FCYU127 cover image See all stories from issue #127, Winter 2017

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I Trust Her Because She Listens
A winning essay from the Awards for Youth in Care
Paris Boyd
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Growing up in the foster care system, I met many people, lived with many families, and moved to many places. You would think I’d be accustomed to change, but instead all that moving made it hard for me to trust people.

I wanted to belong so badly, for people to like me and to accept me as their own. At first, I trusted too easily. Someone would ask me a question and I would answer honestly. I took whatever they told me as the truth because, why would they lie to me? If I showed them I trusted them then maybe they would trust me. The endgame would be for them to adopt me because that was what I wanted.

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But all that changed the first time I got angry. I tripped and dropped a plate and it shattered. My foster mother and father at the time yelled at me. I said, “It was an accident.” They continued to yell, “Why did you do that? You are so clumsy!”

I responded, “It was a f-cking accident! I don’t like people yelling at me; stop yelling at me!” I went upstairs and tore my room up. People yelling at me is one of my triggers and makes me angry because my dad used to yell at me.

The next day, my foster parents said I had an appointment at the agency. I apologized about the day before. “It won’t happen again,” I told them. At the agency, my foster father said, “Wait right here; I’m going to get us something to eat. I’ll be right back.” Hours went by.

My social worker came in and said, “Paris, you are going to a new home.”
“No, my foster father is coming right back.”

She said, “No, he’s not.”

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I felt so hurt, and I cried. After that I had trust issues. Whether you were old or new in my life, I felt you were a liar until proven otherwise.

Fast forward eight years. I had just left another foster home because it wasn’t a good fit. I was at my wit’s end, and I think so was the agency. They put me with a foster mother named Ms. Howard.

I didn’t have an open mind going in, but I knew I had to try to make it work. Then, at our first meeting with the social worker, Ms. Howard asked me something no foster parent had ever asked: “What things make you angry, so I know not to do those?” I was shocked: Why would she care? I imagined if I did something bad, she would kick me out like everyone else.

But I told her, “People yelling at me, and I like to have my space.”

Ms. Howard was the first person who gave me space and let me open up to her. She let me take the first step in our communication. Doing that felt scary because I hate talking about my feelings. Not only did I have to talk to her about what I was feeling, I had to trust her enough to give me honest feedback and to not hurt me with the information I had given her.

Soon after that I had to decide who I wanted to live with, my grandmother or this lady I just met who could kick me out at any moment. I told Ms. Howard about my predicament, and to my surprise, she broke down the pros and cons and let me make my own decision.

Because of her honest feedback, I was able to carefully choose what was right for me. I have not once regretted my decision to stay with Ms. Howard. For once, I am happy. It doesn’t mean I can trust everyone all of a sudden, but because of her, I know I can trust someone.

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(FCYU-2017-01-16)