Foster Kid Phoenix

Foster Care sucks & I survived.


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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.

Peace,
Phoenix


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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.