Recently, I was interviewed by a high school student. She interviewed me for an assignment that required her to get the perspective of a former foster child. I obliged, and here’s the second part of that conversation (read the first part here):
HS Student: Are you still affected by your time in foster care, even to this day?
Me: Yes and I must point out, I’m more affected by the events that led me into foster care. You know, the abuse and failure in parenting and protection. I refuse to blame everything on foster care but yes, my time in the system certainly caused further damage in some ways.
HS Student: How so?
Me: Well, it shouldn’t take a village of programs and workers and agencies to care for a child but that is what exists even to this day. In foster care, there’s little room for you to go through the normal process of development of being a kid and make mistakes. If you go through a rebellious stage in foster care, those antics will be written up and submitted to a court that will determine your home placement status. Also, my life skills are behind those that didn’t grow up in care. I didn’t realize how behind I was in taking care of myself and little things at home until I moved in with my life partner who had a more traditional, solid upbringing. For example, I didn’t learn how to iron properly until I was in my thirties.
HS Student: How can we [as a society] solve foster care?
Me: Connection. If children are connected to someone who lives in their neighborhood, and everything checks out, I think it’s better for the kids to remain in their area and live with the person they have a healthy history with as opposed to flying them across state or county lines to stay with someone they don’t know or never met, regardless if there’s a bloodline there or not.
Secondly, there’s technology. So, almost every former foster kid – including myself – have found blood relatives on Facebook. Not only that, but I’ve had relatives who said they would have signed up for kinship care had they known I was in the system, and these are normal, middle-class and up folks, okay? There needs to be a way where when a kid enters the system, once you plug in their social security number, a list of all their relatives pops up and then from there, call one family member after another.
Lastly, prevention. We need to look at why kids are being removed. If their lives are in danger, okay, yes, remove the child but if it’s over neglect? How is neglect defined? Is removal really the best interest? I think there needs to be a more comprehensive checks and balance approach in the removal process as opposed to a single social worker’s judgment because once the kid is in the system…I believe it’s very hard to get them out and there is an additional trauma to removal.
HS Student: Have you ever felt truly comfortable in a home?
Me: [After a long pause]. No.
HS Student: Even now? Now that you’re in a house?
Me: [Another pause]. No. That’s something I need to work on. I feel more comfortable where I am now than I have ever been, but if I’m to be honest, no. The fear of homelessness…that is still with me even though I’m officially middle-aged now.
HS Student: How can someone like me help foster kids?
Me: Educate yourself. Read books like my memoir, then seek out information, which is what you’re doing now. Asking questions then sharing the answers to people I would never reach otherwise, kids at your school, raising awareness. I mean, I don’t have access to them but you do and you’re planting seeds there.
You’re transferring information through a story. That’s great and I think necessary. Another way is through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, where you act as the child’s voice in their court hearings. I think you have to be 18 though, to do that.
Blogger’s note: If you know of any way a high school student can help foster kids, please let me know and I’ll relay the message to the student who interviewed me.