Hellooo friends! I apologize for my absence in the blog world. Life happens and sometimes, you just need to take a break. Speaking of break, last week I ventured off on one of my random road trips up through the eastern coast. It was an amazing trip as I set out to mark off items on my bucket list. I did a lot of fun things and visited a lot of old friends, but the most memorable part of the entire trip was the walk I had down memory lane.
It had been 19 years since I stepped foot through those double doors that led up to my ole red locker that aligned on the quaint marble floored hallway. Chairs were stacked strategically on desks as they hugged the walls so tightly. I could smell the scent of lemon from a fresh clean bathroom and waxed floors. All this prepping for a new school year to begin in just a few weeks.
It had been 19 years since I last saw any of my classmates. It was great to sit down with a couple of them and share some classrooms laughs and memories from when we once took a stroll down those marble halls. As we were chatting, one of my friends brought up the time I was in a foster home and asked if I still stayed in touch with any of the foster parents/family members. Her question sparked the purpose of this blog post. As a reader, do you know what school is like for a foster child?
School is defined as an institution for educating children. Growing up, I used to rely on this type of institution as my safe haven. Call me crazy, but when you come from a foreign environment, such as foster care, this is a pretty good escape. The atmosphere that I was in was suffocating me. I thought, 7+ hours a day – away from this place I called “home” would allow me to just breathe.
That wasn’t the case. I soon realized that the school life was just as harsh as trying to fit into your always changing “home” life. It was never a win/win situation. I can’t remember much about my childhood, but there are certain parts of it that likes to pay me a visit every now and again. I will see, smell, or hear something that will trigger those resurfaced memories.
I remember how excited I was to be starting high school. I had made it. After bouncing from elementary school to middle school, I was in the homestretch towards my unknown future. People often think that when you’re in foster care, bouncing from one home to another that was the least of it, but with that, comes bouncing from school to school. While I never found a sense of stability in the “home” life, I never found it in my “school” life. As soon as I got adjusted to one school, there was another one waiting on my arrival. This kind of routine made it hard for me to really meet new friends, develop/sustain new relationships with my teachers, get involved with after school activities and leave any kind of footprint behind. I just wanted some sort of stability in my adolescent life and I just wanted a place to breathe for a while.
Confidence was immediately thrown out the window. How could you have a boost of self-esteem when you didn’t look or feel the part? Every time I started a new school, I wanted a new outfit as if it was my very first day of the school year, but that didn’t happen, so I would just settle for my ole repeated wardrobe.
It became very cumbersome to always tell people why you’re in a new school, anything about your life, and what your ambitions were. Every time you mentioned the word “orphan” or “foster care”, people would scatter. I never knew why. There was this stigma that we were the “bad” kids. Thus, made it very hard to find friends who would like you, just for you. I had never fully understood the word bully, but soon realized it would become my worst enemy.
If/when I finally made it to the end of the school year, I would always get jealous when everyone would be so excited about the summer break and their plans for travel, family and fun. I know this was very selfish of me, but this was my life and I just wanted to trade places with them, for a little while. When you’re in the foster care system, summer vacations didn’t exist. EVER. Usually your summers would exist of visits to your therapist, respite homes for the weekend or on towards your next destination. Still, no place to just breathe.
I share my story with you in hopes that it sheds a little light on how this is a dire problem in our school systems today. This will not go away, not now and not anytime soon. I’m just one of the many stories of what it is like for a child in foster care to navigate their way through numerous obstacles just to obtain a higher education.
Today, my hope for them and their future is to figure out how we can make this process a little easier for them. While they have the anxiety of trying to adhere to the basic day-to-day antics of going to school, they have to also carry the weight of going through this system as well. No child should have to carry this type of burden.
This is the life of a no ordinary kid.
Disclaimer: This post is written from the heart! These experiences and opinions are my own.