I was ready to leave my nana’s house. I had everything packed into suitcases and boxes. All we had to do was make our way over to the new place where I was going to be staying.
We pulled up to a big house that was plain and simple, hopped out of the car and slowly walked to the door to ring its bell. We waited about a minute till friendly smiles with bright eyes opened the door.
“Hello,” they greeted us. “Come right in.”
When I walked in I noticed how big the house really was. Downstairs had an office, a lounge area, a play room, a small bathroom, a living room, a huge kitchen and a family dining area. We all gathered around a couch in the lounge area. I remained mostly silent while I left the adults to talk. I honestly wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I was ready to see my little brother who wasn’t at the house yet.
About an hour later I was left alone with a family I didn’t know, sitting awkwardly on a stranger’s couch. They decided it was a good time to get up and take a tour of the house. Since they already showed me downstairs they took me upstairs. It had two bathrooms and five bedrooms. The room I was going to be sleeping in had two beds and in between them there was a nightstand that held a lamp on it. Two plastic drawers at the end of each bed and a closet that was split down the middle that I would have to share with another foster youth.
After the tour of upstairs they brought my stuff to the room and left me to unpack. When I was finished I sat on the bed thinking how wonderful this place was, but even with happy thoughts I felt empty as I stared out the window to a sunny sky.
How it Started
After having been in foster care once already, being placed back into the system was difficult. My family – mother, brother and sister – were ripped away from me. My older sister moved to Treasure Island, my little brother was sent to L.A to his father’s house, and who knows where my mom went. I was sent with my nana – not that it was a problem, but my emotions were everywhere even though I didn’t show it on the surface.
When my brother’s social worker said that he was leaving his father’s house to be placed in a foster home I started arguing with everyone so I could be with him. The decision was made and then I was back in the system.
My main focus was to make sure that my brother was okay and safe. I didn’t want to make friends or any new family. These new foster parents, who had just shown me around their house, already wanted me to call them mom and dad and their children brother and sister. I didn’t and I refused to call them that at first because I was old enough to know that they weren’t family and for sure not my parents. I addressed them by their first or last name or I didn’t address them at all. You simply can’t force a person to call you family.
I stayed with this family for three years and over that time I started to call them mom, pops, sister and brother. They had become my family. I knew if I ever needed anything they wouldn’t hesitate to help me out. Even now, when I’m not staying with them, I go over to their place and hang out with them. Mom would make me food and take it to my job if I was hungry and if I got out late she would pick me up and take me home. There were some ups and downs but we grew a bond as a family and that is because we built trust and respect for each other. I can easily call Mom if I need someone to talk to about my problems. She didn’t have to but she took the role of being my mother and I am grateful for that.
Every foster parent and youth is different. You should always try to place your feet in the other person’s shoes. Don’t have too many expectations and try not to force yourself upon someone. At work I just learned the stages of creating a team, which in this case would relate to building a family. The stages are forming, storming, norming and performing.
Forming: This would be the foster parent and youth’s first meeting and being placed in a new house setting.
Storming: This is the stage where problems may occur, like in every family there will be disagreements and tempers lost by both parties. Since the foster youth and parent don’t know each other yet don’t expect everything to be perfect.
Norming: This is when everything is starting to become normal and everyone knows each other better.
Performing: The last stage is when you feel like a family, when the foster parent and youth start to trust and care for each other.
It is important to remember that when things first start out it might be awkward for the foster youth and parent. Situations might get a little rocky, but it is always important to try to stick things through. The reason for becoming a foster parent is to take care of those youth who don’t have a parent or family at the moment.
At the time when I entered back into the system I didn’t want a new family, but today I am glad that I got one.
Leilani Diaz is a student at Berkeley City College and an advocate for foster youth rights. She began writing when she was younger and used it as an outlet to get away from the outside world. Diaz wrote this story as part of a Media for Advocacy Training with California Youth Connection and Fostering Media Connections.