Yesterday’s blog gave one person’s testimony as to why she chose to become a Foster Parent. Today’s blog provides insight as to what it’s like to be a child in the Foster System.
Tammy Burris-Peterman is the Assistant Director of Laboratory Services at the hospital and she is new to the GVMH Family. When I learned that Tammy spent time as a child in the Foster System I asked if she would be willing to share her experience and she was happy to do so.
I don’t know much about the Foster System but the perceptions I had were changed when I read Tammy’s story. In her own words, here’s Tammy’s story about being a Foster Child. Thanks Tammy!
It’s My Normal
What is one of the first questions you ask someone when they move to your town, transfer to your school, or in my case, start a new job? Generally you ask, “So, where are you from?”
When you have grown up in over 15 foster homes, there are a million ways you can answer that question. Generally speaking, people are usually surprised to hear me talk so openly about foster care and my experiences. The most common statement I hear is “you are not the typical former foster child”. My response might surprise you. ‘What is typical?’ I am not convinced anyone is ever typical. I guess I am unique if you consider the statistics.
– Currently there are a half-a-million foster children in the US right this minute
– Approximately 47% of those children are in non-relative homes.
-Of those, 500,000 foster children only 2% of those children will earn a bachelor’s degree or higher.
-Half will be un-employed and 25% will be homeless.
However, I don’t think of myself as unique. In this country we really do have the ability to jump over our obstacles and direct our future. Truthfully, that is all I did. It is not hard to talk about because it is the way it has always been. For me, it is my normal.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. –M. Kathleen Casey
I won’t begin to tell you that it was easy to be taken away from my Mother, who suffered from mental illness, but loved us very much. It was not easy to be separated from my brothers and sisters and placed in the homes of strangers. After all, don’t we teach our children not to trust strangers? It can be frightening and traumatic. The gift of life is that children are resilient. Each child will adjust according to his or her ability to handle stress. One of my former case managers is now the Director of the Child Protective Services. She tells me that I was resilient. Until I had my daughter, I always thought it was because of foster care and the experiences I had while away from my family. Now I know, it is just in my blue print. (Something I try to remember when she tells me what she is or isn’t going to do!)
The second thing people are surprised to hear from me is that I was in more than 15 foster homes before I emancipated myself when I was 17 (Nine of those years I lived with my mother. So, that is about 2 different homes per year). That I put myself through 2-years of private boarding academy so I could have the life I always dreamed.
The system is not perfect. There is no FosterParentMatch.com that you can enter the characteristics of the foster parents and child into in order to get a perfect match. The truth is there are a lot of good people trying to do a good thing. Sometimes those homes work and you bond with those folks and others you don’t.
In each home I had the opportunity to meet people I might not have known. Because of my experiences I have had opportunities that were never presented to my mother. It was the catalyst I needed to transport me into a different life. I have developed and almost perfected the ability to think outside the box. Something I am very proud to say I do well!
My Life Now
Today it is hard to believe I am just your average working American Mom transporting her daughter back and forth to gymnastics, dance and basketball practice. It was difficult when I was 4, but now that I am 28, I really am at peace with it. (And if you believe I am 28, then I must be!). It doesn’t leave you anymore than your childhood, but I don’t feel as if I am any different than anyone else. If anything, I am lucky.
My last foster homehas become a part of my extended family. Thankfully, they have remained a very important part of my life and I am so glad I am still in theirs.