I was in fourth grade when I started to realize that my family wasn’t normal. In school one day, we had a presentation about abuse. A nice lady came and talked to our class about the warning signs of abuse and what you should do if you feel unsafe in your home. Towards the end of her presentation, she mentioned something that really stuck with me. She said that if you feel that you have to “walk on egg shells” around your parents- if you are scared that anything you say or do could make them upset- then you are probably living in a bad home environment. After she talked, I considered telling an adult about what was going on but I decided against it.
For seven years I kept silent, until one fateful day in eleventh grade when someone from Child Protective Services came to interview me. In one of my most courageous moments, I decided to finally speak up about what my sisters and I were going through. Shortly after that day, my sisters and I were removed from my house and placed with my grandparents. I was 17 when I entered foster care.
I didn’t tell anybody at school about what had happened. I was worried that they would treat me differently if they knew that I had been abused. I was scared that they wouldn’t understand what I had been through. But most of all, I was ashamed. I was ashamed that the person that is supposed to love me unconditionally treated me so poorly. I was ashamed that I hadn’t told somebody sooner. I was ashamed that I couldn’t always protect my sisters from the abuse.
For a long time this sense of shame dominated my life-that is until now. Doing this All-Star Internship program has taught me that I don’t have to feel ashamed. Being surrounded by people that have gone through so much but have used their experiences to help advocate for foster youth made me realize that being in foster care is not something that I should feel guilty about. I can use my experiences, my story, to help others. This internship has also taught me that being a foster kid is not my defining characteristic. I am so much more than just one label. The fact that I was placed in care does not diminish any of my other characteristics. My name is Aviva and I am a sister, granddaughter, student…. and a foster youth.