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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Opportunity Knocks
Marcus Fowler
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Before I was placed at my group home, I was not motivated to go to school or take my life seriously. I had too much pain in my past to believe the future would be any better.

At my group home it seemed like the other residents weren’t doing anything positive with their lives either, so my daily routine became smoking marijuana and going to the park to play basketball. For almost nine months I was not enrolled in school and did not have a job.

During that time, many staff came to talk to me, to set up individual and group counseling. We also had different speakers come to the facility. I only went so my allowance wouldn’t be taken away. I never did take the meetings seriously.

One day I was in my room smoking a cigarette when Ms. Gaskin, one of the staff members, came into my room and asked if she could talk to me. I said, “Get the hell out of my room” and continued to smoke. But Ms. Gaskin didn’t leave. She was persistent.

“Marcus, it’s very important that I talk to you now,” she said.

Feeling frustrated, I told her to talk. She said she knew that I didn’t have a pleasant childhood. She said she knew I was abandoned by my parents, abused by my grandmother, placed in the system at 12 years old, and that I had run away from those group homes. Then she said she was concerned about me.

What Ms. Gaskin said struck a chord in me, because I could tell that she was serious. For the first time in my life, I felt that someone cared about me, wanted to know about me, and wanted to help. Other staff didn’t talk to me. When some did, they didn’t seem fully interested so I didn’t trust them.

image by Stephanie Wilson

Ms. Gaskin pulled up a chair next to my bed and said, “Marcus, what’s going on? You’re not in school. You’re smoking marijuana too much. And you need to start taking your life seriously.”

She was telling me things that I already knew but had refused to deal with. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to appear soft.

As we talked, I started to get even more scared because I realized that I had nothing going on as far as school or a job was concerned. I felt like it was too late to do anything, but when I told Ms. Gaskin this, she assured me that it’s never too late.

It was hard to change my life as a result of one conversation, but as the days passed Ms. Gaskin talked to me often. It felt good. I told her about missing my siblings, thinking of them constantly, and wanting to see them. Ms. Gaskin helped arrange that.

She also helped me enroll in a school program. It was hard at first because my reading and spelling were bad and I didn’t feel focused. However, I knew that I had to do something with my life. I couldn’t just sit back, reflect on the past, and be mad all the time. I enrolled in a GED prep class and have been studying really hard. I’m looking forward to taking my GED.

Knowing Ms. Gaskin is the best thing that has happened to me in foster care. Nowadays I see so many young Marcuses in the group home, running around, getting high, and basically chilling. If more staff would honestly approach them, I believe they would allow the staff to help.

But if the staff comes in with the “I’m just doing my job” attitude, I don’t think the residents will feel comfortable sharing their feelings or allowing the staff to help. From the start I trusted Ms. Gaskin, because she was genuinely concerned about what was happening in my life.

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(FCYU-2003-11-26)

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