The treacherous journey from foster to future (2016)

The real "f" word is not the four letter one. 
It is a word that appears benign
But in actuality is far more profane than the other.
It's a six letter "f" word.
You probably know it...
"Foster." As in "foster" child.

Image is a graphic that describes many troubling statistics of children in US foster care. Photo credit: FosterShock dot com 

As in throw away child. 
As in over-medicated child,
Under-appreciated child,
Belongs-to-no-one child.

Image is a bar graph depicting the high rate of psychotropic drugs prescribed for foster children in five US states. Photo credit: C. Smith, GSU

As in object of pity,
Low/no expectations,
Faceless, nameless folder in a caseload.
What a ridiculous, inaccurate term
To have permanently branded upon you. 
It's a club no one wants to join;
One whose effect lingers years after it no longer applies.

Image is of a preteen white girl with dark blonde hair and bluish gray eyes in a gray hooded sweatshirt resting her head upon several stones, staring forlornly at the camera. The words "Bad, Gross, Stupid, Dirty, Ugly, Don't Adopt" are printed on top of the stones. Original photo source unknown.

Do you know what being the "f" word means?
It means having all of your belongings tossed into trash bags for move number 8, or 9, or 10.

Image is a black and white meme with text printed in front of the silhouette of a tied garbage bag. The wording reads: "Trashbags. At seven he had already moved more times than the total number of years he had been on the earth. And this time, like the times before it, he moved with his belongings in a trash bag. A suitcase, at least, would have added a small degree of dignity to the whole affair - to being "placed" in another and another and yet another foster home before reaching 3rd grade. Trash bags break, you know. Trash bags can't possibly support the content of any life, and certainly not a life as fragile as this. - Social Worker (from "The Child I Didn't Adopt")

It means unfamiliar homes, unfamiliar neighborhoods, and unfamiliar schools. 
It means cycling through a sea of ever-changing "Moms" and "Dads."

Image of an adorable young white boy holding a cardboard sign that states: "12 foster homes." He has blond hair in a "bowl" cut and is wearing a red shirt and khaki pants. Photo credit: Surviving Adversity

It means receiving impersonal Christmas and birthday gifts that came from random donors who picked your name out of a hat because you are "less fortunate."
It means crying quietly at night in bed because you want your Mom and Dad to come for you, but they never come.

Image is a distressed young child with dark hair and light/medium-ish skin wearing a pale blue shirt being forcibly held/moved by the arms by two adults. The image is captioned "Is this really in my best interest? and "Kids Becoming Nobody's Children." Photo credit: Kid Jacked dot com

It means crying quietly at night in bed because someone else DID come - and now your innocence is gone, along with your sense of safety.

Image is a child's drawing and a message scrawled in black crayon that states: "It hurt when you made me a woman when I was just a little girl." Three tears are drawn in the corner of the page. Photo credit: Sunshine Girl On a Rainy Day: Sexual Abuse in Foster Care blog

It means your family is scattered
And your hopes are shattered.
It means fear
But that's not all it means.

Image is a picture taken from the opening credits of a video. The words "Surviving the Foster Care System" appear in white next to a young child with dark hair in a short sleeved navy blue t-shirt gazes out of a window, back to the camera. Photo credit: YouTube

It also means that you are a fighter
It means you are a survivor
It means life tried to take you out
Many times
But failed
Because you're still here. 
Being the "f" word makes you strong.
Because if you do not become strong, you won't make it. 
You have to be strong to rise above the hurt
Above the loss
Above the broken promises
Above the unfulfilled dreams
Above what has happened to you
And above what may happen to you. 
It means believing you will make it
And living for tomorrow
No matter what things look like now

Image is of a white preteen girl with straight tousled hair sitting against a brick wall with her legs pulled against her chest. Next to her is a black background and the statement "33% Foster kids abused by an adult while in foster care."  Original photo source unknown.

Do you dare to have hope?
You might tell yourself "Nope."
Especially since
It takes a lifetime it seems for you to just cope
But sometimes the thought, the lingers.
Hope that since you've survived this, you're going to make it.
Hope that this jaded world will not break you.
Hope that you will have a tomorrow
One that's better than this
Far beyond this.

Image is a meme of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr that states: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

Maybe you'll always be a little screwed up,
Maybe some of the scars will remain.

Image is a meme that states "More than 1 in 5 children in foster care develop PTSD as a result of physical &/or sexual abuse. Photo credit: PTSD Foster Care Awareness on Pinterest

You can't make the past disappear
But you can place it on mute.

Image is of the silhouette of a person leaping across a large gap between two cliffs with a colorful sunset in the background. Original photo source unknown.

Once broken, now glued.
Once beaten down, now upright.
Once hopeless, now hopeful.
Once a victim, now victorious.
Once rejected, now protected.
Once looking outward, now focusing inward.
Once pained by a hurtful past,
Now reaching forward for a better future. 

(Written for D & A with love)

Image is of two adorable young black boys, possibly siblings, wearing blue and white striped shirts. Their hair is neatly shaven and their arms are around one another. Photo credit: Social Services of New Hanover.

Recommended citation: Giwa Onaiwu, Morénike. (2016). The treacherous journey from foster to future. Just Being Me...Who Needs "Normalcy," Anyway? [Personal essay.]


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