“There is a place that I go, that nobody knows where the rivers flow and I call it home. Where there are more lies and the darkness is light, and nobody cries because there are only butterflies!” – Natasha Bedingfeild ‘Pocket of sunshine’
“Pocket of Sunshine” was my favorite song while I was in Florida’s foster care system. Whenever I felt lost or alone I would listen to that song and I found a weird strength that kept me going and helped me pull through whatever challenge I was facing. Now that I am older I have a more permanent strength, strength that I call permanency. When I was younger I didn’t have a permanency. The only thing that really stayed with me was my journals, drawings and my music. “Pocket of sunshine” gave me a sense of permanency while growing up. But as I grew older, I found real permanency.
Though I am sure a lot of you are probably kind of confused by what I mean by permanency. There are 2 definition of permanency. First of all, the most common definition of permanency regarding foster care youth is when u put a youth in a safe, stable home environment. That home environment is the child’s legal permanency. That legal permanency can be organized into to one of five categories. These categories are as follows: reunification which is the most preferred goal for foster care youth. Which is pretty much is as it sounds reunifying the child or children with their biological families. The next category is Adoption which is when a family wants to adopt a child who is the system and make them apart of their family. Followed by adoption is legal guardianship which is when you are placed in custody of a non-biological parent while suspending the parent’s custody over you the second to last is when you are placed with a fit and willing relative this is called kinship care. Finally there is the “catch all” category which is APPLA or another permanent planned living arrangement which is like staying in the foster care system until your emancipated, or in more simple terms, group homes, therapeutic foster homes etc.
However, there is a second definition preferred by foster care youth. It’s more emotionally based. For the youth Permanency is about more than just a permanent residence. It's that feeling of belonging, being loved, safety, security, and trust from a person or persons in their lives as well as loving those people. It's not just necessarily about just a residence but more the feeling of being home. For an example, if you go for a trip, the feeling you get when you get to your home and you feel like you can relax. Your safe and it's an important part of your life where you get a feeling of belonging.
For me, my real permanency didn’t show up until I was 17. My permanency was with my Camelot Community Care Caseworker, Marcie Rosen. She was new to Camelot when I was placed under her caseload. Back then, I refused to grow close to really anyone because I had a fixed mindset that everyone I met was never going to stay around. All my caseworkers, guardian aid lighten, therapists, and foster parents never stayed around. When they grew board of me, I would be sent away for someone else to deal with. When I lived at home with my biological family it was kind of the same way. So I just figured this is just how I must be in order to prevent myself from being hurt again. I built that wall and learned about this chameleon effect. I changed who I was so I could stay with which ever placement I was in for as long as possible.
I stayed in over 5 foster care homes. This does not include the different group homes, respite homes (temporary foster home, can last for a few days and in my case up to 2 weeks) and emergency shelters I went to over the course of my 6 years in the foster care system. The longest I was in a placement was a year and the shortest was less than a week. With Marcie it was somewhat different. I could tell she truly cared about me. However, it still took years for me to truly open up to her. She gave me that feeling of acceptance and belonging that I didn’t have while I was living with my biological family or any of the foster care placements I was in. Camelot had classes that thought me to budget, to cook and everything that could help me stand up on my own. Every year they brought the youth together during difficult times such as Christmas and thanks giving. Every year I looked forward to spending it with my Camelot family. They always took the youth out on Fridays to do something fun as a bit of an escape and a way to grow strong relationships with the staff and other youth. Those outings gave me the sense of family. Like a mother she helped me with any problem I had from school issues, relationship issues, issues related to my biological family. She is the person who gave me the strength to face any challenge before me. If I were to fall, I knew she would be there to help me get back up and beat that challenge before me. It’s because of her I feel like I can do anything if I put my mind to it. She is my permanency and I don’t know where I would be without her. I love her and all of my family in Camelot Community Care.
Permanency is needed in the lives of every youth, whether the youth is in the foster care system or not. Humans need that emotional support and love in life. It’s needed in order to feel like life is worth living. Keep in mind you can have more than one permanency; a lot of my friends have permanency with more than one person. It could be your friends, your teacher; you’re biological parents, your adoptive parents, or any other supportive adult. Love is never limited. You can always make more. So if you have someone you consider as permanency, it’s okay to feel that permanency with others as well. Everyone should have that feeling of belonging…their own little pocket of sunshine
“The sun is on my side, Take me for a ride, I smile up to the sky, I know I'll be alright”
If you wish to see the video for “Pocket of Sunshine” please click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gte3BoXKwP0