Editor’s Note: When we were planning this special section on foster care, we knew we wanted to include perspectives from the people with the most to gain or to lose in the system – foster kids themselves. We reached out to foster children in the KidsPeace network, asking them to answer three questions about their experience in foster care. Those who submitted answers had the option to either remain anonymous or identify themselves by first name and age.
Here’s a sampling of the responses we received; we at Healing Magazine thank the children and young adults who participated.
– Bob Martin, Executive Editor
Question #1: What is something about being in foster care that you think most people don’t understand?
Something that people don’t understand about foster care is that it’s not a punishment for the kids. This mostly applies to the students in elementary, middle, and high school. The stigma of kids in foster care is that you’re a troubled child and should be avoided if possible. I hated that – always having to defend myself for being put into a position I didn’t ask to be in. It got to the point that I “played” the stigma and made kids think I was troubled because I was tired of explaining myself once again.
– Chris, 22
- The difference between adopted and foster care
- That you are no different than any other child
– Keiniyah, 13
Foster care isn’t so bad; most time people say the parents suck, but they actually are very nice.
Children in the foster care system are often viewed as being “problem children”. This stereotype is due to the fact that most people automatically assume this when they hear “foster” in front of child. But that is not true. Although children in the system do struggle with the fundamentals of being a part of a family, what people fail to recognize is that these kids have had their own families taken from them.
For all the people reading this I just have one question I would like you to consider: how would you feel if you were labeled something based off what has happened to you in your past?
– Karrie, 17
Just because we are in foster care doesn’t mean we are weird or different. We are just not in the same situation as them.
– Spenser, 16
It’s a very difficult situation that most people don’t understand. But it can make you or it can break you in the long run – it’s all about how you choose to look at it.
Question #2: If you could talk to your younger self as they entered foster care, what advice would you give that person?
This question is a tough one. When I look back now on the 11 years I was in foster care I have to admit there were many times where I just lost it. I would cry and scream and fight everyone trying to help me. So if I could go back and tell my past self something it would definitely be this: “Let all those trying to help you do just that. I know it seems like they are the bad guys but they aren’t. They are looking out for you.” I had a lot of built-up anger that I took out on everyone but the people I was truly angry at. Looking back now I regret how I treated the people who were there for me and wish I could have realized this then. (Karrie)
“Don’t worry – life will get better. Also, you aren’t alone.” (Spenser)
“Stuff will get better – there’s hope. Eventually you will figure out your way.” (Anonymous)
I think the thing I would try to embed in my brain is that these people are only here to help. Although it seems like a horrible thing, it isn’t. Chances are it’s the best thing that might ever happen to you. Take advantage of every opportunity given and be thankful along the way. I never knew the potential I had until I was gone and it was too late. These people want to see you succeed, not fail. (Chris)
I would tell him to look at the long-term situation and not just be short-sighted. When you’re young, everything seems to move in slow motion and nothing happens fast enough, but it definitely does get better. (Anonymous)
“Remind yourself: it’s only temporary.” (Keiniyah)
Question #3: Based on your experience, what changes would you recommend for the foster care system in the next 10 years?
Well, my personal experiences with foster care led me to believe that the only thing that could help evolve foster care in the next decade is putting foster parents through more extensive training. Not all foster parents are put in a position where they can fully understand the kid and how to help them.
For example, my foster parents were old enough to be my grandparents and I took advantage of it. I’m not going to say I was horrible, but I could have been a lot easier to handle had they been prepared for someone like me. I think they had been trained well and they were amazing people; I just wish they could relate to some of the things I’d talk about more. You give parents more books on how to help kids, foster care would evolve in front of your eyes.
Kids need help, not just a place to lay their heads at night. (Chris)
I feel like there should be more communication between foster parents and the whole team about the kid’s long-term goals. No one person should make all the decisions when it comes to the kid’s future or other important factors that impact his life. (Anonymous)
As for change, I strongly am against the 30-day rule. This is the deal that if a child is placed in a home and the foster parents choose not to foster that child anymore, whether it be for behavioral reasons or that they have struggles within the home, they can give a 30 day notice – meaning that the workers have 30 days to find the child a new home. This rule is an easy out for the parents but what people don’t consider is how it negatively affects the children. The system puts kids in various support groups and therapies to help the children with handling their emotions but yet this just adds to it. Many cases of this happens solely because the child has emotional and behavioral problems but not very often is it because they are actually a danger. I understand that the parents are the ones going out of their way to take care of these children, but when they sign up they are informed and trained on how to handle situations. As soon as the parent mentions it, that’s it – there’s not much intervention. I just don’t think this is fair to the children and would like to see a more positive way to handle this for the children’s sake. (Karrie)
(Help make) more normal lives for foster kids that don’t already live a somewhat normal life. (Spenser)
A Concluding Thought from Karrie: I want to remind everyone involved in the foster care system – workers, parents, and children – that whether change happens or things stay the same, there is always a chance to thrive and have a happy ending; I’m proof of this. And to all the children in the system right now: you will get your “happily-ever-after” too, but for now just keep enduring; after all, we are called “survivors” for a reason.