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In 2015, Judge Janis Graham Jack called the Texas foster care system broken and unconstitutional and wrote that “those labeled permanent wards of the state ‘almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered’”. After her stating that, numerous news organizations picked it up and wrote about how the system works and how it fails children. Before then, many people probably didn’t even think about what a foster kid’s reality is and a lot of people probably still don’t. When foster kids are thought of, they are often viewed as problematic, aggressive children and sometimes even delinquents. The definition of a foster child is “a child without parental support and protection, placed with a person or family to be cared for, usually by local welfare services or by court order.” If that is all a foster kid is, why are they viewed as such inherently bad kids?
According to Dictonary.com, foster care is defined as “the raising or supervision of foster children, as orphans or delinquents, in an institution, group home, or private home, usually arranged through a government or social-service agency that provides remuneration for expenses.” Typically, foster care is a meant to be a temporary arrangement until the child can be placed back with their family, if possible, or with an adoptive family. While a kid is in care, they are supposed to be provided a safe environment to live in, have access to counselling, be allowed to be involved in extracurricular activities, be supplied basic hygiene and clothing items, among many other things. In short, foster children are supposed to be given anything any “normal” child would have provided for them.
Children get removed from their homes and put into foster care for a plethora of reasons ranging from abuse and neglect to having parents that are addicts. Once removed, sometimes they’re placed into homes where they’re being abused and neglected despite the protective measures that are supposed to be set in place to prevent that. In reality it isn’t a huge concern to the state whether foster children are going through abuse while in protective custody. In an article written about the downfalls of the Texas foster care system, Cameron Langford wrote “But Clement said Jack correctly found Texas was deliberately indifferent to the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children in licensed foster homes…”. A large number of foster children, if not all of them, have gone through some sort of traumatic event, and never learn how to cope with that trauma due to lack of resources. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, mental and behavioral health is the “greatest unmet health need or children and teens in foster care.” while up to 80% of foster kids have significant mental health issues compared to only about 20% of the general population. The harsh reality is fixing this broken system isn’t a priority for the people in office. For a lot of this, I don’t need to research anything because this was and has been my life for years.
On September 30th, 2013 I was removed from the custody of my adoptive parents, with whom I had lived with for eleven years and entered the foster care system due to years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I came into care so traumatized I couldn’t be touched, I couldn’t even be hugged without feeling physically ill. Once I was removed from their custody, I was allowed to stay with a friend for a little while and literally had nothing but the clothes I was wearing and my backpack for school. My friend’s family helped me buy clothes and 2 months later I was moved to my first shelter without any warning and lost everything again. In that shelter, I was not allowed to leave unless it was for school, I wasn’t allowed to stay after school for any of my band practices and I wasn’t allowed to be a normal kid.
I was then moved to a foster home a few months later and was given a trash bag to put my belongings into which was something I would soon grow accustomed to. Again, I wasn’t allowed to be a normal child and have friends because my foster mother didn’t believe that I could be trusted, she believed my good manners and quiet personality was a façade.This became my life for the next several years. Constantly moving from place to place and being told I wasn’t a good kid and wouldn’t amount to much took its toll on me and I began to act out.
I was always told foster children were bad and I was treated like I was some sort of criminal even though I was a genuinely good kid, I was just a little broken. Eventually, I began to act the way people expected me to act, I began doing drugs, hanging out with bad crowds, getting kicked out of schools and eventually one of the shelters I lived in realized I needed help. They did something that I hadn’t had done for the 3 years I had been in care, they provided me with a therapist. She helped me believe I didn’t have to be what so many people thought I was, I could make something of myself and defy all the odds that were stacked against me.
Foster kids are not bad kids, they’re the product of a failed system. More often than not, we don’t learn how to stop and breathe and heal. We’re stuck in constant survival mode, waiting for the next blow. The foster care system often further traumatizes you in an attempt to help you.
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