what I want you to know: the legacy of growing up in foster care

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions.  It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s post is by LT, who blogs about her life after aging out of foster care.

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When I was in foster care, I felt so different from the rest of the world. I knew I was different….how could I not. I did not have a family that was truly mine, I had no good friends; as most of my “buddies” were long-term foster kids living in the same homes I was, and were moved away sometimes without saying goodbye. I lived in 12 different foster/group homes in 11 years, I went to 8 or more schools, I owned very little material things including clothes. Nobody really cared about me, just to care. Workers and foster parents cared because they had to…some better than others. I smoked, I ate and I puked, I drank, I did drugs, I self-harmed, I was a mess….because no-one cared and I did not care about my self or my body.

I never went to camp, I never played a musical instrument, I never went to Disneyworld or any amusement park. I never played an organized sport, I never learned to swim, and I never was in a club. I never got a driver’s license and I never went to a prom.

All these things help to shape a person, their selves and their likes and dislikes.

Sometimes I never had a birthday or a holiday or a congratulations; many times I didn’t. I knew I could be used and no-one cared. I knew I could be “fooled around with” and no-one cared. I knew I could be treated as a housemaid and no-one cared. I knew I didn’t matter. I knew I was not a “person” because my feelings and needs did not matter.

Well here I am now, 20something, still living in the shadow of how I lived in foster care. Things are no different. I have no human family that is truly mine. I have no friends…I had “streets siblings” but like I have said before, they don’t know how to be in relationships either, so any street relationship is f--ked up. They come and go, moving from place to place, from street family to street family, just like foster kids. And for years, I choose to live solitarily, because of some things that happened in a “street family” — that mimicked life as it was at times in foster care.

Now that I am off the street, there is no-one IRL. I don’t fit in…I don’t belong. The people at my work who are my age are in school; and they worry about weather their mom and dad will pay their cell phone bill or pay for their gas or car insurance. They worry about which party they are going to attend this weekend. They worry about what they are going to wear the first day of their classes in a couple weeks.

Me…. I worry about if I have enough money to stay off the streets; to pay my rent, so I am not homeless again.. because I don’t have a place to run home to.. I worry about whether I am going to have to do something illegal (which would NOT hurt anyone else) to pay for Moonlight, god forbid things take a turn for the worse. I worry about that one of my 4 jeans will rip up the ass, because well, at work, we can wear rips in the knees, but not in the ass…..and I don’t have the extra $6.00 to buy a pair at Goodwill right now.

See how our worlds are so different…? —- See how I don’t belong?

My boss and his wife — I think they are good people. But I am waiting for the shoe to drop when they tell me what I OWE THEM. They gave me a bike. They have taken me to urgent care when I had strep and could not pay. They give me food. What do I need to give them? Although I have worked extra hours and worked catering for them, I assume what I gotta give them will be pretty big. My mind races constantly, some of which is too graphic to subject you to — but people that give, ALWAYS want something in return. The question is what?

I met a couple people on the internet, since I “logged-on.” Some sucked. Some were f--ked up in a scary way. Most come and go. Most want something from me…However, there has been one person that is fairly consistent– as much as an internet person could. That person has been nice and never really wanted anything back…so far. I think the “Slayer of Dragons” knows who she is. Ironically, she is a great mom to several adopted children with a lot of hardships from that – And she herself is undergoing massive changes in her life…for which my expectations are she will be gone from mine..although I Hope not. History with people…tells me otherwise.

The internet is a lot like living on the streets. People come and go and come and go – get what they need or just hang around for awhile – and then move on. It seems to be the nature of the internet in my experience thus far, that people are looking for something (isn’t that life?)….

I don’t really know what I am looking for…..really, I don’t. Actually I guess to be honest as I try to be; I guess I could say, I am looking for a family – but we all know that is unrealistic; as no-one adopts a f--ked-up 20-something with nothing. Ironically, maybe I really am not looking for anything, because I know deep down, I don’t belong. Maybe I am looking for a friend… but I don’t even know about that anymore; because there is always strings attached and I am tired of being the “used.”

Maybe I am just passing time, waiting for the end…

So, I’ve lived in lots of different places when I was homeless just like foster care; you could not believe how many places I have lived…Now, I am trying to settle down in this place for awhile. I don’t know why. I never graduated any school, but I got my GED after failing some sections a couple times. When you never had “social studies” or physics or chemistry or algebra or …you get the picture.

I still own very little — its pathetic and embarrassing. I work with people older and younger than me and they all have “stuff” and “gadgets” and the coolest clothes. I don’t even own a cell phone – I can’t afford the monthly bill. I don’t own an ipod or a camera or anything else that seems to be cool today. Some kid at work was reading a book on this pad thing…I never heard of it — called a Kindle. They cost hundreds of dollars… and I can’t even afford a $54 pair of sneakers (that I really want because of the colors), when I also really need a new pair….I gotta go to Goodwill. Which hell, is alot like foster care too — always second hand clothes and hand-me downs from other kids. I do own a bike that was given to me — probably the nicest thing I ever owned….ever.

I still eat poorly, I smoke, I drink to purposely get drunk, I self-harm pretty badly (beyond your belief), and I am struggling with mental illness. Even more telling, is I still don’t care about myself or my body. I REALLY don’t. The only one difference I see from foster care is that I no-longer am using illegal drugs; thanks to the cops on the beach who busted me sleeping under the boardwalk (recall my “come to jesus moment” regarding prison time).

I got a drivers license, but I don’t have a car. I don’t know how to swim; and I don’t know how to play an instrument. I am not in any clubs, I don’t know much about sports, and I still haven’t been to Disney or any amusement park (although god, I want to goto Disneyworld). I haven’t had a birthday greeting or a Christmas card or a congratulations from anyone meaningful since I can remember.

I don’t forsee things ever changing. How could they possibly when I have nothing to fall back on, when I have no support, when I have nothing…

I suppose I could go on…. But the parallel is telling.

If you are reading this and think it is a pathetic rant or whine –

Ask yourself this:

When was the last time something sad or terrible happened….

…..and you had no-one to share your grief?

When was the last time something good or happy happened….

…..and you had no-one to share your joy?

When was the last time something painful happened…

…..and you had no-one to share your pain?

That is one legacy of foster care…


……being utterly alone.



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