Our past shapes our future. It allows us to appreciate the blessings, joys, and pains that are before us now. I am writing this blog from one of the world’s most renowned institutions, The University of Chicago — School of Social Service Administration (SSA). I am currently a graduate student, pursuing my Atrium Magister (AM) in Social Work with an emphasis on Poverty and Inequality Public Policy. I love saying that because it is something that I never thought in the 22 years of my existence would be possible.
To understand where my confidence comes from, you first have to understand where I have come from. I entered the foster care system at the age of 12. Like many foster youth, I carried with me the hatred, hopelessness, and sadness that entering the system brings. Throughout the first two years in the system, I was placed in several group homes and residential treatment facilities. By the time I reached age 14, I had been in nearly 6 different placements. No placement, however, was better than the other. At each facility, the boys would bully me for being openly gay, and oftentimes, I would be the only openly gay male there. Due to the number of transitions, I was never able to reach my fullest potential mentally and emotionally. Despite the difficulties I had at my placements, I still carried a passion for pursuing my education. I excelled in my studies, and won the praise of my teachers. For me, my education was my safe haven away from the problems that existed in my life.
You would think that I no longer believed in hope because of my numerous placements, but fortunately I did. One day I attended a council meeting for foster youth, and I met a social worker named Mrs. Alice Westery. As she spoke, I remember having an overwhelming sensation of security and support. For this reason, I knew she was different from the other social workers I had encountered. From this point on, I developed a strong and vibrant relationship with Ms. Westery. To this day, Ms. Westery and I are extremely close, and she continues to be a strong aspect of my support system.
Eventually, I was finally placed in my first foster home. Although this foster placement did not work out, it at least provided a stable placement for me. In addition, it allowed me to understand the faults and imperfections that existed within myself. I was finally able to excel in the community and in school. When I moved to my second foster home, things would ultimately change for the better. I came to understand the meaning of a loving, caring, and supportive family.
With this newfound support, I enter and completed my undergraduate degree with a sense of confidence, support, and compassion. I was able to reach out and connect to wonderful people that helped my development, not only as a scholar, but also as an individual. By taking advantage of the resources and support systems available to me, I was able to enhance my quality of life, my academic assimilation, and my professional network.
To finish, I want to say boldly and proudly that I am a product of the foster care system. No, I am not homeless. No, I have never been in jail or prison. No, I do not have any kids. No, I am not mentally ill. So, let us just say, that I am not your “typically” foster youth; the type of foster youth society has been exposed to. I believe that is what makes me, and my fellow foster youth peers, so unique. We are all very different. No research study or newspaper article gives us a face. The only thing that we all share is a unique story.
I would like to end by saying something inspiring, or encouraging to other foster youth to achieve something magnificent, but that is too average. Instead, I want to end with one of many quotes that continue to drive me to achieve greatness –“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” Wilma Rudolph
Published on May 21, 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.