Being a former foster youth, I feel there is a separate world between individuals who experienced the foster care system and those who did not. We see the news, we see the research, we see the outcomes in education and self-sufficiency. Is that enough for people to judge that every foster youth will not succeed in life?
Certain members of my family told me I would never be successful. Yet my mother believed in me. My grandmother believed in me. They wanted me to be the first in my family to attain a college degree and make a name for the Devine family.
Tragedy struck when my parents passed away, an event I never saw myself moving past. Entering the system at 12 years old and having adult responsibilities, looking out for myself, attempting to complete school while hearing of one family member passing away after another, switching placements, and having thoughts of not continuing in this life, I eventually started to advocate for myself and what I wanted. I attended countless court hearings, and spoke with an attorney about my wants and needs.
After leaving my third foster home placement, I knew I had to stand up for myself. I grew up that day.
I started to research how being a foster youth impacts life sufficiency, and saw that less than half graduate from high school, less than 2 percent graduate from a four-year institution, and only 1 percent are able to attend a graduate program. For former foster youth, having access to basic necessities in life is greatly reduced especially when reaching adulthood. Seeing that there are also complications in accessing health and wellness, housing and employment stability shocked my own values and beliefs, and I felt intimidated.
I felt as if the evolution of life had frozen. Then my counselor, who was heavily involved in my life, allowed me to reminisce about a time when I was very young and was speaking to my biological mother about how she wanted me to be successful.
Not knowing what direction to turn, receiving support from counselors and social workers allowed me to stay focused on my aspirations and goals in life. I realized that I did not have to be vulnerable or weak, that I could be strong and that the future has no limits. I chose not to give up no matter how unfortunate things were. Now being 22, and attending graduate school for social work, instead of my mind being shaken and hurt from the past, I turn my attention to the thought of this:
Even though there are those who help us achieve and be successful, there is a tug of war with those who state statistics and false hopes about individuals they have never met. Why do they set a negative stigma on our population?
And then I ask myself:
Why listen to the stigma? Why listen to the negative thoughts in my mind? And is there a way to turn that negativity to positive energy so that I can succeed in this world?
No one can put a statistic on you. Only you can write your own history, and with that comes tons of mistakes and errors in hopes of turning to perfection. No matter what: YOU ARE A PERFECT YOU.