I am Marcus Bell; I am 27 years young and I was raised in the system. I came into care at the age of six months along with my two brothers. I was placed into six different foster homes and separated from my siblings several times. Although, I remained in contact with my biological brothers and mother while being raised in the system, I still barely knew them and remain somewhat distant to them to this day.
I never was able to make lasting relationships with any of the foster parents I had but I was definitely given a very good upbringing as far as my basic needs. Like many foster youth, I found a lot of parental stability and guidance with my social worker more than anything. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a loving social worker who helped me realize I was more than my situation and that it was okay to have gone through what I did.
The best experience I ever had in care was definitely when I emancipated from foster care at the age of 17 and was able to find myself and begin to be comfortable and understanding of who I was. I feel privileged to have been raised in San Mateo County in California where there were many programs and outlets to seek help outside of care. While dealing with many forms of abuse as a child and moving from home to home was hard, nothing was more difficult than knowing I was gay at a young age and keeping it to myself. Without many supportive adults in my life, I felt like I did not have anyone I was comfortable with to share that information.
The biggest thing any youth from the LGBTQ community deals with is the coming out phase. Whether your parents agree with your sexuality or not, the healing of telling them is worth it. In foster care we try so hard to please everyone as best as we can on top of dealing with any past demons. I always feared I would be kicked out of a household for being who I was or not be able to get adopted. Unfortunately, I never did get adopted, but the independence and confidence I gained from that was definitely helpful for me. I began to come out to my friends and other foster youth and was able to embrace and accept who I was.
There are many foster youth in the LGBTQ community that I feel like could definitely use more support in the system. It’s hard for any of us to ever trust anyone to help us get through our hardships. Moving from home to home creates instability and a lack of forming trusting individuals in your life to be able to accept you for who you are.
Honestly, my answer to this problem would truly be that all foster parents are classified and screened to be able to take youth from the LGBTQ community. After stating the interest and ability to take in these youth, they should all go through further training on how to be a good support system for them. On top of that there should be an annual countywide convention that is geared towards youth of this community. At this convention we could educate youth with ways to get involved in programs that can support them and their lifestyles. This convention could also encourage them to share their stories with one another and find strength in their similarities.
All foster youth in the LGBTQ community do face more challenges and struggles than the average foster youth. I would strongly encourage all foster youth to work on loving and finding themselves first because ultimately that is the first step to truly being comfortable with who you are.