Everything in foster care is temporary and nothing is certain

 

One day, a child can be in a foster home where they feel supported and loved. The next, they can be moved. The roots they planted are pulled. The connections they made are broken. The life they knew is replaced overnight with a new one. New adults, new rules and a new house.

With each move, the feelings of being abandoned turn into frustrations. Eventually these frustrations become outward anger where children in foster care lash out. They are angry at a system where they have no say in where they go or what they do. They have no control over their lives. The tantrums and aggressive behavior are the result of being shuffled around with no clear solution.

This was Christopher Webb’s childhood. At 6, he entered foster care. Up to that point he lived in drug houses with his mom as she struggled with addiction. Christopher and his two sisters slept on couches and floors. His father was incarcerated when Christopher was just 1.Stability for Christopher and his two sisters was staying with his grandma in a one-bedroom apartment. Unable to provide for all three children, Christopher’s grandma asked the Oregon Department of Human Services to take the kids into foster care. She thought they would be safer there.

Instead of safety, Christopher was met with a dizzying number of moves. In the first two weeks, he moved between three different homes. His sisters were separated from him almost immediately after the state determined it would be easier for Christopher to be raised alone. He would never live with them again.

 
 
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By his 13th birthday, Christopher had moved 13 times in foster care. Along the way, he had been assigned labels that made him look scary on paper. He was documented as being angry and aggressive. He was told he was unsafe and shouldn’t be around other children. He was medicated and isolated. 
“I acted out against adults and did poor in school because I did not think that I would be in that foster home long enough for any of it to matter,” Christopher said.

Sadly, Christopher’s story is not unique. Children who enter foster care will move on average four times during their first year. If problems are not resolved with their biological family, children can languish in the system. With each additional move, and each additional year, their behaviors and mental health can worsen.

Boys & Girls Aid’s focus is to stop the moves. We want to change the outcomes so children do not feel like their family is temporary. The children we serve need to believe the home they are in is permanent and the adults in their lives are people they can trust.

 
 

Yet the solution is not connecting children with any family. We need to find them the right family. The struggles for children don’t end once they leave foster care. The trauma of foster care can follow many children throughout adolescence and into adulthood.

Kevin and Rhonda learned this when they adopted their daughters. Their oldest, abandoned at a bus station, came to Kevin and Rhonda struggling to cope with the feelings of being rejected and left behind. Their daughter ripped doors off hinges and ran away.  She was trying to exert control in any and every way.

 
 

With years of therapy and hard work, their daughter has shown signs of improvement. None of this would have happened in foster care. By finding the right forever family, she has parents who believe in her.

“She is in her 6th year of Spanish Immersion and has a beautiful accent. She plays piano and viola,” Rhonda said. “Our girl loves summer camps and enjoys everything from riding horses to playing basketball.”

This is Boys & Girls Aid’s solution. Children in foster care need families who know their history and are invested in their future. The cycle of foster care is a brutal one that ends with children struggling as adults. To avoid this, we need to ensure their future safety and resolve their past traumas by connecting them with a forever family.

Christopher never found a forever family. He aged out of the foster care system at 18 and had to navigate adulthood alone. He faced struggles and challenges where he could have relied on family. 

 
 

Today Christopher owns a painting business. He and his wife Katelyn welcomed their son Fox into the world earlier this year. Christopher is happy with the person he is today and thankful he made it out of foster care without becoming another negative statistic.

But it shouldn’t be this hard. So many of Christopher’s peers in foster care dropped out of high school, became homeless or were incarcerated. Christopher believes every child in foster care deserve better. Nobody should experience what he went through.

“We want to help connect foster youth to forever families so that they can flourish and succeed. So that they can go to college, or start a business. So that they can live their dreams, instead of just surviving,” he said. “It is important for our communities.”

 
Ryan Imondi