Power of One
Dear Zack in 2012 —
Yikes. The last two weeks have been terrible. Your mom died, your grandparents abandoned you and took your sister, and now you are going into foster care. You are alone, sad, mad, confused, infuriated, heartbroken, and feeling many other things. This day was terrible — one of the worst and there is nothing anyone could say to make it better. So how about a warning instead. The warning is: it might get worse. Foster care will be the hardest thing you will ever go through.
Let’s talk about how foster care works. Children’s Administration is the agency that runs foster care, and their job is to take care of you. This is done by putting you in a foster home, which is a home with a family which is not yours, yet you live in their house. The other option is a group home, which is a home run by staff and operated by an agency. When you are placed somewhere, you are expected to stay there and behave. But you will inevitably move around.
As you move around, which you will do a ton, almost everyone will write in your case file. This is basically a three-ring binder that contains everything about you in it, good and bad. Every foster parent, social worker, and group home staff you meet will add their own thoughts to it, and then those person’s words are now you. People will take those words as facts and judge you based on them. In foster care, your mistakes will never leave you alone. They will continue to impact your life for as long as it remains written in your file.
“Will not stop running away from placement and actively refuses to be placed in any group care setting.”
“Does not respect authority.”
“Defiant, displays traits of oppositional defiance disorder.”
These are actual quotes written in our case file from our time in foster care. These three quotes were each written by different people, and anyone who reads it will take these sentences as fact. These sentences tell the reader that we don’t listen and that we run away from our foster home. But they don’t actually tell you what happened or our side of the story.
“In foster care,
will never leave
Facing all these adversities, it becomes too easy to fall into a cycle. Run away, get picked up, rest up, repeat. This was my cycle, your cycle. This is pointless. The year I was stuck in this cycle, I saw things and was exposed to things that I never would have wanted to see or be a part of before I went into foster care. I felt lost, empty, and extremely unhappy. I don’t want this for you.
You will have two real chances to get out of this cycle. Your first two foster homes are great. The foster parents care about you and want to help you and help foster kids in general. They will provide what you need: a bed, food, school, clothes, the basics. But they also will provide you a place that feels like home, which is beyond rare in foster care.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, you got dealt a very bad and unfair hand in life, but you will overcome this. You have the power to shape your future. As your journey begins, I wish you luck and I hope you learn from my mistakes. One more thing: it does end. And it will get better. I can promise you that.
Zack in 2016