The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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I Want to Stop Leaving People Behind
Daisy R.
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My mom brought me from Puerto Rico to New York when I was 3 years old. I was too young to say whether or not I wanted to stay in contact with the family we left behind. My mom made that decision for me. Because of her decision, I had to wait 10 years to meet my father and my two half sisters and I still have yet to meet the rest of my Puerto Rican family.

By the time I turned 7, I had already been out of school for over a year. My mom suffered from depression and had a hard time getting out of bed to take me to school. I guess that’s also why she could never keep a job. On most days, my mom and I would go to McDonald’s to eat, go to the park, and then go home. Otherwise, I was usually by myself. She would let me run off alone in the park or she would leave me in my room to play with my toys alone.

She also let her violent, alcoholic boyfriend move in with us. As I got used to not going to school, I also saw the TV being thrown across the room, heard constant yelling, and stood in the corner crying my eyes out. As a result of my mother’s choices to stop taking me to school and to live with an abuser, Children’s Protective Services came to get me two weeks after I turned 7.

Overreaction

Up until that point, even though my mother had taken away my family, my education, and now a life with her, I never really blamed her for anything. I don’t think I was old enough to realize that my mom was responsible for what was happening to me. But then she got me yanked out of my foster home.

I’d been living in my first foster home for about five months. I got in trouble a lot for lying, something my mother had taught me. My mother lied to her boyfriend about where she was going or what she was spending his money on all the time. She did it so often that I also began to lie.

Other than that, things in the foster home were good. I especially enjoyed hanging out with the older kids. They took me everywhere they went and taught me how to play video games. I was so busy playing or out with the other kids that I barely missed my mom.

One day I was playing outside with my foster brothers and sisters when my mom happened to pass by. She was very happy to see me and begged my foster mother to allow her to come see me from time to time.

My foster mother agreed—and boy, was that a mistake. A few weeks later, my mom noticed a little black scab on my right pinky toe. She came to the conclusion that my foster mother’s niece, a smoker, must have burned me with a cigarette. The argument between my mom and my foster mother’s niece about my toe turned into a physical fight.

Next thing I knew, my mother was being arrested and I was being taken to a hospital so that doctors could determine the cause of my apparently very serious scab. The doctors found exactly what I had been trying to explain to my mom. My sandal had irritated the skin on my toe, and the scab was black because I was running around in dirt.

Leaving Became Normal

The next morning a new foster mother took me away. I began to think being in foster care meant being prepared to start a new life in a different place at any moment. I thought moving from home to home was normal.

I became numb and wary of establishing long-lasting relationships. I started to treat people as disposable and replaceable. Whenever I had a good relationship with someone, and it was time to go, I simply left and never turned back.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want people to get close to me; I longed for closeness. I just assumed that going to a new home meant leaving everything and everyone behind, so I didn’t let myself get emotionally stuck on anyone.

Leaving my second foster home wasn’t that hard because I had already mentally and emotionally prepared myself for such a moment. I had been there almost a year and got along perfectly with my foster mother but hated my foster sisters. They misbehaved and tried to involve me in their plots against our foster mother.

Tired of living with two very loud and annoying girls, I asked to move to a new home. When I left, even though I was close to my foster mother and even though I had made some good friends while in her home, none of those things really bothered me. My heart felt cold and hard.

My new foster mother’s name was Angie. She seemed nice, but it was hard to communicate because she only spoke Spanish, and I only knew English. Her neighbor translated for us for a while until I got the hang of Spanish.

At first Angie and her husband were very good to me. I was the only child in the house, and I pretty much got whatever I wanted. I had pretty clothes and shoes, my hair was well done, I had my own room, my own bike, and even a pool for just me and my friends.

My foster father almost always brought me gifts like a cool toy or a sweet treat when he came home from work. Also, my foster parents threw fun parties and invited kids for me to play with. My foster mother got me into talent shows, pageants, and even dances in church, and I liked doing those things.

image by YC-Art Dept

Change for the Worse

Despite the nice things they bought, I can’t remember my foster mother ever telling me she loved me or even that I was important to her. Then, about two years after I moved in, she became abusive. Whenever I didn’t fold a shirt right or left some dust on the dresser, she would yell at me and call me “stupid” or “useless.” If I spoke back to her or did something she just didn’t like, she would sometimes hit me or pull my hair. The older I got, the more horrible Angie made me feel.

She also tried to separate me from the world. About two years after moving in, I went to the doctor’s office and saw Destiny, my best friend from my previous home. I gave her Angie’s phone number, and a few days later, Destiny called. Angie asked me if I had given Destiny her number. She looked very angry and I was too scared to say that I did. Angie scared me out of calling my friend. Destiny became another addition to what seemed like an endless list of names that were now in the past.

Angie stopped letting me go to places like the store, church, or my friend’s house. She said it was too dangerous to be out alone, which made no sense because a year earlier, when I was 12, she let me do all of these things.

Angie was also convinced I had a boyfriend. I kept telling her I didn’t but she didn’t believe me; she said I was a liar. When I turned 14, Angie started to write down everything “bad” I did so she wouldn’t forget. I started to feel like she didn’t want me around, like I was an annoyance.

Cutting Her Off

Angie even went on to take me out of after-school as punishment for something I can’t even remember now. After-school was my life. There I saw my friends and my favorite teachers and had a good time. I made the decision to leave Angie’s care.

Part of me didn’t want to leave because Angie was my mom of six years. She fed me, put a roof over my head, and gave me nice stuff. Her constant reminders of how bad I was, however, made this big decision somewhat easier. I asked my agency to be removed from her home and moved 10 days later.

Still, I felt that Angie and her family were my family so I did try to stay in touch. A few weeks after I had moved out, I went back to Angie’s house to pick up my important documents. We made small talk for a while. I tried keeping a smile on my face but it did not last. I could see a look on Angie’s face of disappointment, sadness, disapproval, and anger. I never meant to make her feel any of those things, so at first I felt really bad.

Then, instead of making me feel welcome in her home or saying she was sorry, Angie started accusing me of having a much older boyfriend and criticizing the new blond streaks in my hair.

I never went back to see Angie after that day. I eventually cut off Angie’s family too. When I would go visit them I felt that they were judging me for leaving. They knew that Angie was tough, but they didn’t know just how tough. Today, out of the huge family I had with Angie, I only occasionally speak to Angie’s ex-husband, my former foster father, and my godmother.

Even though Angie and her family are the ones who pushed me away, sometimes I wonder if it’s also my fault that I don’t have a better relationship with these people.

New Start

I’ve been with my current foster parents, in my eighth home, for almost two years now. They are great and loving people who are in the process of adopting me.
Recently my foster mother and I had the following conversation about one of my dearest friends, an older girl named Ericka who went off to college. Ericka wrote me from college and I didn’t write her back, and I’d been feeling sad and guilty about that. I wondered if I was bad at keeping up contact with people because I’ve been moved around so much.

Mom: I saw on Facebook that Ericka is coming back.
Me: I stopped going on Facebook. I kept feeling bad about liking people’s statuses but not actually taking time out to really speak to them. I feel especially guilty with Ericka.
Mom: So why don’t you just call her?
Me: And say what? “Oh hey Ericka, wanna go to the movies next week? By the way, how was college?” Mom, she was my best friend and I totally left her to fend for herself all alone in a big college in whole different state. I can’t just call her.
Mom: Daisy, I think you should; you guys had something special. She’ll understand your reasons for not staying in touch.
Me: But I’m too scared to call her, Mom. What if she’s really upset? What if she doesn’t even care? I won’t be able to deal with all of that and have to talk to her at the same time.
Mom: You like to write; just write her a letter.

I thought a lot about what my foster mother said. I realized that Ericka is not the only important person in my life I have abandoned. Trying to fix things with her would help break my habit of leaving people behind.

In the past, I have had awesome friendships in different foster homes but have let the relationships crumble once I left the home. I no longer want to do this and I no longer have any excuses. I want to stop leaving people behind, not only because I want closeness, but also because I want people to get close to me and not get hurt.

I want to be a reliable person who is there when people need me, whether in person, through a text message, a phone call, or a letter. My current foster parents have taught me a lot about caring for people through their own example of welcoming me into their home. They listen to me, hug me, tell me I’m loved and that they’re grateful for my arrival. All of their relatives accept me as a permanent addition to the family tree.

Besides my loving family, I have also acquired awesome friends at my current school who I feel pretty close to. Since I have stability and loving people in my life, I want to make sure I don’t lose those things. I’m going to start by writing Ericka that letter.

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(FCYU-2015-10-18)

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