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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Embarrassed to Live in a Group Home
Anne Ueland

When I first started my job working at a daycare center, I met this handsome-looking boy named Cliff Jean-Michael. He was at the center to drop off his little sister, who was in daycare there. For some strange reason I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He looked so friendly and sweet.

When he came over to tell me his name, I couldn’t help noticing his uniform, and that he was getting ready to go to work at a sneaker store. When I took my lunch break I asked my friend Nora if she knew where the store was. She told me it was near our work, so I stopped by.

I Really Liked Him

When I went inside, the first person I saw was Cliff. I put on a big smile and asked him if his store had the new Jordan’s. I didn’t even think he remembered me from that morning.

For some reason I really liked him a lot. I even had this weird thought in my head to ask his sister if he had a girlfriend. I didn’t, but I did look at his sister’s last name and imagine how it would go with my first name. Anne Jean-Michael.

Then it happened. I was about to leave work for the day when Cliff came to the daycare. He told me he was not going to pick up his sister yet. He wanted to get a haircut and did I want to come with him? Of course I was loving the idea. It would give us the chance to know each other more.

On our way to the haircutting place, Cliff asked me a lot of questions. One of them was about where I lived. I live in a group home, but I lied to him. I told him that I lived with my mother. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “Why am I lying to this boy?”

I think I was afraid that if he knew the truth he might judge me and not want to get to know me. After all, some people put down girls in group homes. People say they are fast with boys, slow in school, and that no wants them.

When we got to the haircutting store, I sat in a chair while Cliff got his hair cut. I couldn’t help looking at him through the mirror. I saw him look at me, too.

When he was done he walked me to the train station and asked if I had a boyfriend. I said, “No,” and I asked if he had a girlfriend. He said, “No,” too.

‘Will You Go Out With Me?’

At the station, I went through the turnstile. “Wait,” Cliff said, “let me ask you a question.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

“I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me.”

“Yes,” I said, and asked Cliff to come downstairs and wait for my train with me so we could talk. When my train came I gave Cliff a big hug and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

After I started dating Cliff, I loved getting up early in the morning even though I am not a morning person. I knew I was getting up to see my boo.

Cliff seemed to have a lot of good values. He did not smoke or drink. He went to school and got good grades. He even went to church on Sundays. I like a guy who has good values in life. I do not like guys that seem like they’re going down the wrong road.

For some strange reason, Cliff made me feel whole inside. He always knew how to keep a smile on my face.

One day when I got off work, Cliff and I went to the park. We sat on some rocks and we started talking about how long we thought our relationship was going to last. I looked him in the eyes and said, “I think that I am falling in love with you.” He said that he also felt the same way, and we started to kiss.

I remember getting home and smiling and listening to love songs all night long. Even my staff, Ms.Trusty, asked me if I was in love.

I Kept Lying

Cliff would call me every day, sometimes more than two times a day. Cliff would talk about any issues that he had with his family. I also shared personal things about myself with him, but I still didn’t talk about the fact that I was in a group home and the problems that went on there. I wanted to talk to him about these things, but I was still worried about how he’d think of me. When Cliff used to call me he would always ask, “Who was that lady who answered the phone?” I would say, “My mother,” when it was really my staff.

image by Elizabeth Deegan

I also didn’t tell Cliff that my mother is racist. See, my boyfriend is Black and I am light-skinned. My mother told me that if I ever married or went out with a Black man she would not want me in her life.

I don’t think that anybody should be judged by the color of his skin. And people have a right to go out with anyone they want, even if the person is not the same race as them. But I thought that if Cliff knew how my mother felt, he might think that I was that way, too.

Before school started, Cliff invited me to come to church to meet his family. When I met them, his family seemed very nice and friendly. During the service, Cliff kept smiling at his friends, which made me think that he was real happy to be with me. After the service he brought me upstairs where people were serving cakes and drinks. Cliff told his friends that I was his girlfriend. The way he said it made me feel good to know he was not ashamed of me.

It made me feel good to meet Cliff’s family and go to church with them, but the more I knew Cliff the more I wanted him to know all about me, too. I wanted him to meet my mother, but I knew that would never happen with my mother being racist and all. And I wanted him to know where I lived.

Cliff always told me that I could share my deepest and darkest secrets with him and he would not think any different of me. And I believed him, but for some reason I still could not tell him the truth. I felt bad inside that I was lying to him, because he seemed to care a lot about me. And whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on, he was there. He had become a big support in my life. But I kept lying.

The Lies Were Getting to Me

After a while the lies were really getting to me. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what lie I told him to cover up the fact that I lived in the group home. And when I had problems in the group home, I couldn’t tell him why I was upset. I’d either have to pretend not to be upset or make up some other lie about why I was. Sometimes I would be moody toward him or take out my anger on him. Every time he would ask me what was wrong, I would tell him, “Nothing.”

Everyone in my house told me that in order to have an open relationship I had to tell Cliff the truth about where I lived. But I was thinking to myself that it was too late. I had already lied to him. If I told him the truth now, I might lose him.

We’d known each other almost a year the spring that I finally told Cliff I lived in a group home. I remember the day well. I was walking him to his job and I told him. I’d gotten so tired of lying to him, plus I wanted him to know why I was so stressed out a lot of the time.

‘I Live in a Group Home’

To my surprise, Cliff wasn’t surprised. He said that he already knew. He said that one day he called my house and a person answered the phone and said, “107.” He asked her what it stood for and she said, “This is a group home.” He didn’t say anything to me about it because he wanted to know how long it would be until I told him the truth.

When I explained the reasons why I hadn’t told him, Cliff understood. Since then, we’ve become even closer. I feel I can tell him more about me and all I’ve gone through.

That summer Cliff took me to a lot of different events with his church. I will never forget the day that we went to an amusement park. While we were at the park, it started raining hard, but we went on all the rides and had so much fun. It felt so good to be with him even though it was raining outside. On the bus back, we fell asleep on each other. I thought that was real special. To be wrapped up in his arms.

Getting Closer

Then there was the time Cliff invited me to go to field day with his church. I was upset that day because everyone there was with family. I felt so bad that I was without family that I even started crying. Cliff asked me what was wrong and I told him that I wished my mother would change because I miss her.

Cliff gave me a hug and said that “everything is going to be all right.” He comforted me the whole way back. That is what I call a good boyfriend.

In the summertime my relationship with Cliff’s family grew more. Since I’d been going with Cliff a year now and his family knew that he cared a lot about me, his family let me come stay at his house every Sunday after church. His mother would always cook dinner for me and ask me how I was doing.

Cliff also has a brother and two sisters. Cliff’s brother, Stephen, is a trip. He is only 3 years old, and every time I come to Cliff’s house he wants to sit on my lap, and never wants me and Cliff to be together. He says that I am his girlfriend. Every time he says it, his family and I laugh.

I grew so close to Cliff and his family that I finally felt OK telling Cliff how my mother was racist and that she would never approve of us being together. When I told him, I could tell that he was upset. He didn’t understand how my mother could be like that, and he said, “I want to get to know your family, too.”

For some strange reason, after I told him, I wished I hadn’t. I didn’t want him, to think that I was like that on the low. But after a few weeks he got over it, so I was happy for that.

Letting Me Be Me

Cliff has helped me grow over the past year and seven months that we have been together. I have grown to be open with Cliff and express what I feel. I also learned that there is nothing wrong with being in a group home. I am not afraid to tell anyone that I live in one anymore. I think that people have no right to judge us, the kids who live in them. We are still all humans.

I also know that people should not be judged by their family members’ actions. Just because my mother is one thing doesn’t mean I am too. Cliff has helped show me this by letting me be me.

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