I was removed from a bad situation and put into the system. My siblings and I spent one night in a shelter, scared, unsure of everything, but relieved to have been saved from a mentally ill abusive stepmother. But we were not bad kids. The stigma with foster children is that people automatically assume that because they are a foster child that they are a problem child. They are removed and placed in the system due to no fault of their own.
When this happens, many times siblings are split up and placed in different homes. This did happen to us in this first placement. Three of us, 11,12 and 14 years old were placed with a family that had 4 children close to the same ages and an exchange student for a total of 8 teens and preteens. This would be the Geary family that lived down the street from us in Dallas. Joe Geary was the attorney who made these arrangements and Charlotte Geary, stepped up to be a mother to us. Oh my, God Bless Her! My oldest brother, who had special needs, was sent to Oklahoma to live with an aunt and my youngest brother who was my stepmother’s son was sent to Chicago to live with her sister.
We all experienced the questions and had no answers. Foster children don’t always know why they are removed, especially young ones, they don’t even know they are a “foster child.” All they know is someone came and removed (or rescued) them. It’s all very confusing and the system believes the less they know the better. We had a pretty good idea “why,” we just didn’t know where we would be going and what would happen to us. I do remember the feeling of “relief” to know that we were going to a family that we knew. Mine is a story of good placements, resulting in a normal life for the most part. Many foster children are taken to “strangers.” Unfortunately, they are not always good foster parents. They are not doing this as a “calling,” they are doing it for all the wrong reasons. So, these children who have been traumatized, are traumatized again in a bad situation, and the cycle of abuse and neglect continues.
I am not saying all foster homes are bad. What I am saying is that even in the best of foster homes, the children are “stereotyped” by the neighbors, who do not understand why someone would take these “problem” children into their homes, disrupt their own families and keep doing it over and over! They are asked “Why are you doing this?” or “Aren’t they a bad influence on your other kids?” or even “A burden to care for?” I couldn’t do it. Bless you, I don’t know how you do it.
Foster children are not blind and deaf, they hear “the comments” and see “the looks.” Some take it to heart, they hear it over and over, as they are moved over and over. The successful grown foster child is more independent, more resilient, more motivated, adapts to change, is educated, and is proud of their accomplishments, as they should be. They are “people pleasers” because they want to be loved.
They are children who have been mothers to their mothers, mothers to their siblings; fathers to their fathers and fathers to their siblings; caregivers and protectors to all and so much more. What they are not and what they do not get to be is “carefree children.” Sometimes the only time they receive “care” is in a good foster home where someone “takes care” of them. I remember my foster mom in high school cooking for us, watching her and learning from her. I am a very good, creative cook today (even wrote a creative cookbook) because of Ms. Stroup. Unfortunately, you don’t hear about the successful foster children often because they are a small percentage compared to the failures of children aging out of the system.
I experienced the “stranger” angst and feelings of uncertainty and the weirdness of it all in my second placement with the Stroups. But, thankfully, again due to the Geary family, my 3 siblings and I were placed in a loving, Christian environment with parents who treated us as their own and totally focused on us since their children were grown. We still got the questions, we still got the looks, but it didn’t seem to bother us quite as much.
In summary, foster children are children, every parent has had a 3 -year old who had a tantrum. That’s normal, don’t assume a 3- year old foster child who has a tantrum, is extremely troubled. Don’t assume a foster teen who acts out, gets angry, has a fit, behaves badly, makes bad choices, as some teens do, is troubled beyond help. I have raised 2 boys, experienced all kinds of behaviors, sometimes blaming my “parenting skills or lack thereof,” but I know that I did my best to create a “healthy family environment.” You are blessed if you have raised children and not asked yourself “how did that happen?” “why did they do that?” “didn’t I teach them better than that?” Why are children who come from the same parents, the same environment, so different? Because, God made us that way and I believe we are born with certain personalities and characteristics.
God has been preparing me my whole life for what I am doing; creating a foster home community of foster parents and children who are children of all personalities, all backgrounds, all different situations, but all need to be loved and given a safe home…..Because, due to no fault of their own, they are homeless and they need us. That is who we are at Geary Girls Ranch, a foster home community, that believes “every child deserves a safe home.”