We asked: Tell us about a stereotype people have about youth in foster care. What’s the truth?
Stereotype: All people who were in foster care are mentally unstable.
Truth: being in foster care does not automatically mean you suffer a mental illness or are unstable. People in my state look down on foster kids as trash or troubled. It is not called foster care here if you’re not in a foster home. It was rare for us to be placed in an actual foster home. Most of us all lived in shelters and group homes.
Many people assumed that I had extreme mental health issues because I was in foster care and that I was “bad, delinquent child that wouldn’t amount to anything”. They warned their children to stay away from me because I was a bad influence. Well the bad influence is a year away from getting her doctorate degree.
I worked with four members of the same family for several years, in high school and college, a mother and her three sons. Near the end of that time, the mom told her youngest son that I was “in foster care for a reason,” which she implied was delinquent behavior. In reality, my mom was born mentally challenged and I entered care because her mom died and Mom couldn’t raise me on her own.
I was incredibly offended. I had always been responsible, respectful and honest. I didn’t do anything to deserve her false allegations, nor did 89% of kids in the system, according to the Pew Commission.
A stereotype that people had about me specifically being in foster care was that I didn’t have control over my mental health and that I was crazy because I didn’t have a family. I went into foster care after my dad died and my mom took her life. I was 16 and I most definitely was not okay at that time and I may have not had total control over the urges to hurt myself but I was always on top of my meds and did what I had to do per my therapist. If I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t even be close to the woman I am today. People used to tell me because I was foster care that I didn’t have a family. That is most definitely false. I do have a family-a mom and a dad. They’re just not with me physically anymore. But even when I was in a shelter, that shelter was my family. The staff and every girl in that house left a mark on my heart I will never forget. The truth is what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I truly and wholeheartedly believe in that. I am now 21 turning 22 next month, graduating in December with my Associates in Psychiatry and I work full time as an Auto Loan Officer for Chase Bank. Every foster care kid is one caring adult away from being a success story. If I didn’t have people that saw something in me besides being a suicidal foster kid, I may have been that stereotype but I have grown and been lucky enough to get through the dark past and advocate for future foster kids!
A stereotype I think people have about young adults in foster care is that they will never grow and be able to be something big one day. I know while I was in foster care I received a lot of doubt from a lot of people, staff, family members, that I would never amount to anything. I believe no matter what circumstances you come from you can achieve anything. The truth is that we are no different than any other human being just because the cards we were dealt were a little different. My opinion is that the young adults that struggled as children and had not so good childhoods are the ones that strive the most. I know my past is what drives me to have a better future for me and my daughter.
Stereotypes for young adults in foster care is that we will follow our parents’ footsteps and restart the cycle of drug abuse or prostitution. Another one is that we are delinquents and we can’t be trusted. As soon as they find out about us being foster kids [they think] that we are bad people and we will fall in line with what we grew up with and observed as children or as young teens.