Pitbull. Did most of you think of a vicious mean dog or a friendly, family dog? The same thing applies to foster children. The moment a child says they are a foster kid, they get a look, like something is wrong with them.
Society has deemed foster kids as damaged goods, destined for jail or early death. Why is this and more importantly why are there statistics that prove this is the case?
As a child of the foster care system, I was bounced around ten different homes in a three year period. Many of the homes had to get rid of me because of my acting out and violent behaviors. It would be easy to say I was headed to those statistics.
Below are actual quotes from foster parents.
“I have finally realized that I am not going to be able to help child that is placed in my care, especially when that child is not ready to accept the help or willing to try”
“He is a handful”
“My intense efforts with Mikes school work alone have had a negative effect on both of my son's grades this marking period”
“He refused to obey any of the rules in my home and constantly bothered my daughter, along with giving me dirty looks, when asked to do something”
“I told him he had 48 hours to change his attitude and abide by my rules or I would have him removed from my home”
Something happened along the way though. I decided enough was enough and I was not going to fall into the same habits and addictions I saw throughout my life. I was not going to let my circumstances dictate how I was going to live the rest of my life. Throughout those ten homes there were three that made huge impacts on me and the last one I stayed at had the biggest simply because they loved me through it all, never giving up. They laid the groundwork to my attitude and the belief that I can overcome all these obstacles.
My Attitude Overcame all those obstacles, I refused to believe that I was going to be a statistic. I became the opposite. I am less than 2% of the population of foster kids who achieved a bachelor's degree and have never been to jail.
The big question is how to we replicate it in today's foster children? The answer is to be someone who believes in them. After I give a presentation, I always leave my contact information for anyone who wants to reach out. Inevitably, before I even get off stage I have emails and face book messages from kids thanking me and telling me about their issues.
I become that person that believes in them, that tells them yes life is tough and might always be but it is how you deal with that adversity that will define you.
A dear friend of mine is a 6th grade school teacher and has been so for over 19 years. He decided early on that he would take a more in depth roll in the lives of his students, not just the typical I am your teacher you are my student relationship. He often tells me stories of how students, who are now in high school and some who now even adults, still reach out to him with life questions and opinions because they simply do not have anyone else.
How is a child supposed to overcome if they have no one that believes in them? How are we as adults supposed to help change the stigma of society when it comes to foster kids?
Believe in them, let them know you believe, allow them to believe in themselves.