"You're not going back home, instead we'll find a nice family for you" I was only 10 or 11 years old when I was told this. It was my second time in foster care. When I heard these words my heart shattered and a huge flood of tears started pouring from my eyes. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I didn't want to be in foster care. I didn't want a new family, I wanted my family. I didn't want to try to fit into another family. I didn't want to change my name or identity. I wanted my bio mom or bio family to come back for me. I wanted to go home. Even if my home wasn’t a good home and my bio mom wasn't a good mom. At least I was with my siblings and my bio mom in our home. I wasn't being shuffled around like a piece on a chess board. My caseworker told me she'll try her best to find a "forever" family for me. However, the words forever family didn't have any real meaning to me. My forever family was my bio family. My bio family didn't want me, they gave up on me and abandoned me. So the words forever family didn't stick with me.
I spent half my life in foster care. The first time I came into care I was 4 years old. I’ve been to many different schools, foster homes, group homes, and shelters. I was separated from my younger siblings, whom I was a mom to. I felt scared, angry, upset, and alone. I felt like nobody cared about me and often wondered why I was born. Why would my bio mom give birth to me just to neglect, hurt and abandon me? What did I do that was so bad that I had to live my life moving from place to place and try my best to survive on my own? Why didn't anyone want me? I often felt it was my fault I was in foster care. My caseworkers and foster parents kept telling me I was in foster care because of what my bio mom/family did. But if foster care was supposed to help birth families and protect me, why was I the only one in care? Why wasn’t my bio mom in foster care with me? Why didn’t she get removed and placed into foster care? These are the questions I often asked myself. After my bio mom’s rights were terminated I still defended her. I often denied what really happened when I was with her. Some things I didn’t open up about to anyone about. She was still my mom and I missed her. I never really blamed her for anything. I don’t think I was old enough to realize that my mom was responsible for what was happening to me. I felt very loyal to her. Sometimes I told my caseworkers that I didn’t want to be adopted, even if they did find a forever family for me. As I got older I began to realize how my bio mom wasn’t a good mom to me or my siblings. I started to resent her and the things she’s done. I didn’t like that I was in foster care because of her and she was free to live her life.
Being a foster child is hard. Nobody understood how I felt or what I’ve gone through. Every time I moved it felt like a piece of my heart was being ripped out. Sometimes I knew why I was moving. Sometimes I didn't. I'm not going to lie; I was no saint when I was in foster care. I broke things, I ran away, I used bad language, I didn't do what I was told. I lied, stole, was defiant and pushed a lot of buttons. On the outside I was tough as rock because I had to be, but on the inside I felt scared and alone. I hated not knowing where I was going to end up next. I hated not having any control over my life. I hated that all of this was forced upon me and I had no say. Each new placement brought fear. I was scared my foster parents might harm me. Some of my foster homes were bad. They didn't care about me. A few foster parents spanked and neglected me. Others were good, but they still got rid of me even if I didn’t act out. A lot of people including foster parents put labels on me. In foster care you’re judged by word of mouth or a case file. Nobody cares what you think or try to understand the real person you are. I was put on many medications because other people thought they knew what was wrong with me. I tried to explain myself or express my thoughts or feelings but I was ignored and turned down. Eventually after a while like so many foster youths in care, I gave up. I already spent years in care, moved around, and was a teenager. I’ve been rejected so many times that I was done with everything. I was already on my own and taking care of myself. Why did I need a family to do that for me? Why would I open up myself for more pain and heartache? Clearly nobody wanted me. Besides some people including other foster parents thought I was too old and damaged to adopt. Apparently, I had too much baggage. So I was too much work to fix or deal with. Hearing this stung me. I thought something was wrong with me. My younger sister found a family, why couldn’t I? Unfortunately, in foster care many teenagers don’t get adopted or find homes. So I made a plan for myself. When I turned 18 I was going to age out. I didn’t care about anything anymore. I was sick and tired of being in foster care. My caseworker told me my case plan was still adoption. I told her I didn’t want to be adopted. Adoption was stupid and only for younger kids. Nobody would ever want me. I couldn’t even find placement at times. I lost hope. Then at the age of 14, I got placed with a wonderful family.
I got adopted at the age of 16 and came to my family at 14. At first I didn’t want to be adopted. I honestly thought I was damaged and nobody wanted me. I was also scared. So I kept saying no every time my caseworker would ask me if I wanted to be adopted. Then my mom told me I didn’t have to be adopted. She wanted me to stay and continue to be a part of my life. It didn’t matter if I was adopted or not. I was already a part of the family. She continued boosting my self-worth by telling me daily how much I meant to her, how lucky she was to have me in her life, and how she’s so grateful that she met me. At first I didn’t understand why she kept telling me these things. I asked her why she sticks by me and she replied emphatically, that she loves me and her heart breaks for me. She wished she was there from the beginning to protect me and it hurts her heart to see me in pain. She knew I was angry and didn’t trust easily. She said she understood why I acted the way I did. She would act that way to if she were me. I began to cry and tried to hide it, but my mom wiped away my tears. She held me while I cried. We actually care about you, my mom said to me as she held me. No matter what you do, we will not give up. We see something in you. You are not just ordinary. You are special. I finally understood: this family actually did care about me. It felt great. I felt loved and I loved the feeling of feeling loved. It is like no other feeling. I finally started feeling safe. I started thinking more about adoption. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of being adopted by my family. For once in my life I felt happy and understood. I felt like I belonged.
Some people think it’s weird to adopt a 16-year-old. Others are shocked or make rude comments. They tell my parents that they only have two more years with me, that they’ve missed out on my whole life, I might harm them or their kids, I have too much baggage. Some might thank them for adopting a teen because they can’t imagine adopting or taking one in. My relationship with my parents was not an instant connection. At first they were just another foster home. I didn’t trust them or believe I would stay. I acted out a lot and hated being there. I broke things, I was defiant, I swore. I tried my best to not attach myself to them. Sometimes they felt too close to me. I didn't want to get hurt or abandon again, so I tried to pushed them away. I knew they were going to get rid of me just like everyone else did. I encouraged some of my other foster homes to get rid of me and acted out. Deep down inside I didn't want them to get rid of me, I wanted to stay. When some of my other foster homes did get rid of me my heart would break into tiny pieces. So I wanted to get rid of people before they got rid of me. I didn't want to become attached. It was easier to not become attached and leave then become attach and feel broken all over again. As I continued to act out my parents continued to show support and love. After a while, I started to feel bad because I was putting my parents, through all that pain and they still stuck by me. No matter what mistake I made, they were there to lift me up and dust me off. They often said that no matter what I did in my past it wouldn’t be held against me. Every day is a new beginning. I couldn’t change the past but I can change the present. They wanted me to learn from my mistakes. One thing I have learned is that I am not alone. After so many hurts, disappointments, and rejections, my family gave me a new life. I can finally feel and be normal for once. I love my mom and dad. I love my older and younger siblings along with our pets. My parents showed me that not everyone was out to hurt me and I could trust. I often wished that my mom gave birth to me. I could’ve avoided so much heartache and pain. I never had a dad or a positive mother figure before. If it weren’t for my parents, I don’t know where I’ll be. They helped me through so much. Because of them I graduated from high school with high honors and I’m now in college. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.