“I’ve been in the foster care system since the age of thirteen years old. My mother committed suicide when I was six, and my father was sent to prison when I was twelve. At seventeen years old, I met my amazing foster parents, and I was officially adopted at 26. Contrary to the experiences of some of the youth who’ve experienced the child welfare system, I moved in with my family first. But similar to my peers, I endured the harsh reality that this was not truly my family.
Every foster youth has a honeymoon phase where things seem to be steady and relaxed. My aunt and uncle were initially intentional about making me feel welcomed and happy. But unfortunately, their goal seemed to resemble the perfect family in a home, and my growing pains of coping with sexual abuse from my father was too much of an inconvenience. I felt ostracized as I internalized and expressed my traumatizing past in unhealthy ways, beginning with an unhealthy relationship. I experienced mental and emotional abuse, both by my family and romantic partner at the time.
The belittling I endured whenever I’d make a mistake was overbearing. Excited for prom, I went dress shopping with a friend where I’d send her pictures of potential dress options. I sent a photo to my aunt, and she responded by telling to find another ride home because she wasn’t picking me up. She suggested I instead walk home and sell my body, since I wanted to dress like a prostitute. The relationship with my aunt slowly but surely deteriorated, to a point where I returned home one day and found all my belongings lined up in their driveway. Devastated my family once again hurt me deeply, I cried knowing I lost yet another relative.
I felt as if I was trash on the side of the curb, waiting to be picked up by the next person. I was abandoned once again and needed a permanent home to stay. It wasn’t until the age of seventeen years old I met my amazing foster parents, who showed me consistent, forgiving, and passionate love I had always needed. They saw me as a blessing instead of a burden, highlighting the good in me when others only wanted to harp on the bad.
I remember moving in on my foster mom’s birthday. ‘Sorry I ruined your birthday,’ I said to her. ‘No, you’re one of the best gifts I could ever have!’ she replied. I was shocked by her remark, but it began to reshape what I thought of foster care. Her words instilled confidence in me, but her actions spoke even louder. It would be small things, such as asking my opinion and giving me the advice to make the best decision, instead of attempting to dictate my future with overbearing and demeaning jargon.
My aunt and her family attempted to tokenize me, playing the role of a hero saving a hopeless, despairing child. Yes, I was broken from abuse. But I needed someone to help me process my abuse, as opposed to simply moving past it. In my previous home, I was constantly reminded I was not to be trusted. On the other hand, my foster parents prioritized developing a trusting relationship by taking me for walks just to listen to how I feel. Even randomly bringing me cookies as I returned to my work shift at Little Caesars Pizza. The intentionality to build a relationship and their faith I would succeed truly meant the world to me.
Transitioning into my collegiate career, my story of resilience directly translated to pursuing my educational goals. In everything I do, I try to use my shortcomings as opportunities to learn and grow. I use my experiences in the foster care system as tools and outlets to make a difference and teach others the steps of overcoming trauma and failure. In undergrad, I completed eight study abroad programs and co-developed two new study abroad programs while traveling to over 30 countries. This goes to show no matter your experiences, when provided the right resources, the sky’s the limit! Knowing this, I co-founded three companies that are social impact-oriented and intended to provide the necessary resources for individuals and communities to grow.
With my foster parents loving and supporting after ten years of welcoming them into my life, during my birthday dinner in 2019, I decided I wanted to officially be adopted at the age of 26. They were surprised and always seen me as their daughter, but more than willing to make it official. Never once did they ever force me to be adopted or attempt to change my mind. Their ability to listen, to provide reasonable advice, but also to take heed for my needs is the reason why I love them so much.
Along with concerns about losing my health insurance, I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle before my wedding on August 8th, 2020. To them, I had always been their daughter with or without legal documentation. But the actual moment of my dad walking me down the aisle brings me to tears, even today. While living with my parents during quarantine, my husband and I wrote about our experiences from growing up in foster care to breaking generational patterns by owning multiple mission-oriented businesses to encourage others to heal from their past and create a life worth living.
Published on November 7, 2020: Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat the Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness and Love. By being vulnerable and sharing our story of overcoming, we became Amazon Best Selling authors in three different categories! My advice to potential foster parents is to practice patience and a form of love that is forgiving, respectful, and to always see the best in one another. My nuggets of wisdom for the youth is to determine who you are outside of your experiences, the opinions of others, family history, etc. Choose a path conducive for your future, and not a reflection of your past.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alexis Black of Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can follow their journey on Facebook and on their websites, here and here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about foster care:
‘We have an 11-year-old with identity issues. Would you be able to take him in?’ We said yes to 30 days from now. Then we received a call: ‘Can he move in today?’: LGBT couple adopt 4 children from foster care
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