Never Too Late for Family
When I was a 16-year-old foster youth living in New Jersey, I was so frustrated with my biological family situation and my experiences in foster care that I decided I would forge my own way through college and into adulthood. I left my last foster placement without saying goodbye, and I made it clear that I did not want the foster parents from this home, or any of my previous homes, to contact me again.
For a year, I struggled financially, working multiple jobs, occasionally staying with biological family in unhealthy living environments, sleeping in my car, and couch surfing at friends' houses. I realized how little I knew about being an adult. Cindy and Donald, my last set of foster parents, were the only adults in my life who had ever attempted to teach me those skills. On Mother's Day of 2007, I went to Cindy with a bouquet of flowers and apologized. They were not my foster parents anymore, but that was the day our relationship started to grow.
Deciding where to go to college was a difficult decision, but I knew that I wanted to leave New Jersey in order to start fresh. When I received the acceptance letter and full tuition coverage from Stanford University, I had my opportunity to leave. Cindy and Donald supported me in getting everything I needed to make a cross-country move. They stayed in contact, advised me on financial matters, and visited in the fall of my freshman year to make sure that I was settling into college life. During this time, I began to trust them, and they began to trust me. Even though they were not my foster parents anymore, they became my most valued permanent connections. Throughout college, they offered me a safe place to stay on holidays when the dorms were closed. Cindy and Donald served as my support network when I had severe health issues, car problems, trouble with my taxes, or needed general advice about becoming a young adult.
I have never been so grateful for anyone else's presence in my life. As I looked up in the stands on my graduation day at Stanford University, I felt the love that Cindy and Donald had brought just for me from New Jersey to California.
This story was first published at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/2013/reallifestories/family.cfm