As one who lived within the foster care system for eighteen years, I hope I might be considered an expert on what we needed as foster children.
I make these statements not from a textbook, but from my own life experience within the foster care system. I am addressing those of us that were considered “society’s throw away kids” at birth due to being children of unwed mothers or those who through no fault of their own ended up in the system.
Also, please bear in mind, I am speaking of the “system” and NOT foster parents. Foster parents, in the vast majority of situations are good, kind and caring people willing to open their homes to the unwanted.
I became a child of the foster care system immediately upon my birth. Though I was placed for adoption at birth, I was not the healthy, blonde haired, blue eyed baby everyone wanted back in 1950.
I spent the first year of life in the hospital nursery where I was born and at the home for unwed mothers my birth mother spent much of her pregnancy.
Thus began the merry-go-round for me of eleven foster homes in ten years. Three of those moves were back and forth to the same foster parents for a total of six and one-half years.
2/7/50-8/10/50 Providence Hospital Nursery
8/10/50-1/19/51 Sarah Fisher Home Nursery
1/19/51-7/11/51 Foster Home #1
7/11/51-9/10/51 Foster Home #2
9/10/51-2/20/52 Foster Home #3
2/20/52-8/1/52 Foster Home #4*
8/1/52-12/11/52 Foster Home #5
12/11/52-11/26/54 Foster Home #6*
11/26/54/-1/26/55 Foster Home #7
1/26/55-8/12/55 Foster Home #8
8/12/55-5/4/56 Foster Home #9
5/4/56-5/17/60 Foster Home #10*
5/16/60-7/22/60 Juvenile Detention Center awaiting new foster home
7/22/60-4/16/61 Foster Home #11
4/16/61-6/2/68 Boys Town, Nebraska
6/2/68 Adult: released as a ward of the court Wayne County, Michigan
*same family three times
All I wanted as a child was a place to call home; a family to love me enough to want me as their son!
What was wrong with me? Why didn’t anyone want me? Will I never have a family?
These were just a few of the questions that would haunt me throughout my childhood and beyond. I did not realize that the problem was not me but the “system” itself.
I did not need any type of therapy or behavior modification program. I just needed love and stability in my life. The “system” failed me in providing me an opportunity for that.
Today, many of the kids in the “system” have a wide variety of special needs. Those needs have to be addressed. However, those will not bring success until the children have been given the basics. By basics I don’t mean simply shelter and food. To me the basics are a stable home life and not the merry-go-round of moves, knowledge that someone actually gives a damn about them, self-worth and most importantly, the ability to trust those responsible for them!
For those in charge of the “system,” please, please…you MUST change your course of action. There are too many kid’s lives at stake. Their success or failure may depend on what happens to them in their early years.
We don’t ask much…just one family…not eleven!
I am one who made it, despite the “system.” When they realized they had failed me they sent me to Boys Town Nebraska, where I spent seven and one-half years, until I graduated high school. It was the longest period of stability in my young life. It allowed me to get an education, to grow and mature. Since then I have received a college degree and have had a successful business career.
I don’t think of myself though, I think of those who may not make it. I realize, had it not been for Boys Town, I could have easily ended up in prison or dead.
I hope this helps some understand foster children and perhaps maybe those kids who might be having problems today may be the result of the lack of stability, nurturing or love in their early lives.
Please, don’t give up on them whatever you do…PLEASE…their future depends on you!