When I picked up Joe* for the first time from school, I saw a tall kid with dyed hair towering over a group of teenagers. The group all wore black and had an assortment of different hair colors and cuts. Joe and I made eye contact. I saw him begin to slowly walk over to me. I next noticed he had wireless earbuds on under his shaggy hair as it flopped around. I quickly greeted him and showed him to my car. I noticed his breathing beginning to get shallow once he stepped into my car. He quickly pulled out his Nintendo switch and turned it on.
Category: Voice of an FCNI Staff
Imagine being rudderless on a rough sea. Imagine rock climbing with no safety harness. Imagine boxing with no gloves. Imagine scuba diving with an empty tank. Imagine a house without a foundation. Now, imagine being a teenager...with no family.
The first morning I stayed with the people who became my Legal Guardians, I rolled out of bed to find the father figure in the kitchen gracefully sprinkling garlic salt on a mound of potatoes and eggs, serendating them with his own rendition of “I Feel Pretty.” He looked like a cross between a retired football player and Hagrid from Harry Potter, but sang like a gigantic angel. ([To this day,] I’ve secretly thought of him as my Fairy Godfather). He has always called me, “Pumpkin” and used phrases like, “diglty dangit” when frustrated.
Coral was 11 years old when her mom, recently incarcerated, decided to relinquish her parental rights, putting Coral’s care into the hands of the state. While Coral’s life up to this point was not like her friends’ lives--her “home” was either their car or a motel room, and Coral’s mom slept most days because she’d be up all night with her friends, leaving Coral to feed and take care of herself--it was the only life she had ever known. It was familiar.
My early childhood was fairly normal. I lived with my mom, step-dad and older sister in Santa Barbara. My mom was a surfer, so most of my childhood was spent at the beach. When I was eight years old, my home life started to change. Around this time, we moved to Santa Maria in order to save money. Unfortunately, our housing situation was stable for only about a year before we started experiencing homelessness off and on, often sleeping in our car. When I neared adolescence, my step-dad left and it was just my mom, sister and me.
I’ll go ahead and admit it. Wraparound is my favorite program of FCNI’s. I just love it. I love that it is truly a collaborative effort that involves a lot of different agencies--the Department of Social Services, FCNI, Behavioral Health, schools, probation, as well as individuals who are hand-selected by families to be part of their support team.
Ted found himself at rock bottom--again. As an unrecovered alcoholic, Ted was again living out the devastating consequences of instability and poor choices. He had lost his job, his girlfriend had moved out with their two children, and he was evicted from his apartment. The final blow came when Ted was arrested for his second DUI and ended up sentenced to six months in jail. With nowhere to go but up, Ted committed himself to his sobriety while serving his time. But when he was released, Ted realized that while sober, he had nothing to return to--no family, no home, and no purpose.
For the first time in a long time, Cooper was afraid. A lifelong struggle with drug addiction had finally resulted in his 8 year-old daughter, Traci, being removed from his care and placed into a foster home for her safety. He knew he needed treatment or he'd risk losing his daughter forever, or even his own life. Recognizing that he’d hit rock bottom, Cooper committed himself fully to getting and staying clean. He had finally accepted the harsh reality that he’d only get to watch his daughter grow up and be a part of her life if he were sober and safe.
While growing up, I think I had an above-average level of exposure to the foster care system. I had close family members and multiple friends who fostered and/or adopted kids. Also, two of my best friends in high school had been in foster care.
Most people enjoy being celebrated for their successes in life. Hearing the words “Well done,” “Great Job,” or “You are a real success story” typically evokes a positive feeling and one of accomplishment. For youth who have experienced the foster care system, however, these same accolades can carry a feeling of being a “poster child”; an image of what a foster youth should look like.