Open Letter to Foster Youth/Alumni!

A hopeful positive letter to children within the foster care system of America. They are presented with so much negative…it’s time they received a little positive.

Dear Fellow Foster Children/Alumni~

I know you may feel your life is currently in turmoil,
not in a place you really consider your home or
awaiting a final decision on a new place to call home.

You probably at times feel like you are alone in the
world, that no one else has or is going through what
you currently are. You may feel that no one can
possibly understand or know what you are going
through. In most situations your case worker or foster
parents have never been in foster care so you think
“no you don’t know what I am going through.”
In most situations your feelings about others knowing
what you feel, understanding your feeling etc. are
probably true .

I, however, can tell you straight forward that I do
know what you are going through, I do know many of the
things you are feeling and understand them. I
know…because I have been exactly where you are
today. As many young say today, “Been there…done
that!”

I was a foster child from the day of my birth until I
aged out of the system at age eighteen. There is very
little you could share with me that I myself have not
experienced.

I have felt alone, I have felt depressed, I have felt
that no one understood, I have felt no one really
cared about me and yes…I have even wondered if it
was worth living.

You are not as unique as you think you might be. In
matter of fact there are over 12 million who, besides
myself, have been exactly where you are at.

I am here to tell you that you can overcome ALL of
this. If I can…I know you can!

I do not know why you are in foster care. It might be
the same as me…from birth, it might be because of
troubles within your home that requires you to be out
of your home for a short or long term basis, it may
even be because of something that you did wrong for
others to feel you needed a temporary outside the home
situation or finally it might be that you are awaiting
a new family to become your Mom and Dad.

It does not matter why you are in foster care. What is
important is how you come out of foster care.

I know many aspects of the foster care system makes
you feel that you might be of no value, that you can
not be a success and many other negative attributes.

This is absolutely not true !

I felt many times while in foster care and being moved
from one home to another the same feelings many of you
are having. But I have been able to overcome them and
so can you!

YOU are of value! You can hold your head up proudly!
You can be whatever you choose to be!

Yes, even those of you who may have done something
wrong to get placed within the foster system…you can
overcome this mistake, it can become something of the
past. All of us have made a mistake is our lives, even
more than one, but we learned from our mistakes and
moved forward. You can do this as well. You need to
begin making those changes today.

Your foster parents do care about you and what happens
to you, whether you are in your current home for a
short term or a longer time. They would not be foster
parents if they did not care about children and want
to help. No, they are not in foster care for the money
they receive to assist in your care. In many
situations your foster parents will spend far more
than what they receive.

I will not say no foster parent will not do wrong.
Yes, as in every situation in life there may be a bad
one. This is true also with biological/adoptive
parents  as well. If one does neglect you or do you
harm in any way then you must report it. Please make
sure any allegation you make however is in fact true .
Do not make allegations just because of how they may
have felt it necessary to discipline you one day and
you get angry at them. Never, ever make a false
allegation.

I know most of you wish that you were not be in
foster care. That you would be home either with your
Mom and Dad or an adoptive family. That may or may not
come some day. You must make the very best of your
situation. I ended up aging out of the system. I never
had a permanent Mom and Dad all the time I was growing
up. Despite this I hope I have become a person any Mom
and Dad could have been proud of. That is my hope for
each and everyone of you as well.

I know you can do it! Study hard, work hard, know that
you have self-worth not only to yourself but to others
and you can reach for the highest of goals, don’t let
anyone convince you otherwise!

I survived eighteen years in foster care…you can to.

I got an education…you can to.

I made something of my life…you can to.

Today I serve on international Board of Directors for two worldwide
non profits working to improve the lives of youth around the globe.

I made it…if I can…I know you can!

Peace,
A Fellow Foster Care Alum

10 Responses

  1. Excellent post Larry. I’m sending it to a few of my (former) kids. Love your attitude!🙂

  2. Very moving letter. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I first read your letter on the FCAA Facebook page. After reading what is one this and other pages and posts you have made, I can see where your open letter came from. I, too, am an older Alumni.

    I agree with your positive statements of self-worth and the ability to overcome the foster care system. While it may be true that other Alumni can remember what different experiences they had, it seems to me that no one person can say they have been in the exact situation, feeling the same way etc. I say this because each individual feels everything differently. I would say I can empathize with another person in their particular situation, but I don’t see how I can feel what they feel.

    Also, the idea comes across (to me anyway) that foster parents receive extensive training in order to become foster parents. That the overwhelming majority do not care about the stipend they receive. Also, the number of children in foster or out-of-care who are seriously abused or die may not be as great in comparison to the total number in care. But if you were to multiply the number of “survivors” by even 10 you might arrive at a number that describes the number of people who haven’t learned to overcome the abuse later in life and subsequently could injure themselves and/or others. Words of encouragement are always good and much needed. But the actual tools to do that are not so readily available until something drastic happens and outside sources take over.

    I admire those people who take children in where the total welfare of those children are of the utmost importance. Yes, they too bring with them learned parenting skills. They also have deal with the real life experiences of caring for a child/children who are not their biological children. Yes, there are interfering outsiders that can misinterpret actions of foster parents. And then there are the homes that a just plain malicious. I, like you, was raised from birth in both out-of-home and foster care till I was 18. I was born in Alaska when it was still a territory. I was also in care during a major epidemic of TB which resulted in thousands of children who were taken from their families and unfortunately nearly 80 percent were never reunited. The number of social workers (no CPSs at that time) was 25. So, each worker had nearly 250 to 300 cases each. This led to widespread abuse of foster children. The rules that had been in place were thrown out because of the need for more “homes”. I, for one, don’t believe that the different kinds of abuse can be totally separated (i.e. sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, mental and neglect). Even though it seems obvious that each “kind” of abuse is listed separately. How can anyone be sexually abused without being physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally abused? Not to mention neglect.

    It is one thing to say that pasts can be overcome and another to provide help in their individual time of need. I am 64 and have overcome most of what happened to me as a child. Unfortunately, I have not lost my dim view of foster homes. I know the good ones go unnoticed simply because they are doing a difficult and commendable job. Yes it’s been quite some time since I’ve been in foster care, but I had an occasion to take on DFYS (or its equivalent) on behalf of my special needs Granddaughter who is now 20 years old. The foster care home she was in was no better than the one I was in as a child and that was 20 years ago. The self-serving attitude, that I have encountered in relation to foster care, has led me to think there still is a lot of work to be done. I honestly don’t think (from the research I’ve done) there is real, effective and efficient training for foster parents.

    I agree with the fact that false accusations made about biological, adoptive and foster parents can bring about heartbreaking and damaging results for both the children and the parental figures. Of course the system as a whole needs serious reform. This, unfortunately, will definitely not happen any time soon. Yes, definitions of abuse need to be uniform. This should also be for the training of foster parents, CPSs and social workers. Along with the branches of the police force that deal with reports of abuse. This also isn’t going to happen soon. So, are there any solutions? Who really knows. I sure don’t. But there does seem to be a dirth of real life help for the children who are both in the system and aging out of the system.

    Over the years, I have used my own quote to give myself a wake up call. “I can use my past to explain my behavior but not to excuse it.” I can only use for myself, because I know where I am in my search for becoming a better person. I know I don’t have to emulate my past parental figures. I have met both of my biological parents both of which are now deceased. I can say, it sure wasn’t the usual TV tearful reunion etc. I also have one biological brother who was raised in the same places I was. Unfortunately, we never developed a close relationship and hardly know what to say to each other when we talk.

    • Lisa~

      Thank you for your extended remarks. Many of your points I agree with though a few I do not.

      I believe after having experienced verbal, physical, sexual abuse as a youth and being moved 14 times while in care that I have experienced much of what most foster youth have thus feel comfortable saying I know what they are going through.

      Yes, each responds differently but the main thrust of my message is that ALL can make it if they do not allow their expereince control their lives after care….they have value and can overcome it….they of course need the encouragement of those of us who went through care, survived and thrived.

      • Prairieguy,

        Thank you for your prompt response. I would almost agree that given the tools, opportunity, along with the encouragement from others who have succeeded in bettering their lives despite having been in foster or out-of-care. The problem lies, in my view, in the absence of immediate, close, sincere caring people who can talk to them be it online, over the phone or in person. If there is a particular site that kids, young adults and older alumni can visit to get this information and help, I would like to see it and share it with others. I have tried to establish a site or blog or whatever, but I’m not very good at starting those things or finding a way to get it “published” so it can actually help anyone. I know the focus is more often on those presently in foster care, close to aging out and new to world on their own. There is also the group of Alumni who have just given up over the years and never did become positive members of society. This last group, if given an active voice, could be a great resource for the younger ones who really need the help now. Is there a site that you know of that tells the various processes that some older Alumni have used to overcome past experiences and became successful in their own right? Successful, being a relative term, could mean the step by step growth from what is negative to positive. It doesn’t have to mean that in order to appear successful, one should have a comfortable monetary life. Just making it through one more day with no harm to ones self or others. If there is such a site, please let me know. I’m sure there are ways to encourage and help them grow and thrive also. In a former job as an RA at a Job Corps center, I had the priviledge and opportunity to work with 81 individual young men. It was a wake up call for me and in turn for them. They learned to trust, care and increase their self esteem if necessary. Best job I ever had. Due to health reasons, I had to leave.

        I feel I have succeeded in many things and have overcome a lot of problems that stemmed from my stay in foster and out-of-care places. Still haven’t managed a good way to call them homes.

        Again, thank you for your prompt response.

      • Lisa…there is group today that tries to provide what you suggest, it is called Foster Care Alumni of America. It has been around for only a few years now but is growing. It tries to provide alumni to mentor. etc to those just coming out of care as well as try to improve the system. I think if the system was improved to provide better for youth while they are in care things would be better when they age out…right now there are far too many youth who leave care only to end up in prison, on the streets, etc. It still amazes me how little has changed in the system in the many years since I aged out…the problems I confronted, and you probably as well, still face youth in the system today.

  4. Would it be OK if I posted this on my site? I am setting up a nonprofit to help alumni.

    MISSION STATEMENT: Persons Becoming Inc., is a community outreach founded by Paula Kipp to provide transitional support for foster children who have aged out of the system.

  5. Lisa, the things that you’re saying are needed are exactly the types of support I’m trying to provide with the nonprofit I’m starting. I’ve been asking in as many places as I can this question:

    Beyond housing and educational benefits, what do foster care ageouts/alumni feel they need to be self-sufficient members of society? I have not yet had very many people come forward willing to answer that question. Agency heads would love to answer that question for me (and have) but that provides a lopsided picture of what the true needs are.

    A very good book to read as a sort of guidebook to the transition from care to adulthood (not just for foster youth but people in general – wish I’d read it when I was going through that phase) is FLUX. The book is available on the Foster Care Alumni of America website. It was very eye opening for me.

  6. Thanks for this. I am a foster mom – blogging at the-popps.blogspot.com
    I love reading another point of view. Thank so much!

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