My short bio: I became a foster kid at the age of 14. Due to my older age, it was impossible to find a foster home. Everyone only wanted cute, little babies and was worried about the "trouble" with having teenagers. At the time, policy dictated that I had to change schools every time I changed placements. I found out that a law, called the McKinney Vento Act, would allow me to remain in the high school where I had started. To be protected by the law, however, I had to be homeless. I ended up spending most of my high school years in youth shelters in order to qualify under this act, but I was able to graduate from from the same school where I started.

was warehoused in shelters and group homes until deadlines forced them to move me to another temporary placement. As you can imagine, shelters were very scary. I was subject to a lot of violence and witnessed stuff that was worse than my biological home I was removed from. Group homes were terrible. It was impossible to connect with any adult because they constantly changed shifts, and most of them were pretty burnt out. I wasn't allowed to see friends or have a cell phone because they were scared we would run away. Group homes were like institutions and it was really hard to go through high school without a stable place to live. It felt like being a prisoner for a crime I did not commit. I put all my energy into my education and graduated with good grades. I went on to a notable university where I will be a senior in the fall.

Last summer, I was selected to be out of 15 former foster youth from around the country to intern in Congress. During that time, I published a report on school instability, entitled "From Homeless to the House of Representatives: How a Stable Education Saved a Foster Child", and testified to Members of Congress about my report at a bicameral briefing last summer.

I've been able to use my story to influence policy in Congress, publish reports, and have been featured in various media outlets such as CNN.
I also still work in the the United States Congress.

Also, I'm still in foster care. In my state, we can stay until we graduate from college! But that doesn't mean it's been easy - I've struggled with homelessness and PTSD since starting college, and I've gone through this pretty much on my own.

It's important for me to share my story as many people don't know about foster care, and it can be pretty bad. So I use my story to raise awareness! I hope I can educate you on the Child Welfare system and inspire you to take action to help the 500,000 children currently in need of a forever family.

My Proof:

Me briefing Congress on my published report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEhqKuRwWrw

Some articles about me: http://articles.courant.com/2013-06-17/community/hc-west-hartford-foster-youth-0618-20130617_1_foster-home-affordable-care-act-connecticut

http://www.childrensrights.org/news-events/cr-blog/no-child-is-too-old-for-a-family/

UPDATE soooo this is my very first post on Reddit and I'm blown away at the interest! Thank you guys SO much for asking about foster care and being so excited to make a difference.

I also wanted to let you all know that I just had an article published, and I would love you to check it out. Feel free to ask questions about it! https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/opinion/among-foster-youth-a-need-for-normalaccy/7374

Comments: 237 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

sonia72quebec43 karma

I'm an older woman who never had the chance to have children. I was thinking of becoming a foster home, but for an older kid. Do you think it's a crazy idea for someone who never had children ? I just think that somewhere out there a nice teenager needs a family. Everyone's telling me that they are "damaged" and I will be getting in a lot of troubles. What's your advice ?

lleexxiiie44 karma

First off - thank you SO MUCH for asking!

No one is damaged, but sadly that belief is what left me homeless. We're kids who have been through a lot, but we are still kids.

I strongly reccomend looking into it, especially reaching out to a local foster care organization that can help you look into it. Plus, they can also train you on how to parent a teenager and provide support when you do become a foster mom. I'd be happy to help you locate an agency or give you more resources, send me a PM

Also, check out Dave Thomas Foundation (the founder of Wendy's). They have some great resources on fostering/adopting older kids! https://www.davethomasfoundation.org

sonia72quebec15 karma

I'm from Qu├ębec, Canada. Last year, during Christmas, they did a news report about all the kids in group homes who didn't have any gifts/visits during the holidays. It totally broke my hearth. They didn't show their faces but you could hear the sadness in their voices. Your right about the prison analogy because their rooms really look like cells. Nobody should live like that. Even if I'm not American, I will look at the Dave Thomas Foundation :)

lleexxiiie8 karma

Yes, please do!!!

Kamala_Metamorph3 karma

Here you go! I just googled Quebec Foster

sonia72quebec6 karma

Thanks! I see they have a general information session. I'm will go to one of them.

lleexxiiie1 karma

YAYAYAYAY! You seriously just made my day. PLEASE let me know how it goes! <3

MightyMedicineWoman16 karma

Foster mom to teen girls here. The reality is that all kids in foster care have suffered trauma. Even babies. So, the age doesn't matter. There are difficulties with any age, foster kid or not. There are also many positives. So I say go for it!

lleexxiiie3 karma

You're awesome, thank you for being a lifeline for those girls. I wish I had someone like you when I was in care.

stydolph6 karma

I am a foster parent and a lot of people are going to try to persuade you from doing it but if you are willing to take these kids in and accept them as your own, then do it. Just be prepared to have your heart broken when they leave, but it is the most rewarding experience you can ever have. (and the most trying time as well but well worth it)

lleexxiiie1 karma

You rock!

RobinTheBrave5 karma

It's not crazy at all. Not all children in care are trouble, and you can choose not to take on a case that sounds too difficult. You'll be matched up with someone who the system thinks you can handle. Also you'll get loads of training and suppport. It takes months to get approved, so you've got plenty of time to talk to other carers and find out more once you apply.

lleexxiiie1 karma

Exactly, you won't be thrown into it :)

tammy9340120 karma

I adopted an older child from the foster care system (after an unbelievable ordeal from social workers who didn't think LGBTQ people had any business being parents). It's been a challenging road, and I'd like to believe my daughter (who's now almost 19 and has chosen to live for now with birth family) is better off for the 8 years she spent with me. But between her struggles and the horrendous ordeal that the system put all of us through to get her adopted, it's hard sometimes not to feel that all that effort was an exercise in futility and that the attempt of the social services system to "help" her has, overall, been a net negative for her. What are your thoughts about whether, and how much, the system actually helps kids?

lleexxiiie20 karma

Well, it saves our life. Kids are often taken from their biological homes because their life is at stake, so at least they are alive in foster care. And not every foster care experience is like mine, some people have a much more positive experience. I think it helps each child, in varying degrees.

And for having the girl leave you - it is NOT a lesson in futility. Believe it or not, I had a foster home when I went to college but left to try to reunite with my bio family. Whether or not they are "legally" our parents, the need to reunite with your parents is strong and sometimes enough to overpower rational actions. I know, personally, that even though I left that home after they worked so hard to help me, they changed me. In many ways, they saved me by showing me love and support. You truly are an angel for doing that, I hope you know that :)

enokeenu11 karma

A few questions: 1) At what age do you think kids get permanent affective disorder, so that are too emotionally damaged to be in an adoptive family?

2) We would like to help, but we just don't have space for another kid. What are some other ways parents can help out foster kids?

lleexxiiie14 karma

I'm not educated on psychology at all, so I hesitate to answer your first question as I don't want to misinform you. However, there's been some recent studies on trauma that show that there is no "point of no return". The brain can heal itself with love and support, so there is always hope.

One great way you can help is by mentoring. A lot of times, the Department of Children and Families (the state agency responsible for foster kids) can't afford to pay people to mentor. One of the things that saved me was a woman who volunteered to mentor me. She'd take me out for a few hours a week and we'd grab a snack and just talked. It really made the difference.

Also, you can spread the word! Learn more about foster care, especially about the issues in your community, and be a voice of change. Maybe join an advocacy group! The possibilities are endless. God bless you for being interested in changing the lives of these kids.

enokeenu4 karma

How did it work with your mentor? How did she make you feel comfortable about talking to you?

lleexxiiie7 karma

Just treated me like a normal kid. I hated how people would treat me like I was some pity party, and I wouldn't open up them. But she made me feel normal. Also, she never pried. Just sat with me, earned my trust, and allowed me to share when I was ready.

SoUpInYa3 karma

Were you expecting her to eventually adopt you?

lleexxiiie5 karma

Not at all. I did not want to be adopted, because I would lose a lot of benefits. And I knew she didn't have space to foster me. Boundaries were clear, but she gave me all she could.

Kamala_Metamorph2 karma

I mentioned this blog elsewhere in this post, but this former foster kid talks to your first question about being "unfixable".

Also, I'm not an expert, but is there a gentler way than saying "damaged"?

lleexxiiie2 karma

No one is damaged. Neuroscience has proved that the elasticity of the brain is so powerful that, with love and support and treatment, it can heal :) So there is ALWAYS hope!

paininneck9 karma

Relatives of mine have encountered problems with child welfare from the other side - being relatives who would provide a good and safe home for the children being hindered by all the delays and red tape of the system. From your perspective, what is the single biggest change needed in the way the system handles these children?

lleexxiiie21 karma

I experienced the same thing - my uncle was prohibited from fostering us due to the amount of space in his home. Far too often, agencies entrusted with caring for foster kids are too concerned with regulations and policies than the child's best interest. The universal golden standard of child welfare is putting their needs first, even when it means waiving a few unharmful standards. We need to start doing that.

smalltomatoespress12 karma

In Washington State, the law requires that the parent sleep in a bedroom. I thought that was weird. They can't rent an apartment with a dining room, or a big living room and sleep in there and give the kids a bedroom, they have to have a bedroom themselves. It's punitive towards poor people. Is that the same thing your Uncle experienced?

lleexxiiie7 karma

It's very similar. My uncle had two bedrooms, and three kids. Two of his children slept in one bedroom, while another happily slept in the finished basement. Me and my sibling shared the second bedroom. However, it was "out of code". Instead of recognizing we were safe and loved, they ripped us out of that home. I had never felt so broken.

diegojones47 karma

Would your uncle have been a good foster?

lleexxiiie18 karma

He would have been wonderful. He fought so, so hard to keep us. I didn't mention this before, but I am going to be in a documentary called "Lost in America." My uncle is featured in the film and describes how DCF took us from him for a stupid reason and put me in a homeless shelter. The film isn't all about me, I just appear to talk about my foster care story.

Here's the link to the film's FB - https://www.facebook.com/LostInAmericaFilm

yummy_babies8 karma

First of all, I am so glad you are able to use your experience to enact change. What were the circumstances that landed you in foster care? Were there any homes you stayed in where you witnessed or experienced something very positive?

lleexxiiie9 karma

I don't like to discuss why I ended up in foster care, just because it's a sensitive issue.

There was always at least one positive thing in a placement, whether it was a super caring staff member or a great foster sister. One of the most positive places I lived was a group home my senior year. They truly did care about us, and I finally felt loved. They really believed I could become someone. When I got my position in Congress, they were one of the first people to know :)

yummy_babies10 karma

I was very hesitant to ask for that reason, I respect your privacy :) I am so glad you were able to feel loved, and I hope you continue to feel loved each and every day.

lleexxiiie7 karma

Thank you so much :-)

The_Collector48 karma

Question: Having gone through this experience, are you more, or less likely to consider adopting kid(s) of your own some day?
PS: congrats on your achievements, have some gold!

lleexxiiie17 karma

First off, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE GOLD!!! This is actually my first post on Reddit so this is super cool!

I'm definently going to foster and adopt when I'm older, no doubt! I feel like I'd be a hyprocrite to talk about my experience and not help others. I really want to become a foster mom to older teen girls, especially ones who are very troubled, and be the adult who supports them no matter what.

KarmaNeutrino7 karma

Hey, I know it's an odd question, but what was your favourite part of living in foster care?

lleexxiiie19 karma

Knowing that if someone harmed me, I would get moved. I wouldn't have to suffer for long because I had a social worker watching me. Plus, I get my college paid for which is clutch since tuition is steep.

MindTheEdge7 karma

Were you ever able to form any lasting friendships during that time? Have you stayed in contact with anybody after being moved around so much? Also just huge daps for coming out on the other side such a strong and passionate individual and looking to assist people through your own experiences.

lleexxiiie9 karma

I formed a few friendships with some of the girls I lived with, and we still stay in contact. I didn't have any friends at school because I was too embarrassed to tell people I was a foster kid and I didn't want to lie to people. But since going to college I've met some absolutely incredible friends who have stuck by me, and I've been able to keep those bonds strong.

And thank you so much :)

MindTheEdge3 karma

How do you think we can help break that stigma? One of my best mates is a foster kid who bounced around the system until he found a family that just wouldn't let him fail. I never really thought twice about in high school, but I knew he copped some shit earlier in life.

lleexxiiie1 karma

I think we need a cultural shift...but I have no clue how to even begin that, to be honest.

DeadManLiving6 karma

I have an uncle who is gay (making him ineligible to adopt in Utah) but wants to adopt a foster care kid.

Do you have any suggestions? Do you think he should wait until if/when its illegal or just lie and adopt someone?

He'd make a great foster dad IMHO, he is not involved in the whole stereotypical gay scene.

lleexxiiie12 karma

I'm pretty sure that it is legal for him to do so after the passage of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. I would recommend calling your Member of Congress's district office and getting clarification.

Studies actually show that foster children of LGBT men and woman fare better than other youth.

dwarfed3 karma

Legal is one thing, but in Utah that often doesn't mean it can happen. I lived there 10 years, and trust me, a gay man trying to adopt a kid will be nigh impossible. Contacting his congressman - who is likely Mormon - probably won't help. Little short of a lawsuit will. Again, just based on my experience with how Mormonism dictates laws, policies, and power there.

lleexxiiie2 karma

There's a law called the Every Child Deserves a Family Act which bars discrimination in the child welfare system. If this passes, hopefully your uncle will be able to foster and adopt.

Kamala_Metamorph2 karma

[deleted]

lleexxiiie1 karma

I highly agree! It would be great for him to connect with other people in his community - maybe others have tackled this issue and found a way to make it work.

ithinkimalergic2me5 karma

What is the worst thing you witnessed in a group home?

lleexxiiie21 karma

I had a staff member encourage me to kill myself after they let me keep razors in my room (usually you had to sign them back in). It was on Father's Day, and I told her I felt very depressed.

I witnessed many girls be restrained for something as simple as crying. They would be thrown on the ground by male staff, twisted and contorted. It was always the same girls. I was too scared to do anything. Thankfully, this place was shut down.

diegojones410 karma

That is really sad.

lleexxiiie15 karma

But I'm alive. And that place is shut down. There is progress, and hope, in the sadness... :)

PvP_Noob5 karma

Sorry to hear about your rough early start. It sounds like you have your act together and have found something positive in your life.

My sister and her husband just adopted a 2 year little girl. Mom's a drug addict and is serving time and dad got deported to Nigeria. They got her all of two weeks ago and she clearly has some trust issues. What this little girl doesn't realize is she just won the lottery. My sister and her husband are well educated, financially stable, and most importantly a loving couple.

I hope you find the loving bonds you so desperately needed as a child.

Since the autobot removed my comment because it wasn't a question, I'll ask do you think the increase in women marrying late and not being able to have children of their own will help the foster community? and as a follow up, what can the foster community do to get more childless women in their early 40's to consider motherhood is not defined by pregnancy?

karnata14 karma

And, um, she was just removed from her family of origin for reasons completely outside of her control. She's fortunate to be placed in a loving home, but she did NOT win the lottery.

I'm a former foster mom/adoptive mom, and it rubs me the wrong way when people act like my kids are so lucky to be with me. They have to deal with the fact that their fathers are unknown, their mothers are drug addicts, they were abused at young ages, etc. Their lives are not magically perfect now that they have a supportive family. They will have to deal with these very difficult issues for the rest of their lives.

Please encourage your sister and her husband to remember this as they're raising their daughter. It is easy to say, look at what all we gave you, be grateful, life is good! And forget that there is always pain and suffering associated with adopting from foster care. Even with a child so young.

lleexxiiie2 karma

Very, very true. We aren't lucky - in fact, it really sucks. A lot of foster parents have this idea that we'll run into their arms on the first day and call them mommy and the whole 9 years. And that false idealism is what makes alot of foster homes not work out.

lleexxiiie5 karma

I don't think that, alone, will help. I think the number one thing we can do is raise awareness in our communities. Tell a friend, host an informational event at your local library, or put up fliers.

militENT5 karma

Can i sponsor a foster kid while he is in college, i think i could at least offer the idea of a stable place to live? this system is a great and sad thing all at once.

RobinTheBrave4 karma

It depends where you are, but in some places children don't leave care until after college, and there are programs to provide a family for people who are even older.

lleexxiiie2 karma

Correct. In my state (CT) we can stay until we finish college. Sadly, some states kick you out at 18. It varies state to state.

lleexxiiie4 karma

YES, YES, YES! In fact, that is how I found my foster parent. They only had space for someone during holidays and summers, and thats the only time I needed housing (I live on campus during the school year). It is a great arrangement. I know my foster dad loves having an extra person to help prepare Christmas dinner, and I love having a family to spend it with.

Kamala_Metamorph3 karma

I can't easily find anything on fostering college kids, but if you have the time to open your home, hopefully you have time to mentor a ex-foster college kid. Mentored students are far more likely to complete college. Of course, after you get to know the kid, you can informally offer your home for holidays and weekends.

Here's a couple of links:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/acs/html/become_mentor/become_mentor.shtml

http://www.fc2success.org/how-you-can-help/

lleexxiiie2 karma

Hey, thank you for taking an active interest in this, researching it, and helping educate others on this forum. You rock!

LNRwhi5 karma

Whats the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced while being in foster care?

lleexxiiie12 karma

Bizzare restrictions put on us while in group homes. Not being able to dial the telephone because they were scared we would run away. Not being able to prepare our own food because we were treated as a company and the Health Inspector did not permit residents in the kitchen. Locked cabinets when the budget got cut and food was in short supply and they wanted to prevent us from stealing food when we were hungry. Just weird crap, treating us like we weren't even human.

LNRwhi4 karma

God the amount of sheer laziness just to make the lives of the officials lives easier by the sounds of it. Keep strong!

lleexxiiie10 karma

It's easy to be lazy when your constituency is a group of vulnerable kids who don't have a voice. That's why we need the collective community to be engaged, and be an advocate for the kids who so desperately need it.

catfoodcatitude4 karma

Did you ever receive assistance from a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer? Or a Guardian Ad Litem? Or do you have an opinion on these services?

lleexxiiie2 karma

I didn't, but I've worked with them professionally and they're a great organization. Highly reccomend.

gdyetrauda4 karma

Thank you for your work, and for sharing your story. I'm an adopted kid who knows the trouble, pain and expense potential parents go through, and it ticks me off that it gets more and more difficult for people to foster or adopt, and the children suffer.

My question is this-- do you feel the current political and religious focus on birth control and abortion affects the visibility and needs of foster children and other children who need families?

lleexxiiie2 karma

I don't think those conversations affect the visibility/needs of foster children. However, if people want to be "pro life", then they need to start supporting those children when they are born. If you care so much about children, they why aren't you a foster parent? Irony.

DramDemon4 karma

What is one thing you miss about your life before foster care, if you miss anything?

Edit: wording

lleexxiiie3 karma

I don't have any regrets about going into foster care, as it was not my fault to be taken away from my family. My biggest regret about being in foster care was being ashamed of it. I didn't tell any of my friends because I was afraid that they would judge me. But, by keeping it to myself, I missed out on a lot of possible support that would have helped living through it.

lleexxiiie3 karma

I really missed familiarity. Until I went into foster care, everything was familiar - my hometown, my house, my bed, my routine. When I was taken out of my home, I was ripped away from everything I knew and put into a new environment.

DramDemon2 karma

I'm sorry to hear that. Also, sorry about how I asked it earlier.

lleexxiiie2 karma

Hey, no worries dude. This isn't a subject that is talked about a lot so people aren't sure how to ask questions - I know you meant no harm :)

spacecadetdani4 karma

First of all: <3 Proud of you!

Second of all: Once I got stable I stopped talking about foster care and homelessness experiences because of the negative public perception. Seeing as how you are in the system still and are openly talking about it, do you find subtle and blatant discrimination based on circumstances outside of your control (taken from home)?

lleexxiiie2 karma

Not at all. I'm pretty well-adjusted, I work on Capitol Hill, so people don't judge me. But if one thing slipped up and I was on the street, the same story I tell before legislators would have people looking at me dirty.

uliarliarpantsonfire4 karma

I know I'm a stranger but reading about your accomplishments and outlook on life made me so proud of you! I never entered the foster care system, instead I left home at 14 and threatened to send my mother's husband to jail if she tried to make me come back. She let me go and I couched surfed for 2 yrs until I ended up with my grandparents where I should have been all along.

My little brother later left after my step father beat him until he had to be hospitalized. My step father got sentenced to counseling for the beating. My brother was ordered to go home, when he didn't and ran away the state put him juvenile detention. I lived hundreds of miles away and no one in our family knew anything about it until my then mother in law saw it in the paper. At that point he was already in juvenile hall with charges. From there he has lived a life of crime spending more time in prisons and jails than out and has become an abuser himself.

I was wondering what rational is used to justify that children are sometimes punished far worse than those that abuse them? It seems like that was the case with you also. If it's not too personal, if it is I'm sorry I don't mean to pry, but did your parents serve any time for abusing you? I know you didn't really mention what sort of abuse just that you were afraid to go home and children's services visited. It just seems so unfair that you spent years homeless and time treated as a prisoner when you were the victim. Also what are your thoughts on fast tracking adoptions and making the process of termination of parental rights quicker?

I also wanted to say thanks for doing this AMA and for speaking out for kids who really aren't given a voice!

lleexxiiie2 karma

Most parents don't serve time when their kids are removed. DCF usually aims to heal the family and have them reunite, so incarcerating the parents is counterproductive. I did not want my parents to be punished or go to jail. I just wanted to move on, heal myself, and learn to forgive them. I'm still in the process of doing that, but it is easier every day.

In terms of fast tracking adoptions, I have to disagree. The rise of adoptions is like the 2008 mortgage crisis - people don't know what the load they are getting, they are given a monetary incentive to close the deal fast, and then it crash and burns. Not ALL adoptions are like this, just some that have been rushed. That's why there's a phenomenon called "adoption dissolution". I also recommend checking out Reuter's article on rehoming. Taking a child into your home is a BIG deal, especially when that child has trauma. It's important to ensure everyone is ready, and the parents are trained.

I'm so, so sorry about your brother. The child welfare system and the juvenile justice system seem to coexist peacefully, don't they? Kids get abused, they act out, they're thrown in jail and not given mental treatment, and then they repeat the cycle. It's so incredibly wrong.

VoodooChildeHarold3 karma

Here's a hard one: Given what you been through and what's ahead of you, is it worth it? So many (way too many IMHO) look at a challenging situation and think better this person had never been born. You're someone who has presumably seen some of the worst of humanity, abuse and betrayal. Nobody walks through this life pain-free, but how much is too much?

lleexxiiie5 karma

It was worth it, all of it, because I am alive. And I know it sounds so cliche, but I went through this for a reason. I look back at my life, and I see how all the bad things lead up to this incredible life I have now. I'd be lying if I said it didn't suck, and that the thought of dying didn't seem appealing because, at times, it did. But I am so glad to be here and to keep healing. I have a great support network that helps me with heal from my trauma, and there is light on the end of the tunnel. I can see it now :)

VoodooChildeHarold2 karma

That's really inspiring. I wish you all the best. Foster kids have it so rough compared to most of us, and I'm frankly amazed at some of the success stories. I hope one day I can do more to help.

lleexxiiie1 karma

You can do something to help - I hope you take action and make that dream a reality!

MabelGirl3 karma

Thank you so much for sharing your story and so many resources, too. Hopefully you'll encourage a few people to open their homes and their hearts to fostering.

What I'm wondering is how long a typical placement lasts? Did you find that the good placements outnumbered the bad? If a child is removed from foster care because of abuse in the (foster) home, what happens to those foster parents? Do you have any ideas about how to decrease the frequency of abuse that's happening? (It just occurred to me that the abuse may be coming from other foster kids or bio children in the home...oh god.)

Thanks for doing the AMA, and the best of luck to you in your future endeavors. You are going to do great things. :)

RobinTheBrave2 karma

how long a typical placement lasts?

When I asked a small group of foster parents this question, they took a quick poll and the shortest they had had was half an hour, and the longest was 'until they leave college.'

Babies are usually fostered for a few months to a year, during the legal process and until adoptive parents can be found. If they aren't adopted young, they can stay in foster care until they're 18 (and often older than that). Shorter placements can occur if the parent is in hospital or jail, or just needs respite.

what happens to those foster parents?

There's a massive system for dealing with allegations against foster parents. There needs to be because it's very common for bio parents to accuse foster parents of not doing a good job, and kids often want to go back to their parents, so they'll make accusations to get their own way. Foster parents are reviewed every year anyway and visited every few months (sometimes unannounced)

MabelGirl2 karma

So, let's say a little guy of 8 or 9 is placed in foster care until he's 18, how likely is it that he'd stay with the same family? I guess what I'm asking is does the bouncing around from home to home only happen when there's a problem?

lleexxiiie1 karma

It's highly individual. Maybe that 8 year old goes back to his bio family, maybe he's adopted, or maybe he ages out at care at 18. Usually bouncing around occurs with certain populations: older youth, minority youth, youth with special needs.

Kamala_Metamorph2 karma

Aren't most youth who are in care after like age 8 called special needs now? because even without physical special needs, by that age there's often a history of at least emotional trauma, making the older kids challenging to care for if a foster parent is unprepared?

lleexxiiie1 karma

Pretty sure it's 8 or 9. Because after that, the possibility of being adopted is almost nill.

lleexxiiie1 karma

Thank you so much.! Sharing my story can be hard, but I have to do so in order to help others without a voice.

The length of placements vary. If you're younger than 9, you're more likely to be adopted. I can only speak for my experience in terms of bad foster homes, but I experienced an equal number of good and bad. Bad foster homes are better than good group homes, because at least you don't feel like you're in an institution.

Thankfully I was never abused in a foster home, so I'm not sure how to answer that question. But I do know that foster homes in my state (CT) go through rigorous background checks and social workers checked on us frequently to make sure we were okay, which helped so much. I guess a way to decrease abuse is to make sure social workers are checking in with the kids on a regular basis so they have someone to tell if something is wrong.

MabelGirl2 karma

Thanks so much for answering. Back in college, I worked in a group home for adults with MR/DD, so while it's not quite the same thing, I completely understand how it would feel like an institution.

I guess what frustrates me so much with our system is that the one thing foster children need more than anything else (with the exception of love) is consistency and stability. It just doesn't make sense to me that there isn't more of an effort to find and encourage that. Obviously, I know each kid's circumstance is different, but I just hear stories all the time about kids with "behavior problems" being bounced from home to home to home, and it just makes me sick to think that the reason for the bouncing around is the result of being bounced around. It just breaks my heart...no one deserves that.

lleexxiiie5 karma

Often, the reason we have behavior problems in the first place is because we lack stability. Behavior is a form of communication, rather than punishing us for acting out, social workers need to focus on trying to understand where the behavior is coming from. Too often, they take the esy route and just dump us somewhere else.

xxstardust3 karma

Did you have siblings who you were separated from? How did being placed in the system impact your ability to maintain a relationship with them, and how did change your current relationship with them? Or for that matter, how did it impact existing friendships - did any of them last?

lleexxiiie4 karma

Me and my sister were placed seperately, she has a disability and had to be placed somewhere where her needs could be met. There was almost no effort to make sure I could visit her, and I had limited access to a phone. It hurt our relationship, and we aren't as close.

When I entered foster care, I wasn't allowed to see friends. In order to go to a friend's house, everyone in their house has to get a criminal background check. DCF is constantly scared that something will happen to us and they go to extremes to make sure we aren't out of their sight. So, I lost all my friends. Plus, moving around made it hard to stay in contact via phone.

DeadManLiving3 karma

What disability does she have?

lleexxiiie6 karma

Out of respect of her privacy, I can't answer that question

DeadManLiving3 karma

ah, I understand.

Do you think her experience was better or worse then yours? That is, is having the disability designation helpful or unhelpful, does it give you more privileges or less?

lleexxiiie7 karma

It was helpful for her because she was able to go to a really great foster home that truly supported her and made sure all her needs were met. However, she was just lucky because not all homes were like that. But, in this case, she lucked out.

zjaeyoung3 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! I have 2 questions for you. 1) One day i would like to be a foster parent, what would make my home enviornment more comfotable to any foster kids? Like dinners together, lots of time to be alone, family outings, putting them in a sport of their choice, etc. I picture it being exactly how i would treat my own kids but i also realize that there must be time to adjust for foster children, and i want them to feel as safe and loved as possible. 2) How can i help now? I'm in Texas, a bit younger than you, with very little interest in politics but i do want to be of help. Again, thank you for doing this. I'm happy to know someone with real experience and insight is trying to make changes. Good luck with everything :)

lleexxiiie2 karma

1) Every case is so individual, some kids may be more open than other. There's no one size fits all solution. Get to know the kid and understand what may work for them.

2) I second what u/kamala_metamorph said below - become a mentor! It's astonishing how many it can impact a child simply by being there for them.

spacecadetdani2 karma

consistency -always follow through with promises.

lleexxiiie1 karma

snaps in agreement

Projectstfu3 karma

Hello,

I also grew up in Foster care, but starting at a younger age than yourself. I was mostly in Group homes because even for the younger kids people are far more likely to take girls than boys, there just aren't enough places that foster.

I wonder if you could tell me what state you were in? I was in Missouri and since this was about 15 years ago laws may have changed, but we were kicked out of the system as soon as we graduated high school or turned 18, whichever happened last. At best you could hope to be placed in a halfway house with addicts and homeless after you age out.

Being in the system through college sounds pretty decent and I am sure that hasn't been around long. Also You were in more homes than me in a shorter amount of time. I was moved maybe 12 times in 10 years. The worst place is a place call "Daylight" not sure if it is still around, but were got strip searched twice a day and much worse. There were some kids there for doing wrong, but many were there because their parents went to prison and no relatives would take them, or myself was there because my mother didn't want a child and I was kicked out on the street.

lleexxiiie1 karma

First off thank you so, so much for opening up. I know it hurts, and you should be proud that you're able to even function with memories like that. I'm proud of you.

To answer your question, I'm from CT. I do have to say, things have gotten alot better in our state. But, like Missouri, we have a looooong way to go.

CranialEruption3 karma

I imagine you switched schools a lot when you were in the foster care system. What is something your teachers did, or could have/should have done to help you?

lleexxiiie3 karma

I actually didn't switch schools - I was told that I could either bounce from home to home and switch schools every time I moved, or remain homeless and stay in the same high school. The issue was funding for transportation to and from school, and if I was homeless I would qualify for transportation funds under the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act. I chose to be homeless in order to graduate on time.

I touched on this when I brief Congress on my report, video is in the bio. And I titled my published report, "From Homeless to the House of Representatives: How a Stable Education Saved a Foster Child".

l_lie_often3 karma

[deleted]

lleexxiiie2 karma

We already have orphanages - group homes and other congregate care settings. Trust me, I lived in them and I can tell you they are terrible. How can one explore the rites of adolescense and form your identity in an insitution? It's not possible. I think they should only be utilized for youth with severe special needs. Otherwise, children need families.

ScooterPops2 karma

What is the best thing you can get for like 10 bucks?

lleexxiiie3 karma

$10 worth of Taco Bell!

Rossism2 karma

[deleted]

lleexxiiie1 karma

Yes, they were very helpful. I was very religious, although that faltered when I became a gender studies major. But I still have strong faith.

groggboy2 karma

I was raised in foster care all my life and I never accomplished anything like you have. do you have trouble forming long term friendships?

lleexxiiie1 karma

It's really hard for me. I'm so used to everything being temporary, including friendships and I'm only dependent on myself. So I have trouble keeping friends because I don't really see the point in friendship, ya know?

crywin2 karma

[deleted]

lleexxiiie1 karma

Not at all. Children don't choose to stay or get taken out - we often have no say in the matter. If CPS finds you you're being abused or neglected, they are the ones that make the decision to remove you from the home.

DeadManLiving2 karma

In what way do you influence policy? That is, what policy do you support?

What would your ideal foster care system look like? If you could change one thing, what would it be?

Why do you think they moved you a bunch? This is one of the most (IMHO) retarded things about foster care, they move you and move you until you have no friends, are are weird loner.

What was the worst of the abuse you went through? The kindest thing someone did for you while a foster child?

lleexxiiie5 karma

So many questions! I answered number one, so I'll tackle the rest:

1) Ideal foster care system...Enough foster homes, all able to take care of the children's needs, and foster parents having the support needed to do so.

2) Not enough foster homes. There just was no place to put me. Plus, if I moved from foster home to foster home I had to change schools. But, if I stayed in shelters I would qualify to stay in the same school under the McKinney Vento Act (I explain this in the Youtube video linked in the bio). So I chose to be homeless to stay in the same school and graduate on time.

3) The kindest thing was when my school social worker picked me up from the shelter, bought me school clothes with her own money, and then took me to the beach where we talked over smoothies :) She was an amazing woman.

DeadManLiving2 karma

Haha, sorry for all the questions! I'm just curious! Thanks for the answers!

Though what was the worst thing that happened in foster care? I understand if you don't want to answer the question, but I am curious! It would really help me in my novel writing.

lleexxiiie2 karma

No problem. Worst thing that happened that I am willing to share was being told that no one wanted me. Being told that I was unloveable while dealing with the normal teenage angst and identity crisis was unbearable. But thankfully they were wrong and I found the best foster home last year :)

I'd love to hear more about this novel - PM me.

Infamous_potato2 karma

Out of all the bad things that happened to you in the system, did anything good come out of it? What was the best thing you learned about people or life?

lleexxiiie3 karma

The best thing was being able to experience things first hand. There are so few former foster kids who are able to advocate, and because of that so many advocates have never lived in foster care. I'm really glad that I'm able to go to Congress every day and use my knowledge and experience to inform policy. Knowing I can, and will, make the system better makes all the difference.

shozbaught2 karma

Very proud of your drive and accomplishments!! What is one thing you would like to see changed with our foster care system?

lleexxiiie10 karma

Thank you! One thing I want to see changed is the societal apathy around the issue. We, as a nation, claim to care about children and voters even say it's their number one concern at the polls. But then people fly thousands of miles to adopt overseas, while children in their own town don't have a family. Foster children have been rendered an invisible population. I want to see people actively engaged in the issue and allies of reform, not sweeping us under the rug.

CATHOLIC_EXTREMIST2 karma

Hi /u/lleexxiiie, thanks for doing this AMA! I was wondering two questions:

  • What are some public policies that are being discussed or that you think should be discussed in order to improve foster care and the children in it? I've always thought one place to start would be to fund the courts and foster care agencies more so they can handle more cases with more manpower and more efficiently. Is that even in the right ballpark? Also, can you recommend any good books or reports on children and agencies and participants of the fostercare system? It seems very complicated at times and I feel comfortable with numbers, so if you can recommend something with lots of stats I would really appreciate it.

  • Do you have any idea of rough dollar figures of how much it costs to support a foster child? My wife and I have considered this for a while now, and even though I'm not stable enough in my career yet it is something we think about often for the future.

Thanks for doing this AMA!

RobinTheBrave2 karma

Do you have any idea of rough dollar figures of how much it costs to support a foster child?

I don't know about your area, but the figures for our area are published on their web site. Foster carers get paid about $300-400 per child per week. It's a professional wage for a skilled job; you're not going to get rich but they pay enough to make it attractive.

lleexxiiie2 karma

They don't actually pay enough to make it attractive. In fact, foster care payments don't even cover the basic needs of a child. It's not a professional wage, in the slightest, unless you're fostering through some super wealthy independent agency.

lleexxiiie1 karma

One of the best books is To the End of Jone which is an account of the New York City foster care system. It reads like a novel, but is jam packed with info.

Also, some great resources on the web: http://www.casey.org/resources/publications/pdf/WhitePaper_ImprovingOutcomesOlderYouth_FR.pdf https://www.davethomasfoundation.org/ http://casey.org/resources/publications/directory/subject/

kaizex2 karma

So this is only semi-related. But i've always been curios. How difficult was it for you to make lasting relationships when getting bounced around from place to place? Would you say you created stronger bonds with those that you did bond with because you were in such similar situations?

lleexxiiie6 karma

This is super related - I kept the intro pretty brief :) It was absolutely impossible to make bonds. I went into survival mode and was absolutely unable to form bonds with others in order to protect myself. A lot of the other girls were the same way, just focused on surviving, not on making friends.

T-town042 karma

Hello, I met you at the congressional briefing that you did, awesome job. What advice would you give child welfare workers. For example, what are some things you wish they knew or would learn?

Thanks for your work and sharing your experience!!!

lleexxiiie14 karma

First off, you're totally going to have to PM me who are you!

Second, I wish child welfare workers realized that behavior is a form of communication. "Acting Out" is not necessarily bad, and it should not be shut down with harsh punishment. Instead, they should seek to understand where the behavior is coming from. It's a heck of a lot easier to scream when you're trigger than talk about the ickiness you feel inside.

diegojones42 karma

I hope this AMA takes off because I find how well your write, how honest you are, and your strength to be inspiring.

Do you stay in contact with anyone that your were in homes with? Are there organizations or news feeds us that aren't in a position to foster but would like to help people like you should know about? Do you plan on going into politics?

I wish you the best that life has to offer. I hope your dreams come true and it seems like you have the strength and passion to make it happen.

lleexxiiie10 karma

Aw, thank you so much!!

I stay in touch with a lot of the girls I live with. Sadly, none of them are doing well. Many are in prostitution or on drugs, which is common for foster kids who age out.

Yes, I want to one day be a public servant. I was raised by the government, I'm just staying in the Family Business! :)

diegojones45 karma

That is funny. I really like you.

lleexxiiie3 karma

Thank you, I look forward to your vote!

SoUpInYa2 karma

Do you think that it's because they lacked male role models in the foster system?

lleexxiiie7 karma

No, not at all. There were male role models, none of whom ever were inappropriate with us. But sex trafficking is an issue - the pimps know where the homes are, and girls are desperate for someone to love them. A lot of the girls who are in prostitution are ones who were trafficked at a younger age.

DesertRat132 karma

I have what might be a stupid question... Foster families have to go through training and be approved for placement. Why or how do you think these people who treat foster kids so badly got approved in the first place?

I know there is a financial incentive, but how do these bad environments get approved at all?

lleexxiiie2 karma

Good question, and this is just my opinion...but not all bad behavior can be dectected. If you molest children but never get caught, you may be able to pass a background test. So people like that end up becoming foster kids :(

Theopaulson2 karma

I don't know how exactly to ask this as its a broad question...

But why do you think less than desirable people can easily become foster parents? And how do you alleviate the fear that many potential foster parents have that they will get a kid that will put them or their other children into a dangerous or unhealthy situation?

Who was the coolest foster parent you had?

lleexxiiie2 karma

I don't think they become foster parents easily at all. In fact, the process to become a foster parent is super strict in most cases. Some really good potentional foster parents are screened out because it can be so stringent. I do believe agencies usually do everything they can to ensure someone is completely qualified.

I think foster parents need to be informed of the entire child's history - any crimes committed, etc. Far too often, information that "taints" the child is hidden from foster parents in order to get the kid in your home. You should know exactly what you're signing up for so you can be prepared to handle it.

Coolest foster parent was the first person I stayed with. It was the day I was first put into foster care. When she met me, she asked me what my favorite cereal was and I said lucky charms. And the next morning, she had a box of Lucky Charms waiting for me. I have no clue how she got it, as I got to her house close to midnight and had breakfast before I went to class at 7 am. She was so dedicated to making sure I felt safe and comfortable in her home. But sadly, she was only licensed to be an "emergency" placement.

TheObnoxiousPanda2 karma

Hello, I can definitely relate to your story. Thanks for being an inspiration. We are a bit similar, except the foster care part. I am so amazed you survived everything. Did you ever wonder why your real parents left you in a foster home? Or do you already know them personally?

lleexxiiie2 karma

Thank you so much! To answer your questions, I know my parents very well and know that, deep down, they love me.

urkiddingrite2 karma

Hartford? My sister worked at DCF for years, then went onto get her law degree because she was so fed up with the way the system worked. She was told by her boss once to ' move the product' meaning the kids. That's when she left, going back when she wound up working as a court appointed attorney for kids. She felt like she could make a much better difference there. I know she was happy the day she got to face her old boss in court.

Good luck to you, you've come farther than most and you've got a bright future ahead of you.

lleexxiiie1 karma

CASA is absolutely incredible! I'm so glad she is working for them.

And thank you for your kind words :)

lleexxiiie1 karma

And yes, Hartford...believe it or not, back then the "city" was what I had to look foward to.

suddenlypenguin2 karma

I'm only 22, but plan on being a foster mom once I finish school and have an adequate career to support a family. Preferably to older kids. What are some experiences you never had, but wish you would have in your situation? Is there anything you wanted to do, but couldn't?

I'm still not entirely knowledgable about fostering or even being a parent. The closest I've come is nannying or owning a dog. But I really want to make a positive impact on the kids I hope to foster in the future. Thanks for doing this AMA!

lleexxiiie4 karma

You seriously just made my day dude! I really really hope you pursue that goal, and change the lives of others.

I never got to experience normal adolescense - dating, hanging out with friends, etc due to bizzare restrictions put on foster kids. I just published an article about those restrictions on normalcy today, check it out at https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/opinion/among-foster-youth-a-need-for-normalcy/7374/. Most people aren't aware that foster kids aren't allowed to do normal life activities, but it is one thing I was very sad to miss out on.

9thseat2 karma

I want to thank you so much for this opportunity to see the foster care system in a more personal light. For me this is a very meaningful and emotional thing because my mother went through years of foster homes, group homes, broken homes, and abusive ones before she was able to become her own person and make her way out.

Through my 18 years I have had only a few glimpses of what he went through in her childhood and I can't even imagine what a fully illustrated picture of that would be like. She is my hero and I love her so much for overcoming everything that she was forced to endure to become the confident, loving, and caring person she is today. I really do hope that you will become an inspiration to your children, however they may come to you, as my mother has been to me.

One thing I wish I could help her with is her relationship with her father. He is the root of almost all of her childhood trauma and has been a source of pain for her all her life. Could you give me some advice on how to help her heal herself or how to approach discussions about him with her?

lleexxiiie1 karma

Recently, I started Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which is a form of therapy that helps people with PTSD. It's been so incredibly helpful. Pain doesn't go away on it's own, we have to take action and face our demons to find peace. I highly reccomend that you encourage your mother to seek trauma therapy.

And just validate your mothers experiences. Nothing you or I or George Bush say will change what she feels deep down. And changing her feelings isn't the point - it's making sure she feels understood. So just listen.'

You are an incredible daughter for this!

western_eye2 karma

How many child welfare workers have you had since you were removed from your parents' home? I was a CW worker for a while and there was a lot of turnover. If you had multiple case workers, were there any who attempted to keep in touch with you? Would you have wanted that?

lleexxiiie1 karma

I've had so many case workers because I was involved with the child welfare system since I was 7. Case workers only last about six months, at most. None keep in touch. I was not, and am not currently, a very friendly client. I keep it strictly buisness, and I don't want any relationship with my social workers. I think they pick up on that.

western_eye1 karma

Thank you for your response. Thanks for this AMA as well.

lleexxiiie2 karma

Of course! And thank you for your interest :)

iwbhokage2 karma

How come you did not try to run away? Also you're a fox, happy future life ;)

lleexxiiie3 karma

Because running away would have taken me away from school, and I knew school was the only way I would get out of the system.

Not sure what you mean by fox, but if it's anything like the way I describe Anderson Cooper, thank you lol

aNulgoodlove2 karma

I can't believe you were able to motivate yourself to stay in school with everything that was going on in your life. I don't think I would have been able to muster that kind of strength. You're an extraordinary person.

lleexxiiie1 karma

School was where I was safe and loved. It was the only thing that gave me strength back then. Looking back, I have no clue how I did it - during my junior year, I had to make up part of sophmore year (missed classes cus I moved around alot), worked two jobs, was in two internships, mostly honors classes, was homeless and had a 3.9. I have no clue how the heck I did that.

thegreatgazoo2 karma

My wife was in foster care in Alabama for a few years before she was adopted. She bounced around several crazy families and had a failed adoption prior to getting a permanent home. It is crazy what she went through including sexual abuse.

How helpful are organizations like Chik Fil A and Wendy's where they provide college scholarships to kids in the foster system?

What changes would you like to see?

lleexxiiie1 karma

I'm not familiar with Chik Fil A but Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (Wendy's) does absolutely incredible work for foster and adoptive children. They actually helped pay for my internship in Congress last summer! And the scholarships they give out are very impactful. I can say without a doubt they fight the good fight, and do a lot to really help older youth who are at most risk of aging out without a family.

kippypapa1 karma

What islands have you visited in your life and what did you do when you were on them?

lleexxiiie1 karma

Not sure how this relates to my AMA?

kippypapa5 karma

You said, and I quote, "Ask me Anything!"

lleexxiiie3 karma

Haha true! I've been to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, both were very fun!