I think it is important for foster youth or foster alumni to read and hear about others who have gome through the system who have made it, who have not proclaimed themselves as victims.
Therefore I was delighted when I read the article velow in the Idaho Statesmen and felt the need to share it here for those who may not get alerts dealing with foster care.
Bitter life experiences teach foster child not to limit herself
Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman
“Everything has made me, me,” says Brittany Mars. She was born to parents addicted to drugs, moved from foster home to foster home until she was 18, transformed her life after a failed adoption and now is a happy, successful college student. “I just think that to narrow it down to my foster family or even (my siblings) is too narrow. There is so much more in this life that has made me who I am,” she says. “Every experience, and every place we go shapes us in one way or another.”
As a toddler, Brittani Mars developed her sense of what “family” meant – by watching television. She’d see kids in a loving environment with doting parents enveloped in a sense of security with happy endings. It certainly wasn’t what her house was like.
She says: “I knew we were missing out on something. As a kid, I always knew I wanted to have what they had (on television). I never experienced that until I was adopted. Or maybe in foster homes, but they never lasted.”
Brittani is the second of four children born to parents addicted to drugs. Her parents separated, her father disappeared and, when she was 3, her mother lost custody. When Brittani was 7, her mother’s parental rights were terminated – about seven years late, Brittani says.
“I was born addicted to meth. I should have been taken from mom at that point”
Brittani was adopted when she was 7.
“I never felt as if I’d have a home and family and somebody to call my own (but then I did)
Her adoptive mother was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Brittani was, she admits, quite a handful, and at age 10, she went back into foster care. It was, and still is, painful for both her and her adoptive family.
“I was still acting out, lying, doing anything I could to get attention, either positive or negative. I was a lot of work I was getting counseling, but I think we didn’t start early enough.
“(However), I was transformed with the failed adoption. I learned I couldn’t just treat people how I wanted. I couldn’t just do whatever I wanted. I lost everything I cared about because I couldn’t get my act together.”
In Idaho, there are almost 2,000 kids in foster care. In Boise, the number of foster families has not increased in six years, though the number of children in need continues to grow. There is a nearly desperate need for foster families in general, and in particular, families willing to care for adolescents, sibling groups and pregnant teens.
Brittani lived in six foster homes between the ages of 10 and 18. Although some of the homes were difficult and even traumatic, some of them were exactly what she needed. One family took her to church, where she found a faith to count on. She was assigned a caseworker who gave her rock-like support. In another home:
“I moved in with an older single ladyIt was a really perfect place for me. She gave me freedom and independence, but with structure and rules. She wasn’t always in my face and she wasn’t touchy-feely. She gave me the space I needed to heal.”
But Brittani still craved the sense of family. In one last move before she was 18, she found a place that she now calls home.
“A few key people in my life made a significant impact on who I am and have gotten me where I am today. At the same time, (there’s something internal that’s) a testimony to the human spirit and the willingness to do what it takes to survive.”
Today, Brittani is a well-adjusted 19-year-old student at Northwest Nazarene College, studying social work. She doesn’t make a secret of her childhood, but she realizes it’s a lot for people to digest.
“Kids in care are so stereotyped. When people find out you’re in foster care, they automatically assume you are bad; they see you differently. Kids in care are just like kids anywhere else, except they’ve gotten help
“Kids have behaviors. That’s not why they’re in foster care. It’s because they’re hurting and need to be loved and they need people to care for them. There are ways to remedy behavior problems; there’s always a solution.
One of the things she was given – that she created – is a wisdom rising from her past.
“I value relationships a lot more. I know what it feels like to lose people you care about
“Everyone has goodness, and there’s weakness in everyone, too. But even the hardest mean-spirited person cares about something.”
Although originally cut off from them, over the years Brittani has been in contact with her biological family. Some of her siblings are fine, yet others are trapped in the legacy of abuse, drug use and psychological trauma. “I don’t know why it worked for me,” she says.
“(But) it’s important to know where you come from. It’s important to resolve issuesIt would be a shame to go through all of this for nothing.”
Her past has led her to where she is – and to where she will go. From her foster family’s church work with an organization in Rwanda, Brittani learned about the genocide there.
“That awareness awakened a passion in me for children and what they’ve gone through.
“I’ve always loved children, especially those neglected and abused. I can relate to them and what they’ve been through. My experience doesn’t begin to relate to what they’ve gone through in Rwanda, but at the same time, I do know what it’s like to feel loss and pain
“We’re all called to help people. I hope my degree in social work can help me understand where I come from, grasp everything I have gone through and (learn) how to use that to help others.”
Brittani has dreams for her life. “College, first of all,” she says. “Here I am. Hallelujah.” And working with neglected or underprivileged children in the inner city or a group home.
“Life goes on. It’s scary. I’m terrified to end up like my mom. That’s why I’m in college. I’m not a strong believer in higher education (she values life experiences), but that sets me apart from my mom. She couldn’t do college.
“We’re only limited by how we limit ourselves.”