A teen was depicted coming into a foster family’s home and being withdrawn as well as angry. Here is a response of what it is like to come into someone’s home for the first time:
I am Dimon Sanders, Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen 2017 and a former foster care youth. I was placed in the foster care system in June of 2009 due to abuse by my bio-dad and neglect by my bio-mom. 5 years and 35 people later, I finally found my happily ever after. I was adopted October 22, 2014. It was literally the happiest day of my life, but it wasn’t easy getting there.
When I was placed in the foster system I was very confused by what was happening. While I understood that my living situation wasn’t safe and less than ideal, I did not want to be removed from my home. Even bad habits become routine; I wanted to return to that “normalcy.” At the time I thought that anything was better than living with strangers that didn’t know me. This is how I imagine most kids in foster care feel upon entering into the system. Foster kids will not be willing to give strangers trust when the very people that were supposed to be the most trustworthy betrayed them. I developed the attitude that everyone leaves so to protect myself I began pushing people away. I would go to school and not engage with the students. I would be disruptive in the homes and push the parents to the point that they wanted to give up on me. Why should I trust complete strangers to stick around when the people who shared my DNA didn’t think I was worthy enough to fight for me and stay around? Once I was in a home for a while and I started to get comfortable, I became afraid. If I felt like the parents were getting too close to me or if I felt like I was caring too much, I would lash out. Most people assume I was afraid of not being loved and for a short time that was probably true. My biggest fear was actually being loved because every time I was loved in the past, I was hurt. For me, love hurt.
Kids push parents away for a few different reasons. The first is because they don’t trust you based on previous experiences. A second reason is because they are afraid of letting people in. If you keep people at a distance, the theory is that they can’t hurt you. Another reason is because kids that come from damaged homes don’t know how to love. Their foundation is shaky. The same dysfunction that they experienced is their version of normal. They bring it with them into your home and may not understand a different way to show love. So I’m sure you’re asking “What do you do as a parent?” DON’T GIVE UP! I know that’s often easier said than done, but be persistent; be consistent. Open up the lines of communication and let the child know that you’re there for them. Remember their distrust most likely has nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally.
I’ve spent the last 4 years of my life working on me and advocating for kids in foster care. I want kids in foster care to know that they are enough. Be hurt about what happened, but don’t make obtaining happiness harder by pushing people away. I want adults to understand that kids will push you away not only because they don’t trust you, but also because they are afraid to trust you. I had 35 people in and out of my life and every time someone left it made it harder for the next set of people that entered. It took a lot of consistency from my adoptive parents for me to let them in. It took a lot of time and work to change my perception. It took just as much effort to let people in. I’m definitely not perfect at it. I make a conscious decision every day to trust, to love, and to let people in. I tell myself that I’m worthy of love and then allow them to know and love the real me.
Hopefully this blog was helpful and provided some insight into kids in foster care. Feel free to follow my journey as Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen by following my social media.