I will never forget my twelfth birthday – on that day, my social worker appeared at my foster home with two trash bags and announced that I was moving. She handed me the bags and said, “You need to pack your things.”
My things. I was hurt because not only did she hand me trash bags, she didn’t even volunteer to help me pack. More than that, I did not own enough things to fill two trash bags. I had no idea why I was moving or where I was going.
It was then that I knew what it meant to be a foster child. It meant I was not worth the time it takes to explain what’s going on; I was not worth owning a real suitcase. That day, I hardened my heart, and carried feelings of worthlessness with me for many years after. I spent eleven years in North Carolina’s foster care system, moving more than a dozen times during this period.
I had a unique transition from foster care -- I left the system at age twenty-one; but my last foster mother had been so amazing that I could not fathom the thought of life without her. She was the best mother anyone could ask for. She went to all my games and held parties for my senior prom and high school graduation. She adopted me when I was twenty-three years old. Today, I look at her and feel so blessed.
I still wish that I had had a stable family when I was growing up. Foster children get used to changing schools often, but if I had a family, I would have never had to leave the school I loved and all my friends. After I left that school, I attended three others. When I finally returned my senior year, I had been gone so long my friends did not even recognize me. I had to work extra hard to make friends again.
I am one of the lucky ones. Now that I have a family of my own, I do not worry as much about the things such as where my next meal is coming from, where I will sleep tonight, and other things that most youths take for granted. Having a family is something I would like to share with other foster youth.
As an author and advocate for foster care reform, Julia speaks powerfully about her experiences in foster care and the need for change.