Foster Kid Phoenix

Foster Care sucks & I survived.

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I wish I had the energy to write on this blog more, but it’s pretty emotionally taxing coming up with articles.

I still really want to help create more foster-generated content, so I created a tumblr! I thought it would be a good move, since there are a lot of users on tumblr, and since tumblr has a painless submissions system.

Here’s the descriptive blurb:

This is a new blog created for those of us who have spent time in “the system”. I created it because it seems that most of the content in the tags related to foster care are created by foster parents, or fans of foster the people (…they call themselves ‘foster kids’…!!?!?!?!)

What’s missing? Our voice.

I am hoping this blog will be well-received. Tumblr has allowed a safe place to exist for many groups of people with unique circumstances, including a thriving community of survivors from many walks of life..

It’s about time we carve out a space for ourselves.

Although this blog is titled Foster Care Survivor, I acknowledge the connections between foster care, kinship care, out-of-home placements, “troubled teen” placements, and the juvenile justice system – if you were in one of these systems, you are welcome here.

This blog will be accepting asks & submissions of your stories, your links, your thoughts, your creations. This will be a safe space where it’s all about you. 

I will also accept questions from those who have not been in foster care, and whenever those questions are received, they will be open for dialogue. Although there (currently) is one person running this blog, I truly do want this to be for all of us.

Please check it out, and even better, please submit! [*submissions can remain anonymous if the poster so desires*]

I don’t know what the future of this blog is.. Maybe I’ll write on it again, maybe I won’t. The good news is, it’s here when I need it.

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we’re not throwaway kids

they threw me into the world naked and I’m still learning how to deal

they take you from your broken home and break you down
kill your spirits and throw you to the wolves
left for dead,
crawling and crying and damn near dying
dead inside, lifeless eyes
but somehow we learn to walk
slowly on wobbly unsure limbs
we seek warmth but are too cold
wary and untrusting
we survive against the odds
and learn how to love

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the brighter side of foster care (&personal updates)

Hello, hello! Wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post on here. I don’t suppose that’s a terrible thing, though. I had a particularly busy and fascinating Winter Quarter (straight A’s again, high five!) and have been involved with several projects. I’ve been making art, crafting, reading and spending time with friends. I’ve also been planning a very big, exciting and intense change with my partner – we’re moving! He is going to a university, and I am itching to set my feet down on some new soil.

This is so exciting, because I am living in the same metro area that I was born, same area my mother was born, same county my case was first opened at.. the same county I emancipated in and began my adult journey in.

But, it’s time. I am ready for this change. I think back to all the times I was moved to unfamiliar locales by a social worker. Then, as a young adult, all the times I ached to get away from my hometown but wasn’t ready to leave the life I had painstakingly built for myself. It is now time, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself and those who helped me get to this point.

Reflecting on my life so far,  I can’t help but feel fortunate. Even though I have had my share of darkness and despair, things have seemed to turn out for the better. I have written a fair bit on the painful side of growing up in foster care – now, for a change of pace, here are some reasons I am grateful for this experience.

starbul2I don’t know where I would be if I wasn’t taken out of my home. I don’t know if I would be alive right now. I also don’t know who I would be. My experiences have shaped me, and for better or for worse, I love who I am today.

STARBUL1I have met so many amazing and inspiring people. This obviously includes the tribe of former fosters that I consider my family, but also the allies who wore their hearts on their sleeves, the staff who trusted me, the social workers who believe in me.

starbul2I can go to school! I know several people who have not been in foster care, who can not afford to go to school. Some of these people even have families who are doing well enough to stay off the streets, but can not pay for their children’s education. I strongly believe that education is a right and that every single person on this planet should be able to receive an affordable education, but sadly that is not how this country is run. I am so grateful for my ability to attend classes and I know that being in foster care made this possible.

STARBUL1Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I have health care until I’m 26! Even if I was never in foster care, certain illnesses run in my family. And since I was in foster care, I have that PTSD beast to take care of. I am fortunate to live in a state that took the Medicaid extension. Health care is another basic human right that sadly, not everybody gets to enjoy. Thanks to my status as a former foster youth, I have access to health care.

starbul2The most important value to me is my ability to empathize/sympathize with people. I have a strong emotional connection with the suffering of others, probably because I have known suffering myself. And I am certainly aware that there are so many who suffered worse than me, and those who continue to. This drives my actions. I aim to be someone who others can find comfort in, and strive to help make the world a kinder place, however I can.

This is an inconclusive list, but it is good to keep in mind. As my dear friend pointed out this weekend, “You never realize how much foster care affects your live until you’re in your 20’s, trying to make it on your own.” This experience, I feel, never totally leaves us. We probably will never heal completely. But I want to remember that anything can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you view it.


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another blogger’s perspective on THE FOSTERS (possible but unlikely spoiler alert??)

When the ABC Family show The Fosters first came out, it seemed everyone was talking about it. Inter-racial same sex relationships with adopted kids AND foster kids! And one of the moms is a cop?! Such a striking comparison to what we currently see on television.  Finally, some diversity that matches what the REAL WORLD LOOKS LIKE. And, of course, as a former foster youth I’m always interested in seeing us represented on TV. Not only do I want to relate to a character for a change, but it will obviously provide the populous with a view into our reality.

For this same reason, I was a bit wary. What if The Fosters  perpetuates negative stereotypes? Foster youth don’t need any more bad press. On the other hand, it could provide some real insight into what life is like for us. With these concerns in mind, I watched the pilot episode a few months ago. I was initially turned off. It seemed unrealistic. Look at these angelic foster parents, they are so good and so selfless. Look at this miserable stray child, she is so dark and negative. Who goes to school on a BEACH? (And, to be fair, I was triggered by the “real kid” – “temp kid” relationships!) I didn’t give the show a fair chance. 

A friend of mine, another foster alumna/advocate, urged me to watch the show again. She reminded me that I didn’t watch enough of the show to get a good sense of what was really going on. So when I got home tonight, I decided to pull it up on Netflix and watch. I’m glad I did, because I have a new opinion on the show.

It’s incredible.

I was talking to my boyfriend after finishing the fourth episode, and we realized that the dynamic between the moms and their clan seemed too good to be true, because we didn’t have parents who treated us lovingly or gave us the time of day. But this is what good parenting looks like, and it’s nice to be able to see an example of it. The characters are in no way perfect – they face problems that real people go through. But they don’t expect each other to be perfect, and they love unconditionally. I’m certainly learning some important life tips for when I one day become a foster parent myself.

I’m also impressed by the portrayal of siblings in foster care – it’s something we’ve been talking about a lot in CYC. (And, as of today’s Advisory Board meeting, the topic of our recommendation for the Day At The Capitol conference!) I never had siblings who were in foster care, but I do have sisters and a brother who I love dearly, so I can certainly sympathize. In the pilot episode, Callie gets out of juvie and has one mission – to see “Jude”, who I thought would be a skeezy boyfriend but turned out to be her brother. She risked her life (and the life of her foster brother – oops.) to make sure that her little brother, who was staying in an abusive foster home while she was locked away, was okay. In a perfect world, no siblings should be separated from each other, under any circumstances – and in a even more perfect world, no sister should have to go to juvenile hall for protecting her little brother. Sadly, this world is not yet perfect, and it’s important people are aware of what really goes on in the system.

Another thing I’m grateful for is that the writers of this show are not blind to the harsh treatment that fosters can receive from “normal” kids who don’t understand what they’ve gone through. It’s frustrating to see the way the other students at the fancy-pants charter school treat Callie, based on their stupid presumptions. But it’s real. It happens, and it sucks. Hopefully some people are watching this and realizing it’s hard to be the Callies and Judes of the world, and that they deserve kindness and respect.

I’m excited to watch more! I’m curious to see what other hidden facets of the foster care system (and foster parenting, which I know very little about) are uncovered. And — who is this Liam character?

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what is foster care & why is it an issue?

Hey folks, it’s been a while since I’ve posted! Eep! I haven’t forgotten about this blog, I’ve just been busy with school and life and emotions.

I’m still deciding if I should create a posting schedule or not, but in the mean time, please know that this blog will never be abandoned, even if there haven’t been recent posts for a while. If you want to stay in the loop with my erratic posting schedule, please follow my blog! (If you already are, thank you so so much! I never expected to have a single reader, so I appreciate all of you and your lovely comments!)

Anywhoo, tonight I’ll be sharing an essay that I wrote for my Health Science class last Spring. I put a lot of work into it, so I decided to recycle it for an audience slightly larger than my professor! I’m sure many if not most of the folks reading this blog will know this information already… but if anyone stumbles upon my blog who doesn’t know much about foster care, this is for you. 🙂

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Sometimes, we have to learn the hard way: what I wish I knew when I turned 18

Even though I had support leaving the system, a lot was left for me to figure out. Here’s my list of things I wish I knew right before I left the system, but didn’t know until it was too late. My list is tailored to the state I live (California), and only contains what I’ve learned up to now (I’m twenty-three).

I love my life now, even though it is not without difficulties (many caused by the oversights reflected upon in this list). Certainly making better decisions during my early years of adulthood would have changed the course of my life to this point. For better or worse, who’s to say? Still, it would have been nice to know  what I’d be sort-of-regretting years down the line. Maybe I would have been able to make more informed decisions rather than  impulsive ones.

I like the idea of these lists, & think it would be extraordinarily helpful to collect several of them (with permission of course) and send them to freshly-emancipated foster folks.

STARBUL1If you don’t take advantage of “limited-time offers”, such as the CHAFEE grant or Denti-Cal benefits (kinda useful for getting cavities filled and wisdom teeth extracted!) you will lose them and you might miss them. 

starbul2If you have the opportunity to be in a great transitional housing program, but feel stifled by the restrictions/curfew/housemates, remember that these programs are short term.  It’s not forever, and anything is bearable temporarily. (Remember the subtitle of this blog? Foster care sucked.. and I survived.) It’s hard when you just gained your freedom, especially if you came from group homes (zero to ten much?), but you’ll have plenty of time to fly without a net soon enough! Focus on the goal: learning independent living skills. Get as much as you can from the program. 

STARBUL1Don’t count on the adults in your life to give you guidance unless you ask for it. You’re an adult, you are responsible for your own decisions. That responsibility comes abruptly, so ask for honest advice from people you trust before making any big decisions. You may not have the foresight to see how a decision could alter the course of your life.

starbul2Twenty-one sneaks up on you from behind.

STARBUL1Twenty-four comes even faster. I think there must be some truth to that whole “time keeps moving faster as you get older” thing.

starbul2Be active in your local foster-youth advocacy group, if you have one in your area. (California Youth Connection is age-capped at 24 and now that I’ve gotten thoroughly involved, I’m bummed that I missed out on so many years of conferences and meetings. I can’t help but wonder who I would be now, if I was more active earlier on. Probably a lot more confident and driven.)

STARBUL1Never underestimate the power of weighing the pros and cons of taking an action.

starbul2Remember that mistakes are not barriers to success, they are bridges. Don’t waste time mentally kicking yourself in the rear for all the opportunities you’ve watched pass you by. Learn what you can and be ready next time. Sometimes, this is just how we learn.

STARBUL1“Mm, there’s been some rough times…but the important thing…is to, um, you have to face your problems… and you should never ever, ever, ever… ever, ever give up. Never ever, ever, ever . Winston Churchill said that… I think.” -Dennis, from the movie Martian Child (a sweet movie about a foster kid who thinks he’s a martian)

starbul2Getting wasted with your friends constantly is fun until you realize that you can’t remember those years of your life because they have been lost in a haze. Also, be careful if you decide to experiment with drugs and/or alcohol. Nobody can stop you if you’re going to, but be safe.

STARBUL1It’s much harder to come off the streets than it is to end up there.

SIDENOTE: AB12 is probably great because I made much better decisions at twenty-one than eighteen. At eighteen I was a teenager, by twenty-one I was an adult. Glad to see this is recognized & now a thing.

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tears of joy

This post is inspired by  the “What Foster Care Feels Like” gallery at Foster Focus Magazine dedicated to all the current and former foster youth, and especially to California Youth Connection – because you have given me a family, a community, belief in the power of change, and a reason to continue growing.

I’ve cried pleading tears of desperation,
hot angry tears that got me consequences and never consolation,
confused lost child tears in the padded walls of a group home quiet room,
sobbing heaving tears echoing through the empty halls of my first apartment,
and the dry-eyed, straight-faced tears that nobody outside my mind could see.

I didn’t know tears could also come from joy.
understanding that all the pain I’ve felt,
the pain which can not be named
of a past that I could hardly make sense of
is not a burden to hold quietly in my chest.
it is a pain shared by countless generations of kids
young, grown, deceased and yet to be born.

What I can not explain to those blessed by their upbringing
I need not explain to my brothers and sisters who have walked this path.

And finally, I know
that in my loneliness,
I was never alone.

I give my pain a new shape –
to lovingly mold my experience into something that can be used,
something that can grow wings and touch hearts.

These are tears of joy.