This article was written for our sponsor, Boys and Girls Home : Spotlight : Boys and Girls Home of North Carolina.
What does the world of foster care look like through the eyes of teenager? One foster teen, Shania, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, agreed to share her story.
Finding a Loving Foster Family
Shania was taken into the foster care system at a young age and has had what Abbigail Roberts, a foster care consultant for the Boys & Girls Homes of North Carolina, calls a "unique foster care experience" – one that has involved multiple states, agencies and placements.
"Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Roberts said.
Reunification with her biological parents was not an option, so Shania was considered as a candidate for adoption. An adoption occurred, however, it was later reversed. Afterward, Shania was placed in a foster care group home. Later, she was placed with two different foster families before becoming a client of B&GH.
Transience can be hard for many children in the foster care system and with it, comes its own set of challenges.
"Change itself can have both positive and negative implications depending on the context, including whether the change is voluntary, planned in advance, and moving the individual or family to better circumstances," stated a research study conducted by professionals at the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy research think tank.
"[However], children's early experiences shape who they are and affect lifelong health and learning. To develop to their full potential, children need safe and stable housing, adequate and nutritious food, access to medical care, secure relationships with adult caregivers, nurturing and responsive parenting, and high-quality learning opportunities at home, in child care settings, and in school," the study continued.
When Shania eventually came to B&GH, they set out to help her find a foster family who could provide this type of environment for her.
"Ever since Shania came to us through B&GH, we've all worked hard to help her put the pieces of her life back together," Roberts said. "We've helped her learn more about herself and who she is. We've also helped her establish contact with the majority of her siblings and her birth parents."
Roberts continued, "If I was Shania, I'd be angry and I'd have this chip on my shoulder. But, she doesn't take that approach. Instead, she's very resilient and she always looks to find the good in every day."
Shania is now part of a foster family who has adopted three young children. Roberts said Shania is great with her foster siblings, and "is so kind and so gentle with the children."
Falling into a groove with her new foster family, Shania is learning to drive,doing well in school and looking at four-year universities.
"She's adamant that she wants to be a social worker, so that she can help other children who have experienced family life traumas that are similar to her own. Shania wants to be that beacon of hope and home," Roberts said.
Q&A with Shania
INTERVIEWER. Tell us a little about yourself. What would you like for others to know?
SHANIA. I'm in high school, my favorite subject is math, I'm involved in athletics and I participate as a part of a couple of teams.
Q. What do you wish social workers knew so that they could better help foster children?
A. This is a hard question, but I wish social workers knew how painful it is to be in the foster care system.
Q. What do you wish foster parents knew so that they could better help foster children?
A. I wish they understood what foster children have been through. I just wish they would talk to me and listen to me. I wish I had more opportunities to just be a kid and to have fun.
Q. What do you wish you could change about foster care?
A. I wish that I had more freedom to do "normal" activities.
Q. How have your foster parents made you feel?
A. My first foster parents played favorites and I wasn't the favorite, so they didn't really care about me. When I went to the group home, I was the favorite and that was fine.
My adoptive parents made me feel terrible about myself and treated me poorly. At my next foster home, I felt like a slave.
Now, in my current foster home, I feel like a normal teenager and I want to stay here.
Q. What has been something really good that you'd like to share about your foster care experience?
A. Meeting my current foster family has been the best part.
Q. Is there anything else that you'd like for folks to know about you or your story?
A. Being in foster care used to feel like being in a prison. Now, I realize that being in foster care has taught me how to love myself and how to control my anger.
Now, I have a foster family and case workers who care about me.
This article was written for our sponsor, Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina.