Dear Foster Parent,
I am the child in your home. I am the child who says and does things that melt your heart in one moment, but, I am also the child who amazes you with the ways I “act out” in the very next moment. I am the kid who arrived at your door with only the emotional baggage I carry on the inside and the trash bag, in my hand, holding a few key items. I am the teenager who makes decisions you don’t understand, says things that hurt, and has an attitude beyond measure. I am the young person you drive all over to take me to my countless appointments that fill your calendar each week. I am the child who requires extra supervision and who can’t be left with just anyone. I am the kid who struggles to trust adults and who doesn’t play well with others, unless they’re bad for me. I am the kid who makes the principal call you so much and the one the teacher emails about every other day. I am the child, the kid, the teenager who breaks your heart and takes you on this emotional roller coaster ride.
I am also the child you were told would come when you took those classes. I am the kid who was left to fend for myself, who wasn’t kept clean, fed and sheltered the way I should have been. I am the one who got sick and didn’t have a doctor to give me medicine. I am the one who learned how to mix a drink. I am the one who saw my mom get beaten up. I am the one who was someone else’s punching bag. I’m the kid someone else touched in a bad way – over and over again. I am the child who took care of my little brothers and sisters. I am the child who tried my best to be good, but just couldn’t keep my parents happy. I am the one who was born addicted to something. I am the one who watched my dad get arrested. I am the one who doesn’t know my dad and hasn’t seen my mom in months. I am the one who has lived with each of my relatives, and heard each of them say they didn’t want me, either.
I am the child you were told would come when you took those classes.
I am the child who was taken away from all that I knew by strangers. I am the one who has lost everything I thought made me who I am. I am the one who hears that where I come from isn’t good enough. I am the one who hears people talk about my “best interest”, but I’m also the one who hears about everything after the decision has already been made. I am the one everyone writes things about, but I never get to see it. I am the one you all have meetings about. I am the one waiting to see what direction my life will take. I am the one who had to leave all my stuff at home. I am the one who had to leave all my friends and my teachers. I am the one everyone talks about. I am the one that everyone tells me matters most. I am the one everyone says they’re trying to help. I am the one who has to move. I am the one who has to leave and lose everything when things change. I am the one who isn’t allowed to be myself. I am the one who has to change everything I know, everything I know to be, and everything I know to do. I am the one who has to do the most work and I’m the one who has to live under the weight of all of this…yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I am the one who will carry this load with me for the rest of my life. I am the one this story is being written about and I am the only one who will be in the story from the first page to the last. Others will come and go and the characters will change, but it is my story. I am the main character.
Everything that happens along the way will impact and change me, in some way. It is my story.
So, I want to ask you something. Why did you become a foster parent? Why did you take all those classes and jump through all those hoops?
My guess is that you “wanted to make a difference” or that you “had extra love to give” and you “knew there were kids out there who needed good homes”. I know your intentions were good and your motivations were incredible and admirable. I imagine you sat in those classes with a broken heart and a renewed conviction that this was exactly what you were supposed to do.
So, what happened?
Serena L. Hanson, LMSW is an alumni of the foster care system in Kansas. After years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in the home of her parents, she was placed into the child welfare system at the age of 12 and spent the next 6 years in care, experiencing 10 moves during that time. Serena was never reintegrated into her home and was never made legally available for adoption. She aged out of the fsoter care system to a life of independence at 18 years old. Serena went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Family Counseling from Barclay College and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Newman University. Almost immediately after aging out of foster care, Serena married her high school sweetheart and began working in child welfare and giving back to the system that dramatically impacted her life.
Serena operates, independently, as a Child Welfare Consultant and Trainer and is an experienced motivational speaker, workshop and seminar facilitator, resource family developer, program administrator and advocate. She is also currently a Community Adjunct Faculty with the University of Oklahoma Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work. She and her husband, Justin, currently live in Norman, OK with their four children – two boys, Shawn and Derek, ages 14 and 12 and two girls, Chloe and Sarah, ages 10 and 8, but they are moving home to Kansas in the coming weeks.
Connect with Serena online at www.whenfostercaregoesright.com