I won’t be anything less than great!” Keep God first, and there will be nothing you can’t do!

Published on May 21, 2015 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.