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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Who's the Real Problem Child?
Marcus J. Howell
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“Problem children,” “hoodlums,” “people who end up in jails or mental homes”—these are some of the labels that are tagged on foster youth from the day we enter care.

I am not a label. I am a person who has been labeled all my life and I’ve always fought it. I’ve grown to hate hearing, “Oh, he’s just a foster kid, he doesn’t know what he’s doing” or, “Those two are mine, and, oh him? He’s just a foster kid.”

When people say these things, they have no idea how much it hurts the person they’re speaking about. The term “foster child” itself, if said in a certain way, becomes a put-down.

Walking around the halls of my school, I hear the jokes of my classmates. Things like: “Group home kid” (in reference to someone who acts up in class) and “You delinquent” (in reference to someone in foster care). Phrases used when speaking (most of the time) behind our backs.

One memory that stands out the most is when I overheard a girl talking about her foster sister in the school lunchroom.

image by Rafael Manashirov

“Yeah, and that little punk dared to talk to my mother that way. Is it my mother’s fault that her father molested her? Was it my mother’s fault he beat her too? Why should that little delinquent get the same as the rest of us? We are my mother’s real children, not her. She probably liked her father molesting her, that little group home slut.”

My friends who knew I was in foster care looked at the girl, then looked at me, and waited to see what I was going to say. They were as shocked as I was.

I looked across at her and anger swelled in me. How could she say such a thing? How could she speak that way about someone else’s personal life? I could see that she hated her foster sister bitterly. I wondered what kind of family could allow such hate toward a family member. And I knew that I had never, in all my years in foster care, met a person so bent on cruelty toward another.

I could nearly taste the acid in my stomach. Harsh words filled my head as I looked at the girl, but I didn’t say them. Instead, without so much as a word or a second look, I stood up and left the table.

Before that moment, I used to envy the “normal” people who were given the chance to live with their own blood. But after that day, when I saw the hate that came from a “normal” family’s life, I looked at my own world and was content.

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