When I was twelve years old, my biological mother passed away due to hypertension. When she died, my heart felt that it had shattered into a million pieces. It seemed impossible to put it back together.
I felt extremely depressed, and most importantly I did not know what the future had for me. Because no immediate family members could take custody of me, I was placed in the foster care system.
When my social worker explained to me where I was going to be placed, I felt nervous, anxious and without a doubt scared of entering a new environment with people I did not even know. When I entered my first foster home, I remember my foster mother explaining to me to not be nervous or scared, to feel like I was part of their family.
But could she really understand the emotions I felt, or what thoughts were running through my mind? Did she understand the intensity, and how emotionally draining it was to feel like I was an outcast from the rest of the world?
Over time as I transitioned to different placements, I felt that those questions became more of a blur, and started thinking that the only person who could truly understand what I was going through was me.
School became more difficult, and I experienced more grief and loss with eleven other family members as the rest of my family disowned me.
I felt that I was alone in the world, different from everyone else.
Questions seeped through my thoughts: Do other people experience trauma such as this? Do other people lose twelve family members consecutively? Why does everyone dislike and hate me?
I did not know how to feel anymore or how to express my emotions. I did not know who to turn to, and I did not know whether I would make it in life.
I was then referred to a behavioral counselor from Aspiranet. She took me through the grieving recovery process where she conducted activities so that I could better overcome my grief and loss. She told me that even though my parents may not be physically here, they will always remain in my heart.
As soon as she said that, I reminisced about a time when I was a child and my biological mother explained to me how she wanted me to be the first Devine in my family to achieve and succeed by receiving a degree, working for a career that I loved, adding a foundation to the Devine name by building a family. Through this, I knew that my parents would not want me to be depressed but to continue living my dreams and accomplishing my goals.
My behavioral therapist helped me successfully through the grieving process and thanks to her, I was able to get back on my feet and push through middle and high school, was able to attend CSU San Bernardino, and receive three bachelor’s degrees in sociology, social services and gerontology. I currently attend CSU San Bernardino in pursuit of my master’s degree in social work.
I also currently work for Children and Family Services of San Bernardino where I assist youth ages 16-21 in accessing resources and support towards their self-sufficiency and future. I also conduct national and local advocacy for foster youth throughout the U.S., as well as around the world, and have dedicated my career to helping foster youth make sure they get the services and support they need in order to live healthy and sustainable lives.
With so many foster youth living in the world, I realize I am not the only one who has experienced a feeling of total isolation. I know there are others out there who might be living through that experience right now. If you are reading this, I want to let you know that you might be afraid, you might be feeling mixed emotions from the traumatic experiences you may have witnessed, but no matter what, you are still you and you are a strong individual.
From someone who has overcome these challenges, I ask that you overcome and be strong by remembering that you are still you, and you can accomplish anything in this world.