“Antonia” writes as a 30-something adult about her experiences in foster care from the time she was 13 until she aged out at 18. In those five years, she had five placements, including foster families and kinship care. She is now a successful, middle-class professional.

Antonia specifically described how the system failed her. “I don’t think we should have been removed from our mother. She was an alcoholic, but she was working and we had great grades. Things were tough, but not deplorable. Second, I was placed in a in-take center for more than 6 months and almost didn’t graduate on time (as a result). Third, I was placed in a home where the foster family wasn’t feeding me and wouldn’t get me a bus pass to get to school. I ended up running away. [But the worst part was being moved and having my life controlled by others.” She also added, “Social workers should give more weight to the perspective of the children.” On the positive side, she described how the system supported her: “I had a great social worker when I was 15 that made an effort to help me meet people that could support my goal of becoming a business owner.”

She attributes her life success to her mother ultimately though. “Thankfully, my mother had 13 years with me to build me into the amazing person that I am now. She encouraged me to learn in any situation. She taught me to do my best and help others if I could. I have run my own business for the last seven years, traveled to 10 countries on four continents and been able to give positive energy to multiple communities because of the things that my mother taught me.”

“The goal of the foster care system is to protect children. Sometimes what that looks like is different than what happens.”

Insights:

Antonia is particularly good at articulating that although her childhood was difficult, she believes her mother would have adequately raised her and perhaps she would have been better off than she was in foster care – especially since being in-care interfered with her education. She talks about how great her grades were and sounds like an otherwise great kid, but she ends up being “a runner.” Kids who run away are treated like criminals by the system. Many kids attempt to runaway when they are frustrated with their families. Most kids come back home after a stint at a friend’s house. But foster kids who run, often back to family, are criminalized. They do not have the means to express frustrations and perhaps even fewer people to listen. Antonia is one of many youth who have said a serious need in the system is that adults need to be more attentive to what children in-care have to say and what they want.