My stomach churned as I read this entire essay.
I was one of those teens in and out of foster care. I ran away once, and got myself recaptured because I enrolled myself into school (I knew the importance of education…plus it’s a way to have at least two meals per day). Once the school was alerted I was a runaway the school told me the child welfare folks were coming to take me back to the same home I ran away from. I had found a boyfriend out of town (who turned out to be the most abusive, violent person I had encountered besides my mother and father). He was older and helped me to run away twice.
The last time I ran away I never enrolled in school again until I was old enough to not be picked up.
I ran away because my homes were terrible.
My entire life was hell. I felt like I could never get a break. I was never emancipated and I had to wait until I turned 18 to apply for public housing. I couldn’t apply for public assistance because it linked me to the child welfare system. A bunch of kind people helped me get my shit together. I got pregnant and had my first kid at 18. I had another at 20. Once my kids were old enough to attend school, I worked.
I struggled for a long time. I wasn’t street savvy and hanging with the wrong people acting as a looking while they were shoplifting got me a shoplifting charge which drastically limited my future job opportunities unbeknownst to me. I never was able to take advantage of the post secondary education opportunities available to me because of my runaway status.
But somehow I made it. Via the kindness of strangers. The system is broken. Most foster homes are terrible, and foster parents are in it for themselves financially, not to help the kids. Kids are treated terribly, and teaching life and social skills are non-existent. It was the most horrific experience I’ve had in my life. I’m 46 now and I can connect that part of my life to my inability to move upward for 12–13 years of my life. I wished they’d study adult formerly in the foster care system to inquire about their experiences and ask us our thoughts on what could be done better to improve our outcomes for this phase of life.
Most social workers are either checked out, on power trips, on the side of the adults not the kids. Kids fear telling because about maltreatment and abuse in foster homes as they fear retribution or yet another placement.
I don’t see anything being done to improve outcomes for foster kids. And even if new funding opportunities are created and distributed (I’m a grant writer and federal reviewer), it seems the same organizations continue to get their hands on the money and supplanting existing programs. Nothing new is being created, nothing new is being done. Therefore, we keep getting the same outcomes. I feel sorry for kids today. Although they have more resources, they have to deal with more uncaring people in the child welfare system, and more people who won’t learn about all of the resources available to aid foster kids.
Locking up foster kids is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. If a kid is running away, there is a problem with the system, not the kids. Giving a kid a criminal record is detrimental to their future. But of course as always, the smart asses who make up the rules for the system have never been apart of the child welfare system, and THAT is a part of the problem.
No legislation should EVER be created pertaining to foster kids without having former foster kids seated at the table. EVER. Thank you for shedding a light on this issue. It is shocking, and nauseous.