Wow, it's only May 3, and I feel so great about this month!! All of the support on this and other foster care blogs/websites has made me feel so humble and thankful. Again, thank you guys. Before I answer today's challenge I wanted to show you all this amazing article about a new program that helps foster teens graduate college. It's really amazing to actually see people step up and help the group of youth that get neglected right in our own home towns. One of my favorite bits of the article states:
"In an interview earlier this week, Dunn said it would have been easier to hold more meetings, ponder some more or simply do nothing. Sometimes, though, you just have to act. ."Everyone talks about the system being broken, but the problem is not with the system. ... We are the system. ... It's really up to us," he said."A bit more info on our scary statistics:
• 1 in 5 or more will become homeless after age 18.
• Fewer than 3 in 5 will graduate high school by age 19.
• 7 of 10 women will be pregnant by their 21st birthday.
• Just half will be employed at 24.
• Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by 25.
• 1 in 4 will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care.
I was homeless for awhile after turning 18. Luckily I got a year or so of college under my belt and and am, at last, going back at age 24. I know I am fortunate, trust me, I dwell on it every day. There are many who aren't so lucky. It's a tough world out there. Which brings me to Day 3's Challenge:
Your Worst Foster Parents.
You may be wondering "Why dwell on things like that?" Well, I'm not 'dwelling.' This challenge was written as a means to uncover my own past and experiences with foster care. And most of it was a train wreck, nightmare, et cetera. This is the kind of stuff I willingly tell other people about, because I want to share the deplorable state of condition supposed "caretakers" will leave their foster children and teens in. You may think, after reading this, "that's not the case most of the time" ....well, in Tennessee, it is. I've been through the system for years. I saw every side of the state and the "best" as well as the "worst" homes.
Again, it's not pretty. It does nothing for a teenager's self esteem to be told she's going somewhere "safe" and then get dumped off somewhere straight out of Deliverance. I thought long and hard about how I would write this post, and decided that instead of get into gritty who and what details I'd just list some of the things that happened in my foster homes. This might help explain to people who simply can't understand my mistrust of foster parents, why I avoid them like the plague.
Among other things, I lived through:
-Sleeping on urine-stained beds that hadn't been washed or dried
-Cleaning up younger children's feces from the other beds (children who were never potty trained)
-A deep infestation of head lice that lasted over a year and left my scalp full of open sores for years after
-Being pulled from a seat by the hair of my head and punched in the face by a foster parent
-Having my personal belongings (music CD's, sketchbooks) stolen and thrown away by foster parents
-Being forced to wear lingerie and subjected to sexual "massages" from a foster parent
-Eating moldy, maggot, or cockroach infested food for lack of anything else to eat
-Having my clothing stolen by foster sisters (clothing I bought with waitressing money)
-A letter to the judge from a foster parent which stated they were afraid I would murder them
-Being forced to call foster parents "mom" and "dad" even when I expressly declined the will to do so
-Being forced to participate in church activities and pray publicly again when I declined the will to do so
-Living in a former drug house, where ex-inhabitants would sometimes break in to have sex with other girls
-Being called fat, as well as having my mental health criticized condescendingly by multiple foster parents
I could go on, but I won't. These are the important things, anyway. The ones that have stuck with me and cause me to mentally tune out anyone and everyone after they say the words "foster parent." There's a shortage of foster parents in Tennessee, but this is not acceptable. I know at least two--possibly more--of my previous foster homes were shut down and the parents had their licenses revoked due to unsanitary conditions and foster child abuse. Not only did I have to deal with this multiple times, but each set of parents decreed that 1) this was my home now, and would be, because they would never get rid of me, and 2) they would look into adopting me.
A Word on Adoption (Okay, A Rant)
A Word on Adoption (Okay, A Rant)
To all adoptive parents: that's great. I hope you bring joy to whatever life you touch. That's fine. There are a lot of children and even a lot of teenagers who want to be adopted. But you need to understand that adoption is not a magical cure that will give a child a second opportunity at life. Children in foster care (usually) remember their own parents. They already have an idea of what family is. You can't take that away from them or erase it. You are not going to solve their already deep mental issues. You can be supportive without pushing for adoption, if the child or teen doesn't want it. At 15, I only had three years until I was out of the "system" forever.
With one fucked-up family breathing down my neck already, I had no intention of getting another that I would never talk to or want to look to for support. I had no desire to be anyone's salvation or hobby life-improvement. Despite this, women still begged and sometimes forced me to call them Mom. Several sets of parents looked into adoption. Luckily, I think after a certain age the foster child has to consent as well. I never trusted anyone enough to consider them adoptive parents. And what would be the point anyway? I already learned that parents is a code word for misery and disaster. To think anything otherwise is fool's logic, and I was a lot of things as a teenager, but never a fool.
My point with this rant is that if you want to adopt and kids really want to be adopted, go for it, reach the sky, whatever. If the kid is having trouble accepting two families, if they are confused as far as their own family, or if they're like me and tell you to go take your family and shove it up your goddamn ass, consider that you don't need to strip a child of their rights, last name, and identity just to care for them. Had anyone actually done that and stuck with me through the ups and downs instead of just sending me to the next place, I might not be such a bitch about adoption.
Whew! Boy it felt good to write that. Best thing I've written so far. I've been meaning to say that for years. Well, now it's time to go pack for my blogging retreat!!! I'd love to hear your thoughts/experiences in foster homes, or your thoughts/experiences on adoption (just don't try to win me over! You'll FAIL. But I love knowing that there are decent parental figures in the world, so don't be shy.)