Foster Kid Phoenix

Foster Care sucks & I survived.


after-care services need to be a priority!

I was lucky. I was born in, and made dependent of, a county that has a contract with a really, really good wraparound program for emancipated foster youth. For the past 5 years, I have received therapy from a very kind clinician, been supported in finding housing, and given access to respectful psychiatrists who listened to my concerns and were always happy to let me try coming off meds. I have a full team of adults who genuinely care for me and my future. It feels more like a family, not at all like the faceless case-shuffling I experienced in foster care. I have been able to heal so much from their support – there is still stress involving money, education, and my trauma, but having a stable support system has allowed me to grow and learn about myself and the world.

I know that not everyone gets this opportunity, and that’s a huge issue. Now, I have hopes and dreams and goals, whereas before, when I was exiting foster care, I didn’t think I was good enough to have dreams. I have friends that I’ve made myself, aided by years of weekly intensive therapy (by the same clinician who I trust) to overcome my attachment issues. Plainly, if I didn’t have aftercare, I’d likely be on the street, maybe pregnant or drug addicted or dead.

Why doesn’t everyone have access to these services? Why do so many of us go through hell, just to find more closed doors and strange faces? Before, we may have been locked behind closed doors, then we turn 18 and are locked out of them.

We need more compassion, for sure. But even from a purely economic position – if we’re afraid to fund aftercare services because our states and federal government can’t afford it, imagine how much more money is being drained by creating adults totally dependent on the system, relying on “handouts” and shelters to survive.

Not to mention, the cycle is likely to repeat itself – if a mother is unable to support herself and her child, they enter the child welfare system again. By failing to provide services to aging out foster youth, we’re creating new foster kids!

It makes sense to invest in our future economy by offering comprehensive services to TAY. But, shame all the same for putting a dollar sign on a human life. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Why would we take a child from their home, claiming to care about the child’s welfare, only to throw then back in the street as adults? Are we really that messed up as a society? Do we really care?

After care is a need, not a privilege. It should be a right.


Leave a comment

the little things: county cars

Those infamous county cars and vans.

If you’ve been in foster care, you know what I mean. They sent a T.O. to pick me up from school one day when I was at the receiving home*. I hid from the van because I didn’t want my classmates to see me.

Of course, I was considered “AWOL” for that, and none of the staff understood why I was so mortified to be seen in that monstrosity. Have you ever tried to explain to a group of middle school bullies why a freakin’ Ford Escort with a COUNTY SEAL picks you up from school every day? Good luck with that one.

When I was old and sent to the county’s Unwanted Kids Facility, I got to go on outings in a county van. We were riding around in STYLE! It was big, it was white, and it stopped at all railroad crossings.

Nobody wanted shotgun.

*receiving home = a county shelter for foster youth who are in between placements

Leave a comment

group homes, mental stupefication with a clipboard

Because I was all messed up in the head from having a broken family, I got to live in a group home! It’s like a perpetual sleepover with all of your best friends, only not really. Group homes are like a twisted combination between a psych ward, jail, and boot camp.

Everybody is young, angry, hurt, and bored out of their minds. We weren’t allowed to go outside unless it was part of the structured activity.

Because apparently cold routine is the best way to help kids without families heal from their trauma.

Just kidding, nobody else would take us, so they herd us together and try to keep us sedated and occupied.

Yes, group home life was full of structure. We are awoken to the lovely sounds of a power-tripping staff with a clipboard screaming “Lights on!” The clipboard, of course, is the cattle prod. Our entire lives are written out on a score sheet, and if we slip up, we loose points. If we don’t make enough points, our day is gonna suck hard. If you don’t jump right out of bed, you’ve already lost 3 points.

If you have an A.M. shower, make sure to ask staff for your hygiene products – the staff will squeeze out your shampoo rations in a dixie cup, because we all know you crazy kids are going to eat the shampoo if we don’t lock it up. Did you spend too long in the shower? Sorry kiddo, you lost your hygiene points for this morning. Don’t worry, there’s always tomorrow.

For breakfast, we’re having cold cereal and fruit cocktail. And your med cocktail, when the staff calls your name. You know the routine – tongue your cheek, stick out your tongue, and blow. We can’t have our children running around unmedicated now, can we?

You have 25 minutes for breakfast, and you have to eat all of it. No, you may not be excused, because we need to do our morning check-in. Tell your peers how you are feeling, with a word and a number between 1-10. “Harry, you’ve chosen 42 and discontent for the past week, and staff thinks that’s inappropriate.” (Harry walks away from the table and sits in his room. The lead staff smirks to nobody in particular, “He’s losing points as we speak.”)

Now it’s time for school! Today we’re reading the newspaper and writing an article on current events. Don’t worry, the expectations aren’t very high here. We join in a circle and share our regurgitated news items. It takes the rest of the period, because half of the class of six can’t read very well, which is no fault of their own. There’s no real curriculum, and the students range from 12-17, and nobody really cares as long as you’re not acting up, so you spend the rest of the period daydreaming and reading out of an old economics textbook.

Are you too bored to continue reading this? Don’t be shy to say so. I’m too bored to continue writing it, and I’m only halfway through the day. I lived through this day hundreds of times, over and over. Rinse and repeat.

The most exciting thing that happened, is one time, a girl jumped on the roof at midnight.

Sometimes, foster kids act up because we had really sad childhoods and have attachment issues from being shuffled around so damn much, and don’t know how to deal with crippling emotions.

Other times, we acted up because we felt hopeless and bored to death with our seemingly-endless jail sentence, AKA our lives. All I really wanted to do was run around in the sunshine, maybe go on a roller coaster or eat a hot dog on the beach. Some of us just wanted to hang out with our friends and be teenagers. Mess up without having a clipboard waved in your face. Go to the mall, see a crappy movie.

But we couldn’t. We were prisoners of the state, and until we turned 18, or “graduated” from this “program” (just to be placed in another  group home) this was our fate.

Our crime?  Having really sad childhoods and crippling emotions that we didn’t know how to deal with.

Leave a comment

We need more foster youth blogs! Here’s my humble contribution.

Happy National Foster Care month to anyone who cares! I’ve spent the past two nights staying up way too late and scouring Google for any sites voiced by real, authentic, nitty-gritty foster kids.

I got pages and pages of this…

google results.

did sleep train give me my christmas presents?

…and even the occasional inspirational news story about foster kids advocating for themselves, but had a really hard time finding something written for and by me and my folks — the people who actually went through foster care.

This is a problem. We’ve got our own culture of shared experiences and challenges, but how can we make sense of it all when we’re isolated from each other? I eventually found this amazing blog,  I Was A Foster Kid.  I’ve spent the last hour reading the articles that I could relate to, and I feel sort of relieved. I can’t really find the words to express how good it feels to read someone else’s words describing an experience that resonates with  the ones you’ve shouldered alone all these years.

Not only do I feel good, finally reading in print that somebody else has gone through what I’ve gone through — the little, but so big, things that affect the way I view myself and my world (like being surrounded by adults who you don’t know, shuttled around in ugly county-seal cars by random transportation officers, hoarding every little scrap of paper that you attach some meaning to, because you have nothing else) — but I am inspired to create more stories and share more of my experience.

Because it looks like we’ve all been through some ridiculous sh*t.

And we need to be able to own that.