Editor’s Note: Foster youth frequently find themselves moving from placement to placement. If in the Dependency System for 24 months or longer, 44% children experience three or more placements and 15% experience five or more placements. And these frequent changes are not without consequences. One study has found that children that experienced multiple placements had between a 36% and 63% percent greater risk of developing behavioral challenges than those with stable placements. In addition, multiple placements have also been found to lead to delayed permanency outcomes, academic difficulties, and struggles to develop meaningful attachments.
TRIGGER WARNING: The following contains content that may be harmful or traumatizing to some readers.
Well, this new group home was in a nice, big house. It did not resemble a group home at all. It was very quiet. It had many rooms and only two girls in each. I liked the warm feeling of the house and the staff there were actually very nice and welcoming. There were more Latina girls there and it was only a matter of hours before I was part of the house. They had a huge back yard full of weeds and trash, but it had potential to be a nice place to hang out in the summer, if it was cleaned, and if I stayed there till then.
We had a therapist who would do group and individual counseling with all of us. She didn’t pressure us. She always just gave us room to be where we were, and she didn’t expect us to pour our lives out to her. We were allowed to ride the bus to school and back. We could go to AA and NA meetings. They gave us an allowance that stayed in a folder, so when they took us out for a treat, we could have money to spend. I got in trouble for smoking and as a consequence, they had me do the yard. Which was not bad because I liked cleaning it so we could eventually hang out there.
Then one day some random lady came to visit me. She stated that she was “my CASA.” I honestly didn’t care for her. She annoyed me every time she came. I was not interested in another worker coming in my life and questioning me on why or how I felt that my mom gave me up to the state. I always had excuses to not meet with her, but she never gave up and kept coming back.
I finally started visiting with her because I wanted to get out of the house more. It was around the holidays. This was the only part that I did not like from being at the group homes, the holidays really sucked. A lot of the girls had relatives they could go to spend Christmas with and all I had was the staff at the group home. I mentioned this to a support person we had at one of our AA meetings. I told her that I had nowhere to go and asked her if she could take me home with her for the holidays. I was so excited thinking she would and then she told me that was not possible. Instead, I started distancing myself from everyone and started going out with my CASA. Then my CASA surprised me with the news that she advocated for me, and I was able to go spend Christmas day with that support person from the meetings! I was so happy, I cried! All I had wanted was not to spend another holiday by myself, with people that wanted me to be with them, and I did. It was the best Christmas yet.
After that I established a good relationship with my CASA, and she took me everywhere to do fun stuff. Most of our favorite places to go were a Chinese restaurant to eat hot and sour soup and to play at the beach with her dog! I loved the time I spent with her, and I remember she gave me a rose bush. My very own white rose bush to take care of because I couldn’t have a pet. She showed me how to trim it and took the time to make sure I knew it was mine and she got all the stuff I needed. I would spend a good hour everyday talking to it, checking it, making sure it was just perfect. Then white roses began to bloom, and it was the best thing ever to know that I was able to grow these roses and didn’t kill them!
My CASA took me to my first concert for my birthday and I remember that as one of the most amazing things anyone has ever done for me. I had this lady, who was a total stranger, that didn’t go away and cared about me and showed me she cared and made me feel good.
I only had a few social workers who were not total head cases. I had one that was pretty cool to talk to all the time because he was a male and didn’t talk to me like I was a bad kid or didn’t make me feel like I was a bad kid. I remember him asking me “You know what happened to you is not your fault, right?” That touched me because no one had ever stopped to tell me or make sure that I knew that it really was not my fault. Everyone had always made sure I knew that my mom didn’t protect me and that it was better I was where I was living rather than with a mom who didn’t protect me. That meant a lot. All this time I thought it was my fault and regretted every minute of having said anything.
I ended up getting another foster home because I was almost ageing out and these people were friends of my mom’s. So they were not total strangers, and I was very grateful that they were taking me into their home. I lived there for a good while. I went to school and had even got a job at a fast-food place. I really loved the family’s closeness. I had two foster sisters and two foster brothers who I really respected and looked up to. I had my foster mom and foster grandma who loved making Sopita with tortillas. Out of all the food I learned to make, her Sopita’s were still the best ones I had.
I ended up pregnant at seventeen while living with them. I remember my foster sister would come from college and stay a few days and when she did, she would share the room with me and play music on my belly for my baby. I graduated one year early from high school so that I didn’t end up having a new baby during finals my senior year. I was enrolled in an independent living program that was just trying to get me to fill out surveys and sort of teach me life skills, but the people kept quitting so I never really knew what the plan was. Soon enough, the courts saw that I was able to care for myself, and at the age of seventeen and a half, I was declared an adult in the court’s eyes and they basically said bye, see you, good luck.