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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The Power of Forgiveness
A winning essay from the Awards for Youth in Care
Jzhamaine Parson
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My childhood was robbed from me by my mother’s alcoholism and abuse. When I was 13, I woke up one night to the sound of screams from the kitchen, and my siblings crying. I got up to see what was going on. The hallways reeked of alcohol.

My eyes fell on a scene of blood, police, and my agitated mother. My father was nowhere in sight. I didn’t know what was going on. The next morning, I walked my siblings to school in awkward silence.

I later learned that my mother had attempted to stab my father, but no charges were filed. The police let it go. Living in the Bronx, their main focus was gangs and drugs.

My mother’s rage shifted to me. “You b-tch! You sl-t! You are NOT my daughter! You’re ugly, just like your father!” Hearing these words pierced my soul. I questioned my purpose. If I wasn’t loved by my parents, who was there to love me?

At middle school, I trusted the stories of my home with my childhood friend, Natasha. She would later share my painful, most private details with a group of girls she wanted to impress in high school. To the entire school, I became the daughter of an alcoholic mother. I was teased, pointed out, and harassed.

I was beaten up by a group of girls who falsely accused me of stealing a jacket. When I went home with a black eye, my mother said, “It’s because you were the high school sl-t.”

image by YC-Art Dept

Then she grabbed a broomstick and served multiple blows to my body, angry I’d lost the fight. “I’ll teach you how to fight!” she yelled as she hit me. When she was done, I quietly slipped out of the apartment, and asked my younger sister to pack my belongings. I met her in the lobby for a quick, emotional goodbye. She didn’t question why I was leaving.

All of Brooklyn became my new home. I slept in subway cars, staircases in the projects, and abandoned buildings. I cleaned myself up in a Popeyes bathroom. When I was hungry, I stole hot dogs, bologna, and Pop-Tarts from a local supermarket. One day, I stole a cell phone from a sleeping subway passenger and sold it for $200. I bought a blanket, a water bottle, a washcloth, and a Happy Meal. I survived.

Wondering Why

Months went by and I became sick. I was caught stealing cold medicine from a pharmacy and locked inside the store by the owner so that the authorities could arrest me. I feared my mother’s retaliation, so I fought the cops. I was arrested for assault and robbery and went to Rikers Island for six months.

When I was released, I told the judge I didn’t want to go home. The courts told my mother, “Place her in foster care or get charged with neglect.” I told the judge that I would rather go to foster care.

In my new home, I had to take anger management counseling. Two years passed, and I began to wonder how my mom’s alcoholism affected her parenting. Was her abusiveness due to her struggle raising eight children? Was it because she had her first child at 18? I decided to overcome my pride and give her a call. I wanted to forgive her.

Her voice was sober and sincere. We talked about the painful memories of my childhood. She tearfully apologized for the abuse, and I felt renewed and hopeful. I felt it might be possible to once again trust and have faith. It was only one conversation, but that night, I discovered my own power of forgiveness and felt freer.

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(FCYU-2018-10-18)

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