Foster Care Changed My Life
Updated: Aug 18
Note- Names used for this article are not the family or child's real names.
Please meet "Rachel", a 17-year old who is living with an Embrace foster family, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. She has been living with the family for almost a year, after entering care in September 2020. Growing up, Rachel's parents were in and out of her life, due to being incarcerated and drug abuse. As a result, Rachel was pretty much responsible for raising herself, which caused her to become over-parentified and standoffish. She was living with no rules, no schedule, and no school. It is easy to see the path she was headed down.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the foster family Rachel was matched with, is a married couple with 3 daughters of their own, ages 10, 8, and 4. From the very beginning the Smith's wanted to work with teen girls, and their ultimate goal is to be able to adopt a teen girl. They had been discussing becoming foster parents for several years, but it was never the right time. Then in November 2019, their church had a display in recognition of National Adoption Month. Their older two daughters began asking questions, and so Mrs. Smith explained why kids were in foster care and why some of them needed to be adopted. The girls were very moved and asked where they could go to get one of the girls on the display so that they could take her home and make her a part of their family. They realized that they were always making excuses as to why now wasn't the "right time" to become foster parents. So in the middle of a global pandemic, they began the process to become a certified foster family with Embrace. They completed their pre-service training on May 14, 2020, and on July 10, 2020 they were approved. Mr. and Mrs. Smith wanted to be foster parents so that they could help set a teenager up for a successful future by teaching them life skills, people skills, and to be a supporting and loving place for them. On September 21, 2020 they would get that opportunity when they accepted Rachel as a foster care placement.
After a brief adjustment period, Rachel eventually settled in, and got use to the structure and expectations that come with living in a family. She has found that her foster mom provides the organization that was lacking during her childhood and has taught her responsibility, accountability, consequences, and ownership. Her foster father is easy to talk to when she finds she needs advice and doesn't want to disappoint him. Something as simple as family dinners has changed her outlook on family, or her foster mom reminding her to do her homework. Being in foster care made Rachel realize that "this is what it's like to have someone who cares, this is what parents do." Rachel ended the school year on the Honor Roll, works at McDonald's, and is involved in gymnastics and Young Life. Rachel's father has also gotten his life together as well. She will soon be leaving the Smith's, to go live with him. It's bittersweet for both Rachel and the Smiths. But that is what foster care is all about: Reunification. Rachel wanted to tell a little of her story because there are many stereotypes and assumptions about teens in foster care. Some examples she gave were, "they're going to age out anyways", "they can't be molded or changed", "they don't want a family", and "they're bad kids." Rachel has proved those statements to be myths. She stated that "foster care has helped me. I'm glad I made the mistakes I made, or I wouldn't have grown as a person. If I hadn't made the mistakes I made, I wouldn't have met my counselor. I don't understand why teens don't follow the rules, it makes life so much easier!" We are so proud of Rachel and all that she has accomplished. Unfortunately, not all teens in foster care have the experience that Rachel has had. But that doesn't mean they don't have the potential. Some kids have more significant trauma histories that make it more challenging to overcome their circumstances. Some kids are more resilient than others. And some never get the opportunity to connect with positive, nurturing adults like Rachel has with the Smith family. By becoming a foster parent, maybe you can be that adult for your "Rachel".