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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My First Day In the Group Home
Tamecka Crawford

My brother Damon was placed in a group home for about a year. Although he got into fights and complained, it really did him some good.

Still, Damon always used to tell me how miserable I would be if I ever went into a group home. He said the girls would test me, that I would fall into a clique, and that I would be very lonely.

I never imagined I would go to a group home, but there were a lot of problems in my family. I was tired of feeling like I owed them something every time they did something for me. The social workers didn’t want to put me in a group home, but it couldn’t be avoided.

So, one day in October, I was driven in a big, blue van from the foster care office to a group home in a different neighborhood. I was very scared, since this was my first time away from family.

There was a girl and her baby in the van, along with two child welfare workers. The girl was bragging about how many group homes she had been in. She was talking about how people steal your things. She stared at me and noticed I wasn’t saying anything. Maybe she saw the scared, anxious look on my face, or maybe she just knew I had never been in a group home before.

I was staring out the window, trying not to let her get to me, when she suddenly pulled on my shirt and said rudely, “Nobody will like you if you be yourself, you can’t be quiet like that. They’ll try to test you or think you’re a nerd.”

I thought about what she said and, without a word, turned back and looked out the window.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I am a very family-oriented person. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what my new family would be like. I’d heard how much I could benefit from living in a group home, but also that it could destroy my life. I decided to calm down and take it one step at a time.

All kinds of things were running through my mind as the van drove along. I was imagining white ladies in uniform, “enforcing the rules” with whips and white gloves. How would the other girls take to me? Would I eat beans every night for dinner?

We finally drove up in front of the group home and the butterflies hit me hard. I thought I was going to throw up. As I got out of the van my legs started to lock. I could feel the tears coming but I didn’t want anyone to see, so I quickly wiped my eyes and walked to the door of my new home. Somehow I knew I was doing the right thing.

I was greeted by a nice short lady, Ms. Rivera. (In my mind I was saying, “Thank God she’s not white.” Even though I didn’t grow up around racism, I felt most white people didn’t understand where I was coming from.)

Anyway, the social worker who drove with me in the van gave Ms. Rivera my papers, wished me good luck, and left me. I followed the counselor up some stairs, through a hallway, and into an office.

The house seemed cold (not weather-cold, but it didn’t feel homey). Ms. Rivera asked me a few questions and did an inventory of my belongings. I asked her about the rules and regulations of the house.

She said most of the girls stayed to themselves. She said we were allowed to take a nature walk each week. Everybody had a chore to do twice a day. We had group therapy every Monday, she said, and then two girls dodged into the office and asked, “Are you done yet so we can talk to our new roommate?” They seemed happy to see me and showed me our room.

The two girls talked to me for hours. Wanda, a short, light-skinned girl with a squeaky voice, had been there for a while, but Tiny, a tall, slim girl, had just arrived earlier that day. They told me how I had to learn things for myself. (I thought that was very nice for them to say, since people usually want to give you their opinions of how things are.) They told me a little about how the rest of the house looked and the other girls’ names.

It was an all-girls home with 12 residents. All the furnishings were made of white wood. Everybody had a twin bed, a dresser, and a night table. The room was pretty nice. Of course I had to add my touch to my side of the room, and then it would look much better.

I couldn’t fall asleep because I still had butterflies in my stomach. I was excited about meeting the other girls and at the same time scared because I always kept to myself. They might ask me questions about my mom or dad, or even ask why I was there. These were all questions I wasn’t ready to answer, and they might judge me right away.

The morning finally came. I just lay in bed listening to the rest of the girls getting ready for school. Then it sounded like all the girls were in my room, trying to check me out.

They pretended not to pay me any attention as I sat up from under the covers with my pillow over my head. I wanted to see their faces before they got a chance to see mine. When I peeked, there were only four or five girls in the room.

Wanda introduced everyone. They all said hello and welcomed me. I couldn’t tell if they actually meant the welcome or not. Nobody started asking me questions, which meant that everyone stayed out of each other’s way. I laughed to myself as I lay back down, thinking that this might work out after all.

As a staff member made lunch for Tiny and me, I checked out the house. It was a two-story house with a basement. There were four bedrooms, a bathroom, and lounge on the top floor, and one bedroom, an office, a half-kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room on the first floor.

In the basement there was a laundry room, a kitchen and dining area, another office, and a bathroom. It was a nice-sized house for 12 girls, which meant that everyone had room to breathe. After switching from my family to these strangers, I needed all the space I could get.

By dinner time I was sort of relaxed because I had met all the girls and no one asked me anything except my name and age. They didn’t care what type of home I came from or whether or not I was a “problem child.”

At dinner there were two tables of six. One big pitcher of Kool-Aid for each table, and everyone had to stand up by the kitchen area to be served. I was very happy that dinner wasn’t beans. The food was actually pretty good.

Everyone was telling the staff what happened that day. It seemed like they were arguing, but that was just because everyone was talking at once, saying pass me this, pass me that.

After dinner the girls had to do their chores (cleaning the bathrooms, kitchen and dining room, laundry room, etc.). I was going to be assigned a chore the next morning, so I laid back and enjoyed the free time while it lasted.

After an hour or so of just hanging around the house or watching TV with everyone else, it was time for bed. The butterflies were finally gone. I had lived through my first day in the group home without anyone giving me the nasty look or starting a fight, like my brother had said would happen. It was funny, too—I didn’t even miss not being at home.

I stayed there for six months and in those six months I grew as a person. I went through bad times and good. The most important thing was that I didn’t go through them alone. The staff always gave me a shoulder to lean on, which made me feel like I belonged. I found a new home and a new family.

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