Resilient Foster is a new feature on Don't Die Afraid that highlights individuals who have a connection with the foster care system. These individuals will share with us their experiences as a foster child, parent, or advocate. This feature was spurred by a post about foster care on Monica's page (the Monica, as in The Boy is Mine Monica).
The comment section was filled with stories from those impacted by the foster care system. I instantly knew that their stories couldn't remain in the comment section, they needed a larger platform so people can read about their resilience and learn ways to get involved. After that, I reached out to all of them and a select view responded sharing their interest in my project; and that is how I gave birth to "Resilient Foster", these stories are truly dynamic and will be debuting on the blog soon.
If you know someone who has a connection to foster care that would like to be included in this feature series, please tell him or her to e-mail me at Ashley@DontDieAfraid.com
Q. Hi Genesia, tell me a little about your childhood.
A. I was born in Mobile, Alabama. Because of the lifestyle my mother lived I moved to Arlington, AL with my great-grandmother at the age of 2. I lived with my great grandmother until she died in 1999. At the time I was about 11 years old. After her death my cousin decided to take me in but I guess I was too much for her so one day she told me that we were going to Mobile, AL on vacation. When we got to Mobile I was dropped off at my uncle's apartment to visit. On Sunday I waited to be picked up, so I could go back home and little did I know, that was not happening.
The fact that they didn't even have a heart to tell me that I wasn't going back with them really hurt me. I felt abandoned and till this day I still deal with abandonment. My other grandmother lived in Mobile and had been taking care of my brother and sister. So I moved in the house with her but within two weeks there was a social worker at the door step to pick me up. I'm like wtf is going on here? Finally, my grandmother tells me that I will be going to foster care. Of course I was like why do I have to go? You keeping my brother and sister, why can't I stay? So then I ended up in foster care.
Q. Oh my, that's really messed up of your cousin and grandmother. The least they could have done was communicated with you their thought process. I deal with abandonment issues too so I totally connect with you on that. How was your foster care experience?
A. I think my foster care experience was different from most. I started out in a group home where I stayed for 30 days and then I went into my first foster home. That experience was horrible. She didn't really care if I ate, if I went to school, if I came home, or anything. All she cared about was her check coming every month. One night she left me outside overnight so I had to go to a neighbor's house and spend the night until I was able to contact my social worker. Of course I was moved from that home.
My second foster home only lasted a couple of months. I can't really remember what went wrong there. All I know is that she said she didn't want to be a foster parent anymore so I was moved. I went to my third home which was a white family. I was only able to stay there for 90 days. I loved them. It was a married couple with five kids of their own the oldest being 15. They were all on swim teams, which was exciting because that's how I learned how to swim. They treated me like their own; I really did not want to leave them but it was only a 90 day placement.
Q. Why was it only a 90 day thing? If that is the home that you felt the most comfortable, why couldn't you stay there permanently?
A. It's called a conditional home. It's to see how you react in a home with other kids. Their home is limited to 90 days for any child that stays there. When I was leaving another child was moving in.
Then I moved on to my fourth home. Gosh I don't know how to put this one into words. The first year I cried I almost every night. Going into the second year I just accepted that I was stuck with them and I just needed to make the best of it. I stayed with them for the longest.
Q. It just really blows my mind that you loved your third home but was only able to stay there for 90 days but then you hated your fourth home and you were forced to stay there for three years.
A. It depends on how many times you have been moved around. When I was moved there they said that was my last option. They didn't believe me when I said I wasn't happy living there. During my third year with them, an incident occurred and I never went back.One morning I was getting ready to go to school and my foster dad could not find his car keys. I was sitting on the couch waiting for him to take me to school. To make a long story short the keys ended up being in the couch I was sitting on. He flipped! And it went downhill from there. When I got to school that day I called my social worker and I told her I was not going back. If she didn't come get me I was going to run away. She came and got me from school that day and she could not believe what happened so I moved on to my fifth home.
My fifth home was a married couple with four kids of their own. I loved living there. I moved in with them my senior year of high school. So the stay wasn't long but it was great. After graduation I moved from Mobile to Huntsville to attend Alabama A&M University in Fall 2004. When I got to college I was determined to graduate and I proudly did in May 2011.
Q.How has your experience helped you grow and develop into the amazing person you are today?
A. My experience has made me a strong person. I learned that I have control of my life and I determine what I get out of life. It made me very open and comfortable to connect with other people. I can literally talk to anybody.
Q. That's a very profound outlook since you didn't have control over a lot of the situations you were placed in as a child. If you could share one treasure of advice/encouragement to children in foster care or parents raising a foster child, who are possibly going through what you went through, what would you say to them?
A. To a foster parent : don't give up on the child at any point. It's already hard trusting people because we have been let down by our own family members. We will come around eventually we just have to feel comfortable that you want leave is when it get hard.
To a foster child: no matter where you come from don't let anyone in the world hold your pen and write your story for you. You can do anything in this world you want to do!
"Don't let anyone in the world hold your pen and write your story for you."
Q. What are some other ways people can help make the lives of foster children safer and happier?
A. Love us and show us that you believe in us!
Q.From reading your story and hearing about all the instability you had to deal with growing up, it is clear that you are resilient and living the motto, "Don't Die Afraid", what motivates you to get through the difficult times?
I think about those nights I cried when I was younger and I look at how far I have come! I thank God every day I open my eyes! He has really bought me through my darkest times. I can't think of not one thing God has not delivered me from!