I truly believe that your life is already planned out for you before you are born. Each of us are unique in our own way and we all have our own reasons as to why we are placed in each other’s lives strategically. I’ve come to believe that people travel in and out of your lives for a certain reasons. You may not know at the time, but there’s always a purpose for it. PURPOSE…now there’s a word that was my shadow for years. YEARS…I was questioning…WHO AM I?!?!
May is National Foster Care Month. a month set aside to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. I really think it’s important that we take the time to THANK every individual who has extended a hand for a child in need. Looking for ways to get involved? Eckerd can show you the way!
Internships are stepping-stones. They provide real world experiences for students transitioning from academic to professional careers. I know all about transitions. As a child, I transitioned from Spain to America and then one placement to another, never knowing a sense of stability or a sense of belonging. Then, at the age of 18, I transitioned from ward of the court to emancipated adult. The transition from dependent child to independent adult could have done me in, as I have seen it do others like me, but I vowed to overcome it, to thrive, no matter what.
I barely remember arriving in the United States, although I think I was 5 years old at the time and I know I didn’t speak a lick of English. My brother, sister and I was escorted by a man whom dropped us off at his mother’s house in NC and vanished forever.
I was 13 years old that wonderful summer day. My brother, sister and I were picking away at blackberry bushes by the road when the neat business lady arrived. She was there to take us into DSS custody. At that point, my sister and I had lost contact with my brother. He had gone in one direction while my sister and I went in another. I didn’t even get to hug him goodbye. The last image I had of my brother was that of his wailing, crying and struggling to reach towards me through the rear window of the car that drove him away that day, out of my life forever. Initially, my sister and I ended up at a group home, where we shared our own private bedroom. After a week, DSS placed us with a foster family that warehoused children, or so that’s what it had seemed. From here on out, I really didn’t know what was going on. Children came and went, I was going from home to home without my sister, group home to group home, in one school to another, meeting different case workers after another, and it was like a whirlwind. I had no sense of stability. I was looking for something…ANYTHING…I needed to bounce back. The last bits and pieces of my reflective foster-kid family fantasies now dashed, I sunk deeper into depression.
I graduated Andrews High School June 4, 1998, turned 18 June 9th and moved into a one-bedroom apartment the next day. I had barely more than the clothes on my back when I exited placement; no furniture, no bed, no job, no friends and no adult to guide me. Depressed and disconnected, I fell in with the wrong crowd, who introduced me to alcohol and drugs. I self-medicated for a while, as I tried to fit into society. I was so scared, so confused, so alone, so traumatized by my past and so intimidated by my future. I just wanted to belong. Oh, how I needed to feel a part of something….anything….
I still remember the pride I felt as I crossed the stage to receive my college degree, and less than a week later, I smiled so wide my face hurt, when I stood on the platform with the other interns to address the U.S. Congress. In my wildest dreams, I could not have conceived that someone like me, a lowly orphan, would receive such an amazing honor. As the other interns responded to the question, “What one thing would you do in your state to improve the foster care system?” I could only think about how much I missed my brother and sister. Frightened as I was, I put on my best smile and told them how important it is to keep siblings together because sometimes that is the only remaining connection to family we have left. Not knowing who your biological mother and father are is already too much to handle, but then losing your siblings in the system destroys any remaining sense of belonging. I am sure I stumbled over my words some, and at one point, I couldn’t see anymore, not through the tears….
(Referencing to Foster Care Review, Inc): Resilience in physics is the quality of bouncing back, the ability of a body to recover its shape after some force has changed it. Resilience in children refers to the ability to adapt and achieve positive outcomes despite adversity. (Hard times)
What helps you bounce back?
Just imagine with me for a moment that you think all your life you are one person, only to find out you’re not. Everyday you’re faced with many obstacles in life. How do you handle them? While I was bouncing back and forth to foster homes, I didn’t let it discourage me. I let it characterize me. I went to church. I surrounded myself with good friends. I want to share with you my strengths as a foster child and as a young adult today. Intelligence is one of my biggest strengths that have helped me succeed into a self-sufficient adult. Since the day I aged out of foster care at the age of 18, I have been on my own. I put myself through college working up to as many as five jobs at a time and taking eighteen hours of classes per week. I’ve earned two bachelor’s degrees from WCU. You have to just embrace your past and be excited about your future!
Sharing my story and experiences is my therapy and helps me grow each day to become a better person inside and out. It’s my outlet. Find your outlet. Whether it’s playing sports, performing arts, lending a helping hand, writing, getting an education, going to church, whatever it may be, continue to be strong. Be a fighter! Always remember to smile because it’s infectious and you never know who needs it. No matter what pathway life has you walking down, always remember that you will be faced with adversity and obstacles. Social competence, problem solving skills, self-sufficiency, and optimism are just a few examples of my resilience that helped me survive while being in foster care. There are unlimited possibilities of ways to bounce back. What are yours?
Today, I can say that I have found my PURPOSE! Speaking about my past and helping those in care to move forward is the greatest rewards I can offer. I also get to work for a Big Four Accounting Firm who enables me to be the best that I can be and allows me to chase after what I’m passionate about. They allow me to feel confident in my PURPOSE and because of that, I’m able to help others in foster care become future leaders! #ILOVEMYJOB!
Thank you to ROBERT FROST for coming into my life at an early age! Because of his famous quote, “The Road Not Taken,” I have found my way 🙂
The Road Not Taken