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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She Misplaced My Childhood

I went into care when I was 13, after my sister stopped going to school, and my mom was accused of neglect (again). I was moved into a house in the Bronx with a lady and her son, which felt uncomfortable. I learned that to return home, I would have to go to family court where my family would fight to get me back.

The first court date was scheduled early in the morning. I felt tired, but excited that today might be the day I could leave the strangers’ house and go home. It was difficult to go to court by myself, but no adult offered to take me. I got off the A train at Canal Street, and it was foggy. I looked around and at my phone to try and position myself and find the courthouse. I asked directions from strangers and finally found myself in front of a concrete building with glass doors.

I had to walk in through a metal detector. Refastening my belt, I took the elevator up to the courtroom and saw my social worker. I felt better that someone I knew was there, even though I didn’t enjoy my social worker’s company. We talked about how I’d been, and after half an hour she asked me where my mother was. I said I didn’t know. We spent the next half hour desperately calling and leaving messages for her.

Then security called us into the courtroom. I was scared to go inside and face the judge without my mother—the one who was supposed to show up and fight for me. We went inside and the judge made us stand and say our name, age, and our position in the case (social worker, child, case planner, etc.). The judge asked where my mother was and if she knew about the court date.

A few people said, “Yes.” The judge said we could wait about 20 minutes, and after that she said, “We cannot do anything without the mother present; the court date has to be rescheduled.” I left the courtroom ready to cry. I couldn’t believe my mother did not show up.

At that time, my mother was pregnant, and because she’d neglected me and my sister, Children’s Protective Services (CPS) threatened to take her baby away as soon as it was born. Weeks later, I went to the court case where my mom argued for her right to keep her baby. This time, my mother arrived hours early. I was sad, then angry that she would fight for someone that hadn’t even been born, yet she didn’t fight for me.

I thought, “I don’t need you anymore,” which maybe wasn’t completely true, but was practical. She kept proving that she was not going to be there for me. Even though I was only 13, I needed to start taking care of myself.

Demanding Better

Growing up, my mom was there for me financially but not emotionally. My sister and I didn’t even live with her; we lived three floors below her with my grandmother. We were told we couldn’t live with her because she worked a lot, but who works 24/7? I barely saw her, and that hurt. I wanted to talk to her—about anything—and see her after school, but she was never home. Occasionally my grandma would tell her, “You have to take your kids,” and we’d stay at her apartment for a night or two, but then she’d disappear again. She would never tell me where she went or why: I figured that she was working.

It could have gone along like that, except my sister stopped going to school, and CPS investigated. They objected to our living with our grandmother outside of official kinship care, and accused my mother of neglect.

Foster care started out horribly. I’d only been living with the lady in the Bronx a few days when late one night, I heard her and her son screaming and arguing, their voices rising and rising. Then I heard a great thump in the wall. Then I heard her crying and screaming at her son to leave. He must have physically hurt her. At that moment I knew I couldn’t stay in that home.


At school the next day, I sought help from my guidance counselor and teachers. The adults from my school called CPS, supported me, and gave me the confidence and strength I needed to storm into CPS and demand that I be moved elsewhere. I said I wouldn’t leave the office until I was moved. I got moved to a better home, and I realized that I could make my life better by advocating for myself. I wouldn’t just sit there or agree when someone said something for me. I learned to stop them and say, “No, this is what I actually meant.”

I wouldn’t play in school or after school with friends as much because I wanted to seem and be more mature. I went straight home instead of hanging out with my friends. I spoke in a more stern tone and started improving my vocabulary, so I could level the playing field with adults. I started asking more people at my agency about my case to better understand what was happening and how I could help myself.

After six months in the second foster home, which was better than the first, I got moved to my grandmother’s. That’s what I fought for, but I discovered I had to deal with painful family issues. My grandmother kept defending my mother as if she had done nothing wrong, and that hurt me. I could understand her doing that because she probably wanted us to love our mother. I’d also defended my mother when I was younger and my sister would call her a bad mother.

I remember when I was 7 and my sister was 10, my mother called us from work and said “Hey, get dressed, I’m coming to pick you guys up in about an hour to go eat” at our favorite restaurant. My sister and I got dressed in our newest clothes. I was rushing because I was so happy we were going out with our mother. We sat on the couch waiting for her; after an hour my sister changed back into her regular clothes.

I said, “Why are you changing? Mom is coming to get us in a few.”

image by YC-Art Dept

She replied, “Don’t get your hopes up. It’s been an hour and she hasn’t even called.” I felt hurt and wondered how my sister could act so unconcerned. The prospect of going out and having fun with my mom kept me entertained and happy as I waited. My mother finally called three hours after she was supposed to pick us up, saying she couldn’t come and that she would reschedule.

I was let down but I figured it wasn’t her fault—at first. But this happened so many times, I also stopped believing in the false promises she made. I was tired of being let down. I would try so hard to get some affection from her, and it never came. This happened too many times. It was harming me to have expectations she could not meet.

I decided there was no need to defend her to my sister since she was not who I thought she was. It hurt when my grandmother defended her, like what I was feeling wasn’t real. The people around me were just ignoring her actions, like neglecting me wasn’t wrong.

After my mother didn’t show up for court, I realized our relationship was toxic and I pulled away. I stopped trying to talk with her, stopped asking her to do things for me, and stopped doing what she asked me to do. Whenever she came over to grandma’s, I isolated myself. I wouldn’t smile or talk about anything I was doing.

It felt horrible, like I was putting my life and happiness on hold until she would leave. We still went out with other family members during the holidays and she’d give me money for school when I ran into her in our building.

Pulling Away

I became depressed, and my grades at school started dropping. I interacted with kids less and I acted like nothing was wrong when I was at school. The agency assigned me a therapist, but they kept replacing them. I got tired of repeating my story and eventually stopped telling it. I did tell my social worker who asked why my grades were falling, “Nobody cares about my grades; why should I try?” I used to work for good grades to impress my family, but now I knew they couldn’t care less. My social worker then told my grandmother that I needed more praise in order to do better in school.

My grandmother tried praising me and tried to hug me, but it felt awkward because she’d never shown me that kind of affection before. My grandmother can act nice and put on a show for strangers to make them believe she is genuinely kind and gentle. But when it’s just us, she’s critical and unsupportive. She says things like “I don’t know why you kids act so ungrateful to your mother; she does a lot for you,” or “You two are the reason your mom doesn’t come around here anymore.” I was used to hearing cruel things come out of her mouth so I was skeptical when she suddenly showed kindness and affection.

But the fact that my social worker had talked to my grandmother meant someone listened to what I had to say. I liked that. I was re-inspired to get good grades to impress the people who were working hard to help me leave behind my family.

After being home for a while and realizing my family wasn’t there for me, I started doing more things by myself such as laundry and other errands. I would not let my mother or grandmother touch my video games, my music, even my school work. I basically started to live independently in that home.

My grandmother did a lot for me but she still wasn’t a good influence to keep in my life. She said things to me like, “You’re useless and don’t know how to do anything except play video games” or “You didn’t go to school, I know you were doing drugs with your friends” whenever school called to say I was late. I do not wish to keep someone in my life who thinks so little of me; it brings me down emotionally.

I stopped telling my mom and grandma about my achievements, experiences, thoughts, friends, or anything else you’d tell your family. I didn’t want them to know anything about me because when I’m able to, I just want to go out on my own and leave them behind.

They Misplaced My Childhood

At school I kept being the kid everyone knew as funny. Nobody noticed any change or even knew I was in care besides the teachers and school staff who noticed my grades sinking.

One reason I decided to consciously distance myself from my mother and grandmother was that I knew the love and affection a mother is supposed to give. I’ve experienced it from my Aunt Teresa, my Aunt Haylen, and my best friend’s mother Peggy. These women helped me realize that my mother was not acting as a parental figure for me, plus they gave me some of the support she didn’t. If I really need advice I ask Teresa, Haylen, or Peggy.

I also get support from some people I have met through care such as Jasmin (my therapist), Myra (my social worker) and other adults such as Angelique and Courtney at my agency. They’ve helped me move on and accept that I don’t have a parental figure in my family. They are helping me get over issues with my family and myself. I am becoming more independent even though going into foster care was not the way I envisioned myself doing it.

I cannot get over the resentment and disappointment I have for my mother—and I don’t think I should. I do not ask her for anything and she doesn’t ask anything from me either. I lost respect for my family when they misplaced my childhood.

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