What do The Game, Keyshia Cole, Denzel Washington and Ice-T all have in common? They all once represented thousands of voiceless, innocent Black children in the foster youth system. According to the Department of Children and Family Services, Black children account for eight out of 100 Los Angeles County children, but comprise 28 out of 100 foster children.
For many Black foster children, foster care is their only hope to survive abuse, poverty and homelessness. For National Foster Care Month, I want to honor our hardworking foster parents, social workers, children’s advocates and other professionals who continue to make a difference on behalf of neglected African American children. Although the media often paints a horrifying picture about foster care, it can be the difference between life and death for many Black children. It was for me.
Dying and Abandoned: How My Foster Mother Saved My Life
My biological mom was a poor, abused teenager who was six and a half months pregnant when she gave birth to me. Malnourished and suffering from chronic asthma, that nearly cost me my life, I was left in the hospital because my parents didn’t want me. Weighing one pound and a-quarter, doctors didn’t expect me to live. I was so tiny that I could fit in the palm of a hand.
Ms. Fisher, a nurse working at Loma Linda Hospital, was told that a sick baby girl had been abandoned and was asked if she would care for me. Without giving it a second thought, Ms. Fisher took me into her home and heart, and slowly nursed me back to health. We attended church regularly. I had clean clothes, a nice bed, toys and nutritious meals.
In addition to providing all of those wonderful things, she gave me something far more important: Love. I remember Ms. Fisher smiling at me, singing to me when I was in distress and gently holding me. For the first time in my young life, I formed a bond that is still with me to this day. When I was 2 years old, I was placed in my mother’s care.
Even though Ms. Fisher was unable to adopt me like she planned, there is no question that her love, compassion and dedication carried me through some of my darkest moments, even after being removed from her home as a toddler many years earlier. God-fearing, and always joyous, Ms. Fisher was the first person who taught me that I mattered, and that I was worthy of being cared for.
Having a good foster parent is priceless to a traumatized child. They are not only providing essential necessities such as a home, food and toiletry items, but are also providing a sense of safety, connection and validation, which are all necessary for children to thrive. All children need and deserve love and support, but Black children, who are often victims of violent crimes, need additional guidance and support that will help them become successful teens and young adults.
According to The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, Black youth are three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect, three times more likely to be victims of robbery, and five times more likely to be victims of homicide.
As a foster parent, you can give a child from a broken home the chance to know what being a part of a real family feels like. You can also help them create a positive self-identity that can help them live empowered and abundant lives.
Former foster youth, now motivational speaker, Derek Clark, said, “If it wasn’t for foster care, I might be dead or have killed someone. Foster care saved my life from the brutal child abuse. As an innocent child, I paid the price for my parents’ rage and selfish mistakes. I credit my loving foster parents who worked with me over the years and helped me transform my bad behaviors (from child abuse) into great behaviors. Foster care saved me from a life of child abuse.”
3 Powerful Lessons Foster Care Taught Me That Changed My Life
Being in foster care was a blessing in disguise. Although I was placed in foster care again at the age of 13, it gave me courage, compassion, and the resolve to never give up. Not only did I learn to thrive academically despite abuse and neglect, I also learned how to be resilient and create supportive relationships.
I Learned to Connect: Living in a home with five or six other youth who have been abandoned and traumatized did not come easy for me. I was used to being an only child, and was used to hiding from the world. Being in foster care forced me to learn valuable social skills and how to form positive relationships. In one of the first group homes I lived in, I befriended a teenage girl whose mother was murdered by Richard Ramirez, also known as The Night Stalker. Although our time was short, we were able to form a solid friendship that taught us how to connect with others.
I Learned to Make Better Choices: Living in various homes and being around other foster children gave me insight on how unresolved trauma and abuse can destroy lives if left untreated. Some foster kids ran away, got pregnant, were abusing drugs, involved in gang activity and having relations with adults at very young ages. I witnessed the consequences of their actions, and silently vowed that I would do better. I decided to escape my pain through school and excelled academically. I strived for success in everything that I did, and tried to keep myself motivated, even through my tears and sleepless nights.
I Learned How to Trust: Throughout my entire foster care journey, one of the things that I truly valued the most was having access to a female mentor. Although this lasted a couple of months, it helped me on my journey. When I was feeling sad, discouraged or dealing with my abandonment issues, my mentor’s guidance and attention helped me feel hopeful. She helped me believe that I could trust adults again and that there were people in the world who truly cared.
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, now is the time to give your love to a child in need. There are thousands of neglected African American children who need loving homes from people who truly care. Please find out more about how you can help save a child’s life today, by contacting your local foster care agency.
Florence Edwards holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Communications. She is the Foster Care Marketing Specialist for Trinity Youth Services, a foster and adoptions agency based in Southern California. To learn how to foster or adopt a child, please visit www.Trinityys.org, or contact Florence directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 909-825-5588, ext. 230.