I can’t tell you how old I was when I found myself in foster care. This is something to do with my incredibly stressful and relatively traumatic childhood; at some point, I subconsciously decided it would be best if I just didn’t remember when or how anything happened. So if I seem a little vague about dates, time periods, ages? It’s because I don’t really know. I get flashes, sometimes, though. Snapshots, like the ones I have of the night I was separated from my mother.
- My mother, high on meth, taking us to the San Diego Marshal’s Office in a haze of drug-induced paranoia.
- Sitting at a table across from a female officer who clearly did not know what to do with me, but was very kind and gave me one of her colleague’s meals.
- Being taken out of the room too soon, and seeing my mother thrown up against the wall and handcuffed.
- Being shown to a bed in a dark room filled with beds in the middle of the night. I would soon learn that I was in the Hillcrest Receiving Home. I didn’t know why I was there.
- Being introduced to a woman, Mrs. White, and told that I would be going home with her.
- Not knowing where my mother was, what had happened to her, or if she would know how to find me again.
- Not knowing if she was gone forever.
There are, on average, between 400,000 and 500,000 kids in foster care in the United States in a given year. Some of them have even less to go on than I had, and many come from far worse situations than I ever did. It’s a very rare foster youth who isn’t suffering from trauma, and on average, foster youth are almost TWICE as likely to suffer from PTSD as US war veterans.
Children in foster care suffer from dramatically higher rates of psychiatric, behavioral, and substance use disorders resulting from the abuse and neglect they have experienced, in addition to the traumas of removal from home and the instability of the foster care system itself. However, only about 10-15% of them receive any mental healthcare at all, and virtually none of them receive long-term therapy. The majority of the therapy they receive is short-term, crisis-based care, which is ultimately more damaging than not.
I work for a nonprofit organization called A Home Within. Now, I’m glad I found this org right when I desperately needed a job, but I wish I’d known about it earlier, because after a lifetime of dealing with depression, anxiety, anger, trauma, and the fear of abandonment—much of which was aggravated or added by my time in foster care, I could have benefited from the services A Home Within provides: pro bono, open-ended therapy.
That’s right. We offer free long-term mental health care to current and former foster youth: One child, one therapist, for as long as it takes.
But finding therapists and reaching foster youth takes time, and it takes funds. We have chapters all over the country with kids waiting for services that we are doing our best to provide, and areas where foster carers and youth have no idea we are here for them. We are going to change that. I’m part of a team trying to raise $2500 for A Home Within. I’m working with Faith Grant, one of our most recent additions to the A Home Within Board of Directors. So I am asking you to help us out by donating today, and to help me and Faith out by choosing either her name or mine (if you already know it) from the drop down menu when you do.
Please, help us make a difference in the lives of foster youth.