Child Welfare League of America

The day I graduated from high school, 3 months before aging out of foster care and beginning college, I came to a place of understanding just how loved I am. I remember sitting in the middle of the events center, surrounded by a sea of classmates and walls of their families surrounding us on our big day. It was a day most of us looked forward to because it meant we were finally done!

For me, I could barely keep my eyes off the rather large section of people who were there to see me walk across that stage. I don't know if I've ever smiled so hard. If I remember right, about 20 people that I call family filled two rows of seats to see me cross the finish line and graduate. I go back to that day on hard days, thanking all of them in my heart all over again and smiling about the fact that I didn't ever have a moment of that day that I had to celebrate alone. My time in care also had been much like that.

When I entered care, I had people from my church I could call family. I knew I had experienced out-of-home care much differently than most other youth when, at age 19, I could look back at my life and see that the people in my life looked exactly the same as when I entered care. I hadn't had to age out and find myself wondering where to step next. I'm a part of a family that goes through life together.

While I was in care I continued attending the same church, as always, and to this day I'm a member. But it's funny to even call myself a member because, honestly, it's more like being in a family. I can say that youth transitioning out of care need stable relationships while they are in care that stick around when they are out of care. Now that I'm out of care, I grow each and every day with my family right there, cheering me on, watching me cross finish lines every day.

Today I'm an Emergency Medical Technician, daughter, sister, and friend. I couldn't have done any of it alone, and I'm thankful I didn't have to. Make sure the youth you know don't either—you'll help change lives.

This story was originally published at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/2013/reallifestories/faithbased.cfm

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