Alumni Perspective

with me.  At school functions, I was the only one who wasn’t supported by a Mother or Father.  I would go through interchangeable spells of first being angry with my mother for leaving me alone, then being angry with my father for disowning me.  There were so many times I felt more like a burden than a blessing to anyone.  When living with my Uncle, he used to take me from “pillar to post” (this is what my grandmother used to call it).  I stayed with different girl friends some times for a night, some times for a weekend  and one time for 8 months (and in another state).  I was always spending time with someone else’s family and was were reinforced when I officially came into foster care at the age of 13.  I was supposed to go to live with an Aunt that I favored ever However, for some reason or another I ended up staying with my Aunt’s daughter (and her child) for three years.  As in the beginning of most relationships, things were going well. I felt I could look up to my new “foster mother” and enjoyed spending time with her daughter; however it didn’t take long for things to change.  My foster mother was only 25 years old when she attempted to raise and support a then 14 year old (me) that had experienced intense trauma AND try to continue special treatment to her only child (8 year old) to avoid making her feel less than a priority.  Unfortunately, she did not have the skills (and maybe not even the support from the agency – I don’t know) to balance this and as a result, I began to be treated with contempt and resentment.  Although I was a A/B Student, worked during the summer and saved money to pay for my school clothes, was on the Volley Ball Team, did my chores AND her daughter’s chores, nothing I ever did was good enough.  Her daughter grew tired of sharing her space (as she was used to her own room and ALL of her mother’s attention) and began to make my living there very difficult.  I was reminded often of the family I didn’t have and the burden I was; how troubled I was and how I was going to end up with children, etc. when my foster mother’s daughter earned a “C” in a class she was given money, new clothes, new shoes and taken out for dinner.  Needless to say, my staying with them did not work out and I left there feeling worthless, unloved and resented.  I was taken to live with another foster family who had been foster parents for years, fostering over 150 children and experienced similar treatment.  I only lived with them for 3 months before going to live at a group home. Initially it began to feel that this system (the foster care system) that was supposed to help me because I didn’t have parents actually seemed to punish me because I didn’t have parents. I began to feel as if I was being punished for my mother’s murder and my father’s lack of involvement.  It felt as though nothing I did could convince anyone that I was worthy of being loved or worthy of anyone’s patience and guidance.  

Today in my work, I come across foster parents who say “Where was I when you were in care, I would’ve loved and cared for you!” teenager.  The child you have in your home right now that you seem to only see the negative in has the potential to blossom just like I did, but you have to make them feel wanted- like they are worth the disagreements, the turmoil and the transition it will take to raise and support them!  Everyone has their “ugly moments” when they are transitioning through their teenage years. Everyone.  (And some people still have very Ugly Moments as adults, but that’s another story).

Although the worthlessness I felt growing up was a source of pain for me for a long time, with maturity I have worked through it.  I am now grateful for those feelings because although I felt that worthlessness, there was something inside me that knew it was only a feeling- a feeling that was not based in fact.  A feeling that others projected onto me because of how they felt about themselves.  Although it felt personal (real personal), it was really a manifestation of how inadequate those people felt about themselves.  I madepeople feel uncomfortable because regardless of the pain and chaos I experienced, I went through it with a smile and I continued tokeep trying to do better and to be better.  Those that know me today will tell you that morning, noon or night, good day or bad day, Iam always smiling. I am always looking on the brighter side of things.  Doors have opened for me and people have embraced and supported me along the way because they could see this.  Through my relationships with informal mentors, colleagues, and most important the young people in and from foster care that I work for and with I now see that I am full of Purpose.  The obstacles I experienced growing up were preparing me to stand in my purpose today with confidence and pride.

To my brothers and sisters in and from care that have been made to feel like you’re worthless, I’ll leave you with a few quotes that I’ve found powerful in jarring me back to reality when I even dare to think for a second that I am unworthy of something good:

“There’s no passion to be found in playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”-Nelson Mandela

“Many of us were taught to put ourselves last, and as a consequence we’ve attracted feelings of being unworthy and undeserving. As those feelings lodged within us, we continued to attract more life situations that had us feeling more unworthy and not enough. YOU must change that thinking” – The Secret

Even if you have to put a sticky on your mirror or set a voice recording that you listen to, every day remind yourself that you ARE worthy.  You have made it this far and you have Purpose and Worth. Anyone trying to convince you otherwise is convinced that they themselves are inadequate and worthless and you know what they say about misery right?  It loves company! Distance yourself and starve the misery of the company it needs to thrive.  Surround yourself with positive and focused people, change your thoughts to only allow the positive in and watch how quickly and easily you step into your purpose- and you may even notice that 
you’ve been standing in your purpose all along.

I believe in you! Onward and Upward Family!!