Chris entered California’s foster care system at three months old, and remained in the system until he aged out at 18. “I jumped around a lot,” he recalls of his time in foster care, living in 8 different placements until he joined his last foster family at age 9. He remained with this family until he turned 18. Then, Chris recalls, “two weeks before my high school graduation, they told me I had to leave. I couldn’t believe it, I asked them, ‘Are you serious?’ And they were.”
The emotional pain Chris experienced was overwhelming. “I remember crying and packing a week’s worth of clothing. And then I left.” For the remaining weeks of high school, Chris went to live with his older sister in Los Angeles, with whom he had been able to sustain some contact over the years, despite their placement in separate foster homes.
In the absence of a permanent family, but longing for the connections, guidance and support that everyone needs, Chris relies on friends, their parents and supportive adults. “They have become my family.” The things that other young people with families take for granted are harder when you are on your own. “I had to do a lot of research on the internet to figure out how to do my taxes,” he recalls. “And when I get sick, I don’t have anyone to ask for advice – I just have to go on WebMd.”
“To youth who have been in foster care and have not experienced what it means to have a family, the notion of what a family is and what it means is hard to understand. How can you fully understand it and embrace it when you know that they might kick you out or cause the emotional damage I experienced?”
To Chris, the reason why the system needs reform and why youth need family and supportive adults to rely on is simple. “I and many other young people were placed in foster care by no fault of our own. But we want to progress and become individuals who not only have rewarding lives but are productive members of society. We deserve the best opportunity in order to do this.”
Currently a college sophomore, Chris juggles a busy schedule. He attends Cal State Fullerton full time (where he is majoring in political science and carries a triple minor), works part-time, is in ROTC and interns with FosterClub. When he graduates from college, he will be a fully commissioned officer in the Army.