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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Foster Care Writing Contest (Staff Shout-Out): Use the Program
Ms. Tonya, Recreation Staff, MercyFirst

When I arrived at MercyFirst, I felt confused and alone. I truly thought I wasn’t going to get through the experience: I thought this was where kids come to give up.

When I first encountered Ms. Tonya, I was not rude to her. However, I didn’t put any trust into her, and I didn’t plan to. I was fed up with the program and I was always catching consequences.

One month went by, and Ms. Tonya pulled me to the side and told me I wouldn’t get anywhere acting like I was. She told me to behave so I could move up to the next level. Then I could go on trips with her and go home on weekends. She said, “Use the program; don’t let the program use you.”

I came to find out that Ms. Tonya was always a call away. When I was becoming angry, she would come and tell me, “Don’t let these girls get to you. They’re not worth your staying here and not being on level.”

Recently, my unit was merged with another into one big unit. I felt overwhelmed by all the changes, so I spoke to Ms. Tonya, and she helped get some of the weight off my chest.

Ms. Tonya, you continue to be a part of my support system. Thank you for always being there through my tough times. You are a creative, wonderful, outgoing person. You never gave up on me, and I promise to continue making you proud.

Tell Us Your Story—Win $100

This column is written by our readers in care. Tell us about a staff who believed in you, listened to you, advocated for you, gave you great advice, who in any way made your life better. Email your essay to with the subject line Foster Care Writing Contest. Essays will be edited for length and clarity. The writer of the essay we run will receive $100.

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