Better Training for Foster Parents Could Have Changed My Life

When I was 11 years old, I went to the doctor for a check-up and my whole world stopped. In that one moment, the family I had spent six months becoming a part of decided against adoption. I was removed from my biological mother at just six months, and this was the closest I had ever been to joining a family.

One week before a judge made me somebody’s daughter, my almost-parents decided that they did not want “a kid with a baby.”

“You’re pregnant!”

“What were you thinking?”

“There are consequences for your actions.”

“You can’t stay here.”

When I was 12 years old, I gave birth to my incredible daughter, Seana. I ended up in a series of group homes, involved with juvenile justice, and lost my parental rights before I even had the chance to rock her to sleep.

If my foster parents had received training on trauma-informed care, they would have asked “What happened to you?” instead of “What did you do?” and my whole life would be different.

I would have watched Seana take her first steps and make sure that she never felt alone in a system that didn’t care for me in the first place.

Assembly Bill 507 (AB 507), a bill known as “Resource Families: Training Topics,” was signed by Gov. Brown yesterday. The futures of 60,000 foster children could be impacted. This new law will increase the relevance of California’s resource (foster) family training, ensuring responsive supports for the specific needs of children in each family’s care.

This is important because foster youth aren’t all the same. California’s foster care system serves infants, children and youth, 0 to 21 years old. We all have different case plans, from family reunification to long-term foster care/adoption services to independent living plans. We all have different dreams, from higher education to entrepreneurship to starting our own families.

If we are to achieve these dreams, we all NEED quality care from qualified caregivers.

AB 507 is the first legislation of its kind, finally offering resource parents training tailored to the children in their care. California Youth Connection has rallied current and former foster youth from across the state to create, introduce, and pass this bill. California needs more resource parents who will open their homes with a humble sense of respect, persistent patience, and unconditional love.

They must understand our complex and diverse identities, including our hair and our language(s).

They must understand how trauma works and how to love us through our hardest days.

This bill is critical, but passing it is just the beginning. Resource families need to be trained and supported in specific trauma-informed and culturally responsive care across all counties.

As it stands, AB 507 allows counties to hold discretion for specific implementation. Resource families can still complete just eight hours of training annually. My first job was at Burger King and my training took three days. Eight hours is not near enough to hold a lifetime in your home and heart.

Our most vulnerable young people deserve the highest quality care. Training should be commensurate with the incredible value of children and youth in care.

Foster kids are more delicate, precious, and important than a hamburger. It’s time we start acting like it.

I never got adopted. I never found a family. And my daughter never really knew hers. I am 22 years old, and the first place I have lived for more than one year is the homeless shelter where I’ll sleep tonight.

Quality, highly trained resource families can write a very different story for the thousands of youth still in care.

The author of this piece survived more than 30 placements in California’s foster system and is now pursuing her MSW at University of California, Berkeley.

The author of this piece survived more than 30 placements in California’s foster system and is now pursuing her MSW at University of California, Berkeley.

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  1. If this was a difficult story to read, as indeed it was, it must have been an infinitely more difficult life to live. Words alone cannot begin to describe the grief I feel for you – but also, your courage in attacking the odds, and pursuing your master’s at Berkeley. May the force be with you – all the way!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am sorry that life has been so hard for you. It shouldn’t have been that way. I am a foster carer and am disappointed that you didn’t get the adoption you were seeking. I trust that people will emerge in your life who will love you as a daughter forever whether there is a piece of adoption paper or not. I wish you every success as you go forwards.

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