Saturday, July 21, 2007

Testimonials from other former foster children

What worked for us:

1.) Seeking higher education

- "Get an education, it may be very easy, or it may be very hard. Some may need to recuperate from the time spent in care first. And some may be ready to hit college immediately."

- "I went to college right away. Though in retrospect I didn't know enough about what I wanted to study, I needed those years to learn to take care of myself."

- "I started college and stayed in school, even during a period of homelessness. I went straight on to grad school. Being in college was like my second childhood, and my friends there were my first real family."

2.) Financial aid (Pell Grants, student loans, graduate internships, work-study)

- "Financial aid, and also getting a job right away in freshman year - it was definitely not glorious, working in the school cafeteria, and there were some terrible nights that I had no money for dinner and had to throw out enormous quantities of unpurchased food, but it taught me to work for my keep and also the value of money, because I knew how long it took me to earn it back."

- "Jobs on campus where I could study (working night desk at a girl's dorm, working day desk at a basketball dorm, working the info desk at the campus student center)."

3.) Developing a network of restorative relationships

- "I learned how to depend on people. I think most of us who have ever experienced foster care had to grow up real, real fast. We needed to learn to be independent and strong much earlier than most of our peers…

- "With age, we are all expected to become more and more independent and so it became even harder for me to ask for help.

- "I had to learn that I wasn’t perfect and that I couldn’t do everything by myself. My life became so frustrating and lonely and desperate at times that I would cry and then hate myself for crying."

- "Luckily, I have friends who are always reaching out for me and helping me when I don’t even ask for it. They wanted me to depend on them… and as I learned to depend on them, that’s when I realized that with dependence comes love. You can’t love a person if you can’t depend on him or her."

4.) Finding your roots and/or developing new ones

- "Try to keep your relationship (or reconnect) with your siblings. They are the only ones that are able to stand by your side and say yes, x, y and z happened and we made it through. Celebrate the triumph of making it out with a bunch of scratches (visible or not), but still having made it out."

- "I thank God for my friends… they have done so much for me. During the breaks when the dorms are closed, a number of people were willing to take me in. I don’t have a real permanent address and when I didn’t have any money to pay for rent some place, I still always had a place to stay, even during the summer. I am incredibly lucky."

- "I joined a fellowship and a church. To tell you the truth, I don’t even consider myself a Christian yet, but the relationships I’ve made in church and small group are truly special. I have never been so content with my life before, and it’s because of the people praying for me and loving me because they believe that God loves me."

5.) Making peace with the past

- "Acceptance, accept that x,y and z is what the situation is. Now what will you do about it? Sit and cry and be full of anger, pain, resentment or stand up and say I refuse to become another statistic. Give yourself time, but not too much time. This one was has been a tough one for me but I've slowly have begun to move on and accept that eh, what is is and I can't change the past..."

- "I went to therapy. It’s funny because I hated therapy when I was in foster care and it never worked for me. But healing finally began now that I was on my own. For years, I blamed myself for everything that happened through the years… I guess I needed to grow up a little to realize that I was only a child."

- "Forgiveness, plain and simple. You will never forget, but you need to forgive to move on. Otherwise you are like a ball of rubber bands about to pop."

- "I made amends with my biological parents recently. I needed to be at peace with them in order for me to move on. I needed to accept and even appreciate who they are, accept the past, accept the present… all this in order to hope for a better future."

- "I made good use of my experiences. I volunteer at a hospital and spend my time there mostly with children with cancer. I also joined a service club and have interacted with all sorts of people. I find these opportunities very rewarding and I feel that my experiences with diversity, my setbacks, my familiarity with loneliness and fear and wanting to be loved… has allowed me to relate to people better and really care for others."

What didn’t work for us:

1.) Constantly trying to rescue others

- "Trying to save people from their bad habits when they weren't willing to put in the work on their own behalf. I kept thinking that maybe they were like me, and needed someone to step in and give them a hand up. It's not always the case."

- "As the oldest child, I burdened myself to “save” my family. For the longest time, I had been carefully planning out what I would do once I was free and on my own… and when I couldn’t meet my expectations, I tormented myself for not being good enough or trying hard enough to save my brothers, who are still in foster care."

- "Bad choice in roommates: She stole from me, got us repeatedly evicted. Yet I thought only I could save her. I thought that because she was from the same group home that I had been, that we were the only ones who could help each other. I was 17 years old - and I was stupid."

- "Just because someone is in pain, it does not mean that staying with them even if you are miserable is your responsibility."

"If your lover controls your money, social life, friends, contact with family... i.e. you cannot do those things freely... it will stay that way until you do something to change it."

2.) Defining ourselves as unloveable

- "A common thing that I have found with other former foster kids is that we struggle with feeling loved, special or wanted; Always wondering or doubting whether we have some sort of meaning, value... a purpose."

- "Even if it's with a spouse, or extended family or with people that say they love you... you still always have that doubt in the back of your head. And because of feelings of abandonment and being "given up" on, I think that's one of the biggest struggles."

- "People will meet your standards. If you expect very little from others... i.e. little respect, little love, little compassion, they will meet your standards. If you expect love, respect and kindness, you will receive those things."

- "Everyone has shame in their hearts. It just doesn't always come from being unwanted, unloved, undesirable. Everyone has their pain; yours was just delivered in a different package."

3) Taking on more than we can handle

- "KNOW yourself and your limits and what stresses you are capable of handling and what stresses and situations that could arise that could screw you up more."

- "The pain from the emotions will hurt so bad at times where you feel like you can't breathe. Be prepared for that and make sure that you take care of yourself. Basically, you will have to be your own parent."

4.) Over-share or under-share

- "Be prepared to feel awkward and scramble to come up with something to say when someone asks you about your real family or where you came from."

5.) Trying to escape through drugs/alcohol

- "If getting high/drunk/etc. are the best things you look forward to in life, you need to figure out if you want to be a drug addict or alcoholic for the rest of your life. If not, it's time to start making a plan."

*Please note: These are insights shared by former foster children who are now current members of Foster Care Alumni of America.

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Comments:
Lisa,
thanks for stopping by and giving a comment. I've been thinking about starting a blog from my viewpoint as an adoptive dad and guardian to two boys and the unique challenges presented . . . I look forward to going through your blog more . . .

Also, I've been wanting to develop an online Web series based on my experiences. I've done two demos and have 1 or 2 more to do . . . after that, it would be seeking funding.
 
Don,

I have an idea for you... an opportunity for you to share your experiences online.

I'm going to email you about it,

Lisa
 
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