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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Introduction: Is It Love?
Donyaeh Hinson

Love comes in many forms. I love my girlfriend and I love my family, but I also love my friend Rebecca. We’ve been best friends since we were 4 years old.

We met in the first week of Pre-K when Rebecca had a birthday party at school. I had pink eye, and all the kids avoided me because it’s contagious. Everyone else had ice cream and cake and played, while I sat alone with my head down.

Rebecca came over and asked why I was sitting by myself. I told her to go away because I had pink eye. She said OK, but soon after the teacher came over with cake and ice cream and told me to eat. When I asked her why, she said because the birthday girl doesn’t like to see people sad on her birthday. Then Rebecca came over and played Connect Four with me.

After that we did everything together. We played outside, and when it was nap time we whispered to each other until the teacher would have to separate us. My godmother took me to play dates at her house and we sang and laughed and danced. I dressed up as a pirate and she dressed up as a queen.

As we got older we began to tell each other that we loved each other, but in a friend or brother-sister way. People ask why we never went out, but it was a different kind of love.

When I was 12, I cut myself for the first time when I was upset. Rebecca got so mad at me, like she was my mom or something. She told me that if I ever cut myself again, she would never talk to me again. It scared me, and I stopped cutting for a long time after that because I realized she really cared about me.

I love Rebecca with all my heart. She has always been nice to me, ever since the pink eye. We both love books, so we’ll read the same books and discuss them. She’s also my gym partner. She’s really kind; she finds the good in everyone. She always says the right thing when I’m down.

We’ve stood by each other when we were not feeling on top of the world. It’s really good to have that connection with someone you’ve grown up with. Even when everything is tumbling down, and I feel like everyone has left, I know I can talk to Rebecca.

In this issue of Represent, we explore the complex subject of love. Margaret L. and the author of “My Crazy Love Was Just Crazy” learn the hard way that if someone’s trying to control you or make you feel insecure, it may be abuse, not passionate love. We list some signs that you aren’t being respected, which sometimes signal current or future abuse.

The author of “My Virtual Girlfriend Got Real” explores the risks and rewards of taking Internet love offline into the real world, and the author of “Pushing Jacob Away” learns that hurting herself hurts the boy who loves her. My story, “Soulmates,” is about how my girlfriend Alina makes me feel like I can handle whatever life throws at me.

Romantic love may be the most dramatic, but it’s not the only kind of love. Just as Rebecca has my back, so Shateek Palmer feels supported by his best friend Amadou, in “How a Best Friend Helps.” Many of us in care are still looking for the love of a parent in our teens; Leah Abreu-Negron writes about how she finally found a loving foster mother after 20 different placements. The therapist Rebecca Weston explains how early disruptions of love and trust such as foster kids experience can make us touchy and paranoid or too willing to accept bad treatment. You can learn to trust and love, however, if you pay attention to your feelings and acknowledge the past with a therapist or other trusted person.

One thread that runs through the celebrations of good love and the lessons learned from abusers is that a loved one should make you feel good about yourself the way you are. The rollercoaster of new love can be thrilling, but a healthy love that lasts makes you feel safe and supported.

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