This was written by a former KidsPeace foster child whom we will call Jenn.
I remember dangling by my seatbelt dazed and confused. It was about 9pm on a very cold and dark winter's night. I hung there for a second trying to figure out exactly what just happened. I knew I shouldn't have gotten in the truck. She reeked of alcohol, and her eyes were glazed over. I even waited a second thinking to myself I really shouldn't get in the car, but how is this different from any other day? I got in and pulled my seatbelt tight, I even looked over to make sure she had hers on. After 10 minutes, I could tell this time I might not be so lucky, and I was right.
I climbed out of the truck now lying on its side and stared at a pile of snow in the drivers seat suffocating my mother. The next house was 300 yards away, and there wasn't a car in sight. I had a decision to make: leave her, risking her suffocation and get help or dig her out myself. I don't know what drove me to dig her out. She almost killed me! But I did and after many empty apologies from my mother, an ambulance arrived to take me to the ER for an evaluation.
On arrival [to the ER], I was greeted by a police officer to whom I told my story. I was very honest. I told him everything, hoping that this was finally my way out of the unwholesome life I now lived. Someone was going to see that living with my mother was not a good idea. This was the moment I was waiting for. It was my way out, or so I thought. The moment passed, but that was all it was ... a moment. Nothing ever came of our discussion.
Eventually, my home life became worse. My mother was seeing a man who became physically and emotionally abusive towards me. I became depressed, and the idea of school just didn't sit with me. I just didn't have the energy to get myself out of bed and onto the bus. I was eventually put on pins and appointed a legal guardian whom I soon after asked how I could get out of my mother’s house and into somewhere better. Not long afterwards, I was to be placed into foster care. I was back and forth with the idea. My older sister was placed and had always complained about how things were done. I figured anywhere had to be better than home. I went through several foster homes. The first one didn't work, the second did for a little while, the third nope, the fourth nope again. I almost gave up hope.
Wasn't foster care supposed to put some stability in my life? I did try to look at the bright side though. I had 3 meals a day, a house with heat, electricity and water. Sometimes I even had Internet and cable, so it wasn't all that bad. I was missing one thing though … Love. Out of all the foster homes, I never felt like any of the foster parent truly loved or cared about me. I wanted someone to praise me when I did well in school, care when I got sick or cried, and someone to tell me that when I grow up I'm going to be something. For a long time I never thought I'd have that.
In November of 2004, that would all change. After once again getting taken out of a foster home because of my behavior, I was to temporarily stay with a family until KidsPeace could find me another. I could have cared less because nothing seemed to work out in my life anyway. When I talked to these people I was going to stay with, they seemed to be on the guard. I thought, "Oh great, they've already judged me." But after a couple days, it changed. I saw something different in them, and I think they saw something in me too. Soon after, I was told that they were to be my new foster parents. I was ecstatic but of course I wasn't going to let anyone know that.
I really grew to like my new foster parents. One thing I really liked was, when I asked them what I should call them, they responded "Mom and Dad." It made me feel a part of the family. They were by far the best foster parents I had had, but I wasn't about to get my hopes up. It was only a matter of time before I got mad and did something wrong or stupid. I stayed with one set of foster parents for year, and then they gave up on me. What makes Mom and Dad so different? I was by no means the perfect foster child, which they would soon figure out. I yelled, I screamed, I cussed, I threw stuff, broke stuff, skipped numerous days of school, snuck out of the house, put holes in their walls; I even copied dads key and took his car for a joyride.
I insulted them, their family and even their pets. Yet I didn't go anywhere. I figured that, at any moment, they would call up my caseworker and say "take her, we can't take it anymore, she’s just too much," but they never did. I put them through a year and a half of "hell," and they didn't give up on me. I finally found what I was I was hoping for. Parents who didn't think of me as a something they could just throw away when I became a burden. I, to them, was just another one of their kids, and, when I did finally realize this, I couldn't have been happier.
My caseworkers got it just as bad. I insulted and ignored them. I went through several of them, all of whom I liked (don't tell them that). I was at a point in my life where I just couldn't see how someone like them could understand what I was going through. There were many visits where I simply acted as if they weren't there. Why would I want to talk to them? How could they possibly understand? On several occasions I even snuck out of my bedroom window while they sat waiting in the living room for me. As badly as I treated them, though, I can honestly say that they didn't give up either. They were determined to show me they cared and could help. I was just too
bullheaded at the time to realize it.
I left foster care at the age of nineteen. I was determined to take on the world and leave the shackles of my past behind. When I left though, I didn't leave empty handed. I left with a new family. Wilma and Vince, a.k.a. Mom and Dad to this day are still there if I ever need them. Whenever I pick up the phone, they are both there waiting on the other end to answer. They are there to give me advice, teach me new things, feed me when I'm poor and sometimes even house me.
Another part of the family is KidsPeace. On my rare visits to see them, I've never been turned away or made to feel uncomfortable. They welcome me with open arms and a smile every time. I can walk into the office and ask to use them for a reference or a letter of recommendation, and I've never been denied.
You could have asked me 5 years ago “What do you like about foster care?" and I would have looked you dead in the eye and said very sarcastically,
"I don't know what is so great about foster care.” But I stand before you now, older and wiser, and I ask what is not great about foster care?" If it wasn't for foster, I don't believe I'd be where I am now. I'm eternally grateful and hope that the kids in foster now realize how great they have it. I would give anything to go back and do it all over again.