Sara entered the foster system the second she was born. From there she was in and out, put through terrible situations at home again and again. Read about her story and be inspired by her strength and resilience!
Written by Sara, Former Foster Child
One minute old and I was already in the system…
My mother was high on drugs when she delivered me and I was taken from there. From that point on, I was in and out of the system. The first time I actually remember being taken was the time a SWAT team did a drug bust on our home. We were pulling into the driveway and a SWAT truck was parked on the curb. They were yelling and telling my mother and her boyfriend to get on the ground. They took me, my brother and sister and put us in a group home. From there my childhood timeline is kind of a mess. I don’t remember what age I was at which house, what schools I went to, what friends I had, I honestly don’t remember much from that time until I was 12. Little pieces here and there but for the most part… it’s all a blur. That can be really tough, especially getting older and trying to find your identity… honestly, it’s still a struggle.
My brother, sister, and I went back and forth from my mother to different homes. We were eventually all separated and spent the majority of our time in the system away from each other. It was extremely hard to be away from them and not know if they were okay. The homes I was placed in were okay but the group homes were definitely the hardest for me. There were a lot of older kids who weren’t always nice. I had one family placement when I was around nine or ten and they are amazing… I’m still in contact with them today!
The whole thing was scary. As much as the families try to make you feel welcome and want it to be easy for you, you’re a child going into new homes with new strangers. You cannot comprehend what’s going on, why this is going on. You go to a new bedroom that isn’t your own in a home that isn’t your own. It seemed to be that bedtime was always the hardest.
I have mixed feeling about the system. It’s hard to say anything negative because my story turned out okay… but it also amazes me how many chances they gave my mother. It was back and forth, back and forth. I understand that their goal is to bring families back together but sometimes that isn’t realistic. I had one family that wanted to adopt me, and my aunt also wanted to adopt us but my mother refused. Why she had that right after choosing to let us get taken multiple times in the first place doesn’t seem fair. So I was never adopted. When I was 12, I was living with my mother, brother and sister in an apartment. After school one day she said something like, “I have to work over the Thanksgiving holiday so you’re going up to your aunt’s house for thanksgiving.” My “aunt” was a friend of my mom’s from childhood, who knew me when I was a baby but hadn’t seen me in years. She had no idea where we were or that we had been in and out of foster care, she said it was like we had fallen off of the face of the earth. Somehow my mother managed to get in contact with her and asked if we could come up for the holidays so we went for Thanksgiving… and then the holidays came and passed.
Eventually a social worker showed up and explained that my
mother was back in jail and that we would need to be put back intofoster care. My aunt was young and uncle were young and also had young children at home but they refused to let us go. They ended up getting their license to foster and eventually ended up gaining guardianship of us. My brother and I lived with her until we were adults and moved out. My sister left (by choice) shortly after we got there.
As a child, I was so thankful to finally have a home. One that was mine. One that I never had to leave. I remember my aunt telling me, “you’re mine and you’re not going anywhere.” I finally got to enjoy childhood. I love and appreciate everything she and my uncle did for me but never really comprehend the magnitude of what they did until I was older and had children of my own. I will never be able to repay them. It is because of them that I am who I am today, it’s because of them that my story turned out okay. I owe so much to them and yet they never ask for anything in return.
I used to hear, “wow you grew up in foster care? But you’re so normal” and, “I would have never guessed you grew up in foster care because you turned out so good for growing up in the system.” It used to annoy me, I used to get defensive about it but I don’t anymore. Now I’m like, “yep, I sure did.” And I’m proud of it. It’s hard growing up, being shuffled from home to home, not having a mother or a father who love you or want you. Being abused from the one man who was supposed to protect you and having a mother who continually chose men and drugs over her children is hard to wrap your mind around. You have no idea what that does to a child but I try not to wallow in it. Instead, I look at all the blessings I had throughout my journey. I can see God’s hand in all of it: from an amazing foster family who showed me what a family looks like, the friends that took me to church and youth group, my Aunt and Uncle who said enough is enough, took us in and treated us as their own, my amazing husband who loves me unconditionally and is the best father to our kids, the amazing family I married into, and my two beautiful healthy babies.
The struggles and experiences made me stronger, wiser, and a little more resilient. I have been able to share my story and relate to so many people… and for that, it all seems worth it. I will probably always have my little struggles here and there but I wouldn’t change my journey. I am proud to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I love the woman I am today, because I fought to become her.”
For those considering foster care, go for it. If it is on your heart and you genuinely want to help children, do it. Nothing you ever do for a child, big or small, is wasted. And for those who don’t want to, that’s okay, too. It’s not easy and you have to have the strength and the heart for it. Just helping in your everyday life is good enough. I remember some Christmases I was the kid receiving the present that stranger’s bought. I was the name on a card that someone pulled off of a tree, so I do that now with my family. There’s are so many ways to help besides being a foster parent.