Understanding Foster Care and Teenagers

Please take a moment to read this article from the perspective of someone who was formerly a teen in foster care. The honesty is raw and the message is compelling.

I believe there are some things that really need to be thought about when people think about fostering or adopting teens. Imagine this…think of how it would be to come home one day to your spouse that had been loving and kind and compassionate when you left that morning. But, as soon as you walk in the door that evening they are a completely different person. They are not anything close to loving, kind and compassionate. Instead, they start screaming at you and hitting you and are harsh and cold towards you. This is what it feels like when you wake up one day and realize all of the trauma your parents have caused you and you just have to live with it. You are different – different in a way that as a teenager you can’t put into words.

Teens who enter foster care and even children who are old enough to tell what is going on have to just sit back and watch as parents choose drugs and relationships and honestly just about anything over us. Most people are born into loving families that never touch drugs or have any type of addiction and they can’t even imagine what our lives are like. I grew up with a mother who chose drugs, men and anything that would put her a “step up” in life. I was manipulated and gaslighted all of my preteen years and never knew what to believe due to my mother dumping her dysfunction on me. I was told to never let anyone adopt me because I needed to stay true to my family. I lived through watching my mother on drugs and prostituting herself out of the house that we lived in with her boyfriend. A house that had no power, water or furniture. I want to create this picture in your mind to see if you think you could live through that and come out on the other side and end up in foster care without being angry and confused and without having just a terrible attitude. People look at foster kids and see the potential bad attitude, running away and stuff and don’t think about everything we have lived through. And, no matter our age, we are old enough to remember everything. I don’t think anyone could live through it and not wonder, “Why me?” and not have an attitude.

I look back now and see how truly hurt and immobilized I was by all the pain and confusion that I had going on as a teen. I went to therapy for years to overcome and understand it. I know if I had not been adopted I would have grown up to be a very angry adult. I needed support and structure in my life to get to where I am today. Teens need to be fostered and cared for just as much as babies and young children. I would say probably even more so because they are the next generation and are on a much tighter schedule when it comes to aging out of the system. Teens are left to feel as if they have to fend for themselves because no one wants to take them in. Eventually, I changed my mind and decided to be adopted. One of the biggest reasons that I changed my mind was because I needed support that I was not receiving. I also felt as if there was no one out there that actually loved me for me; they seemed to love the idea of me – of fostering. I also worried about my future all the time because I knew that I was failing in school since I had changed schools six times in the same school year. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish all my goals and have all the “adult” things like driving and owning a car or phone or being able to pay bills or go to college. I couldn’t conceive of the fact that I was ever going to be “normal.” Please think about all of this the next time you hear something negative about fostering or adopting a teen. And then, think of all the positives in fostering or adopting a teen instead, such as teaching valuable life skills to someone who has never had anyone show them how to cook, clean or do the basic things that they will need to know when they are on their own. My mom always says one of the things that lead her to adopt was the thought of a teen out in the world without any knowledge on how to navigate it when she had all this knowledge that she could share. Think of all the knowledge you could give to a young adult and actually have a change in the future generation. All teens are not “bad” they are just seriously misunderstood and the rumors that are flying around about them does not do them justice at all and is honestly unfair considering all the trauma and pain we have been through.

We have many contributors who were in foster care and either aged out, were adopted or were reunified whose words we will be sharing in this series. We appreciate them all and hope you will appreciate learning from their perspective.

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