For a long time, foster children and foster care systems have been a part of my life. It has been 25-ish years since I was introduced to my first foster sibling. And 13-ish years since my husband and I became licensed foster parents for the first time.
As a child, I was confused by the grief and fury that I saw coming in and out of our house. As an adult, it completely makes sense.
My oldest son, TC, is an emerging grown-up. I cannot even handle this.
I sometimes still feel like he should still be 9-years-old. Angry. Sad. Hurting. All the stealing. Using thievery to make sure he could provide for himself in case I failed to do so. Covering up his fright with false bravado.
As he has grown older and wiser, he has begun working through what being tangled up in foster care means. What it feels like. What it looks like. How it bleeds into adulthood, staining joys with tinges of sorrow. Sometimes inexplicably.
TC sent me this letter that he wrote to himself, while wrestling with his reality. I am sharing it, with his permission.
Take a minute to see the foster life through the eyes of someone who has been there.
And then multiply. Times about 114,000,
the number of children available for adoption in America.
Or multiply by about 400,000,
the number of children in foster care in this country.
While you read, know that every 2 minutes a child will enter foster care.
Many of these children will be separated from their siblings, not just their parents. Remember that there is an enormous lack of appropriate, licensed, experienced homes available. So foster children go into congregate care. Or emergency shelters. Or hospitals. Or caseworkers’ office floors. Temporary placements become the permanent plan.
This is not okay. This has never been okay.
And then DO.
Dear Younger Me,
You are 6 years old right now. You don’t really know what is going on. Drugs are coming in and out of the house. You are watching your mom getting abused. You think it’s normal. You are always moving. You don’t know, but your life is about to change. You are about to wish you were dead.
Don’t run or hide. Just let them take you.
Don’t believe the people that say they love you. Always, always take care of your brother and sister. Don’t lose them. Because for the next 2 years, they are going to be the only thing you have. And you will get separated.
You are going to be going from foster home to group home to mom to group home to foster home to group home. It is a cycle. You are going to feel like you don’t belong. And you don’t. No one in foster care belongs in foster care.
For a long time, you won’t know what good is. Even if it hits you square in the face.
You are going to let your past define you. Don’t do that.
You are going to lie to people and tell them that you are okay. But you aren’t.
Don’t do that either. You know deep down that our whole situation is tearing you apart. It’s hard. Yes, I know. But you are going to have to ask for help. DON’T GET COMFORTABLE. Learn how to control your anger.
A healthy relationship is something you may never have with your mom. You are going to wonder why you lost something you never had. You are going to be required by a judge to visit a parent you don’t know, while a visitation supervisor is watching, taking notes.
As you get older, you will think your life is a joke. But that’s where you are wrong. Yes, it feels like hell. But trust me, it gets better. You are going to live with a foster family. You don’t know it yet, but they will be your forever family. So, get to know them. And like them. I know you’ve been through some b.s. But, at this point, you are just happy to have food in your stomach, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, and a roof over your head.
The thing that will confuse you the most is the question: Do you want to be adopted?
Say yes. Don’t hesitate. You know that the situation that you were in was definitely not healthy for you. Trust me. It’s worth it.
Yeah. You are going to be struggling with pain and always with the what ifs.
But, just know, you can’t fix anything. You are a kid. Mom did what she thought was best. Except for the fact that she’s gone. She is not coming back. Christy and Nigel are your new mom and dad.
You will say and think: I wish I was never adopted and you don’t love me.
Stop. Because if that were true you would still be in a group home or switching from foster home to foster home. You have a SECOND CHANCE at life. Take it and embrace it.
You will do stupid stuff. It is going to take time for you to know that God has a plan for you. Younger me, I wouldn’t change one thing about our life. Because we wouldn’t be where we are now. Love like crazy, because it makes you happy. Show your family you can succeed. Because you can. And they always knew it.
Be honest. Be kind. Be humble.
And for Pete’s sake, think twice.
We can do this.