The Race of My Life: A Runaway Kid’s Story

David Daniel-largeUPDATEI am a former foster youth from Houston; I spent years in state care. My story is like many others, but with a little twist. I was born a “drug baby” and was placed into child protective services (CPS) immediately upon my arrival into this world. My parents were drug addicts, and my father abused me and my mother.

Rewind, right? I know you’re wondering how I was abused and witnessed my parents doing drugs if I was in foster care from birth. Well, when I was 5 years old I was returned home. My mother was drug-free, or so everyone thought. For years after, my father abused me and my mother neglected me. Sometimes I went days without bathing. I would miss school because of the bruises on my body. I was terrified of my father, and tired of being in crack houses with my mother.

At the age of 11, I ran away from home while going to check the mail. I went to the police department, but they assumed I was a troubled teen, so they sent me back home, where my father beat me. My saving grace didn’t come until the next day at school, when a caseworker pulled me out of class to investigate my abuse and neglect.

On December 7, 2000, I went back into foster care. I might as well have stayed at home. For the next few years I lived in a series of violent foster homes. In some my foster parents abused me. They took my clothing voucher for their biological kids, who were allowed to physically assault and belittle the foster kids. The ultimate manipulators, my last set of foster parents made me think that if I was ever to reveal what was going on, no one would believe me. I would just be labeled “troubled” and sent to a group home.

It’s kind of what happened.

When I complained, my journey from group home to group home began. I was treated like a “throwaway kid” – a burden and prisoner. There was no privacy. The staff were only there to collect a check. In one home, they would restrain us aggressively whenever they got mad and wanted to demonstrate their power. Once it was so bad that I went to the doctor with pulled ligaments in my back.

I developed this chip on my shoulder. I was overwhelmed by constant stereotyping, not seeing my family, psychological evaluations and heavy medication. I was angry – I didn’t ask to be in foster care and I surely didn’t choose this life I was given.
I ran away from that home; there were so many things wrong with it that I would not have survived if I had stayed.

At 15 I decided that if I wanted any chance at life, love and success, I would have to leave foster care. I went to live with my mom (my parents had divorced by then), but her welcome was anything but warm. My mother complained that she didn’t want me in her house. When we disagreed, she always wanted to put her hands on me to make a point. Yet when I moved out to go stay with a cousin, my mother made such a fuss that I went back home. And on my prom night my father came over, started drinking and tried to fight me.

For the next few years I bounced between family members’ homes until I left to attend college. I didn’t know that running away at 15 would keep me from receiving financial assistance. CPS said they wouldn’t help me because I was not in the system on my 18th birthday – never mind that I spent years in the system.

I’ve spent many nights sleepless and crying, and was suicidal for a few of them. But I pushed through. I applied for the Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund, which required me to write an essay about the obstacles I had overcome in my life. I had too many to choose from. That scholarship alone not only saved my life, but also changed my perspective on life.

Now, in 2015, I’m a graduate of Prairie View A&M University, where I earned my B.A. in Communications Studies. I’m currently pursuing a Masters in Counseling, and I’m the Communication Specialist for a non-profit organization. In my free time I advocate whole-heartedly for youth in foster care. I speak at agencies, churches, galas and to state workers, raising awareness about the system.

I’m not perfect. I’ve done many things that I’m not proud of, like drugs, skipping school and fighting. But I never stopped striving to be better. And I have learned that sometimes you have to heal yourself and forgive the unforgivable to reach your happiness. I can’t count the number of apologizes I didn’t receive. I can’t tell you how many times I was told I would never amount to anything and would end up like my parents. Fall, my brothers and sisters, but don’t you dare GIVE UP! You will see that life gets greater later.

Published on May 15, 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.