In my last post, the reflections of my perspective being a foster youth showed examples of my own personal experiences dealing with high risk issues in foster care consisting of; mental health guidance, education and lack of family/additional support and genuine guidance. Entering foster care can be traumatic in some circumstances, mine was somewhat traumatic. By sharing my aspect of how the foster care system was ten years ago, hopeful my foster care journey can bring awareness of helping reform our Foster Care System for the sole purpose of helping bringing families back together.
Education stability, is one of the critical issues our nation faces while being a foster child/youth. Statistics really are stacked up against the, “Foster Care Stigma.” Setting my education platform, while living in two different foster homes within three years, became a struggle for both sets of foster parents to communicate with me in regards of my education. For example, while attending Enterprise Junior High my Term GPA consisted of a high “B” average of 86.17 and when I transferred schools to finish my last four weeks of ninth grade, my Term GPA fell down to a “C” average of 78.14. Also, I feel by failing an Elective Class my last few weeks of ninth grade and not passing my AHSGE to graduate high school, clearly sets an example of leaving a child behind, on an educational, emotional and physical standard.
Luckily, I was fortunate to receive a computer from the Independent Living Program funds for foster children and youth, to be used for educational purposes. Therefore, receiving a computer when I transferred foster homes for educational purposes, but I wasn’t allowed to have internet in my room, for the sole purpose of education and my own personal awareness didn’t make sense to me. My foster parents had their own children use the internet on their laptops for school, but I couldn’t use internet in my room for education and learning independent living skills?
According to the most recent research, less than 10 percent of foster youth graduate from college. With support from Foster Care to Success, their success rate rises dramatically: 65 percent of our scholars graduate within five years, a percentage higher than that of the overall U.S. population.
Foster Care to Success | Foster Care: The Basics
Mental health guidance through the Department of Human Services go by their guidelines of “helping foster children and youth.” When my time was spent in foster care, I received adequate mental health evaluations and counseling services. Although, the counselor DHR chose to help me with my mental health was not dependable enough for the state of my mental health. I was never prescribed medications through my counselor, I always received a prescription or an immunization for the case loads of stress put on my shoulders, through my “normal doctor.” The doctor always misjudged my symptoms and just threw one medication on top of the other. For example, my senior year of October 2006, my mother passed away from alcoholism, nine days after my eighteenth birthday. The side effects from the many prescriptions I was taking weren’t helping with the grief process I was supposed to go through, barely any emotional support from peers or foster parents was shown.
First, DHR and my second set of foster parents decline to take me to say good-bye to my dying mother, who was in the hospital with days to live, my anxiety level shoots through the roof. Even my principal at the time, took donations from other teachers from my high school to raise the money for my foster parent and I to go say good-bye to my mother, I would have had the chance to reconnect with family. Instead, DHR and my foster parents took my right to say good bye to my last living biological parent and to reconnect with family.
Unfortunately, things perspired into not getting along with my foster family, case workers, classmates and educators. Often, in my room struggling on my life changing events by making calls and researching myself the questions that were unanswered by my case worker, DHR, foster parents, counselor and my biological family. Feeling trapped and isolated from all of my grief, loss and confusion of who I was as a person. When I had felt alone, I would put my belief into telling myself, better things will come and I will tell my story, FOR CHANGE! Having so many questions of where my adopted biological half brothers were. Asking and pleading with DHR to find my half brothers felt like pulling teeth. They would continuously state, they are nowhere to be found because of their private adoption. Therefore, last year I googled, “private adoptions.” I took a chance and hired Joanne Stanik from Adoption Database, she connected me to their Mother who adopted them. WHY was it so hard for DHR to connect me back to my biological family when I entered Alabama Foster Care System?
“Youth who age out of foster care are less likely than youth in the general population to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college. By age 26, approximately 80 percent of young people who aged out of foster care earned at least a high school degree or GED compared to 94 percent in the general population.”
Being overmedicated took its toll on me, especially my senior year. It became a constant struggle to keep up in class when the side effects of the mixed medications, I was provided. My senior year, I struggled by distancing and isolating myself by having minimal friends, not getting along with former classmates, loosing my mother and not being able to graduate high school put me down at an all time low. Becoming anti-social most of my senior year, sometimes I would cry in my high school hall ways because feeling the frustration, bitterness, anger, resentment, depression and brokenness tore me up inside. Loss of appetite was a common reoccurrence, I struggled daily in high school. At times I became so nervous when out with a group of people, I would have to throw up on the side of the road feeling extremely anxious of how the foster system influenced me. Sometimes, a teacher would come out in the hall way when I would have an adverse side effect (CRYING) from the medications I was taking and the teacher showed empathy to my situation. Unfortunately, not many of my classmates took to my situation to help build me up or guide me, feeling as though they simply didn’t care.
Kids in foster care are being prescribed these drugs at a higher rate than other children. In 2010, the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute estimated that the rate of psychotropic medication use for youth in foster care is anywhere from 13 to 52 percent, compared to about 4 percent for youth in the general population. And a 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that at least 18 percent of children in foster care were taking at least one psychotropic medication. Some of the medications have not even been approved as safe and effective for children by the FDA.
How did I change foster homes and stay in the same school district?
My first foster family attended church on a regular basis, anytime there was a church service or an event, it was expected of all of their foster children and youth to be heavily involved in church activities. While attending church one Sunday, there was a couple with two adopted children, who shown interest in getting into foster parenting. Therefore, it was continuously crowded at my first foster home I was living at, so my current foster parents at the time, disagreed with my decision to move in with the new foster family from church. (The new foster family lived down the street from my first foster home.) I lived with my second set of foster parents from tenth grade until, I had to leave, the day after high school. Initially, they wanted to adopt me, but I had shown no interest and was honest with my feelings on being adopted from day one. It was clear on both sides of this decision before making a huge choice in moving in with them, feeling I was going to receive the guidance and compassion that every child/youth deserves.
In all honesty, my last foster parents took their anger and resentment when I declined them to adopt me. They were receiving SSI Survivors Benefit checks in my name and I would deposit the checks into my personal account, then my foster parents would transfer the whole SSI Survivors check into their personal account. DHR stated, “They cut out the middle man.” The SSI checks should have stayed in my account to be used for educational materials, clothes and other necessary daily items. My foster parents took all and left me with the words, “You will never be daughter or family material, you’re broken.” These words have only fueled me to inspire others to share their story.
Furthermore, my last opportunity to pass the AHSGE (Alabama High School Graduation Exam) History portion was in March of my senior year. Unfortunately, by NOT passing my graduation exam by a few questions, meant I WAS NOT ABLE GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL and NO HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA. I studied on a daily basis with the materials and guidance I was given from my high school. My college plans and future to survive statistics were some what stacked against me.
“Youth who age out of foster care are less likely than youth in the general population to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college. By age 26, approximately 80 percent of young people who aged out of foster care earned at least a high school degree or GED compared to 94 percent in the general population. By age 26, 4 percent of youth who aged out of foster care had earned a 4-year college degree, while 36 percent of youth in the general population had done so.”