Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In Their Own Words

Several children who live in foster care in NC were asked to write a response to the following question: “What would you tell a judge about your family?” 

Their responses varied, as one would expect, from gratitude to social workers and judges for "saving them," to children who felt betrayed by the system.

 Here’s what they had to say.
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by Destiny, age 16
"Thank you for changing my life." That is one thing that I would say to a judge.
If it was not for the judge's decision and the decisions of many other people along the way, I wouldn't be as successful as I am today.
I am successful in the way that I present myself, the activities that I participate in, as well as the morals and values that I have set for myself with my foster parents. I am a cheerleader, making A/B Honor Roll, president of two clubs, taking multiple AP and Honor classes, have a job, and preparing to start my senior year of high school. I am successful because I overcame an obstacle that most of my friends could not even imagine going through.
A judge's decision helped make me into the person I am today, with my mother and father--not the biological ones. It changed my life. That one decision that changed my life for the better was the best decision that somebody could ever make for me.
That is why I would simply say, "Thank you, Judge."

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by Autumn, age 15
I would ask that judge, why treat my parents like convicts? Is this really what's best for the children? Is our case only a number to you? Is my voice actually heard? For I feel my voice is only a raindrop in a demoralizing storm....
Why are you in such a hurry to close our case? I love seeing my mom's smile, and receiving my dad's hugs. Seeing them is what keeps me motivated and level-headed....
Adoption may be the answer in your book, but in mine it shuts the door to who I really am.... Yes, you have found a great foster home for us. As far as your plan for our future, I'm not so sure I can agree with that right now.
I know I don't have very much input, but just one more question: what would you do if you were in my shoes?
Autumn’s essay won second prize, for which she was awarded $50.
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Olivia, age 13
Reading my family's history, you probably wouldn't like them very much, but neither you nor anyone else knows my family like I do. My whole life I sat back and listened to the harsh stereotypes and cruel accusations, but today I am reaching out.... They love me unconditionally and will always support me. Of course there have been hard times, but haven't there been hard times in every family? They are good people regardless of their backgrounds.

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When I was six, I went to court. All I did there was cry. I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. I was scared.
Now, six years later, I am in a great home. I couldn't ask for a better family.
Take my dad for instance, with his corny jokes! And my mom--she's good at tennis and helps me with homework. My brother Reed is good at soccer and likes to play video games. My brother Seth wants to be a missionary, and my sisters Maggie and Callie both just graduated from college. My brother Shawn lives in California.
Then there is me, adopted into this big, happy family. I would want to say this to a judge because I have had a good experience being in foster care, and some people don't get good experiences.
Some day I also want to help kids experience a happy life!

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I'm a sibling from a family of eight. Kindergarten through elementary I was a great kid. When I was in the 5th grade my mother caught breast cancer but was a survivor. In my middle school days I began making friends, experimenting with drugs, and gang banging. At that age I felt my reputation in the streets was way more important than an education. I was known for stealing cars and fighting. I was going down the wrong path.
When I was 15 I got sent to juvenile for stealing and then I was sent to out-of-home placement because I was out of control and rude. I went to a level one group home. I was there for 6 months, showed improvement, and got discharged. I went back home.
It was okay, but my mom's cancer came back. It spread, and she died of bone cancer. These were hard times for me, so I kept myself busy by robbing and stealing. I felt alone and wasn't being disciplined for my actions.
On June 22, 2011 my dad gave me, my little brother, and my little sister away to DSS due to lack of income, discipline, and motivation. He said his mindset was gone due to my mother's death. Today I'm in foster care. I go to therapy, I'm pursuing my GED. Me and my father have no contact at all.
I've learned that second chances are mistakes' best friend. A wise man once said: "the only way out is the way through." I understood right away. I went through the stealing and robbing stages and it wasn't me. Now I want to be a mentor and let other young teenagers know that there is a way!

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I have been in foster care for six years.
Before I went into foster care I had a bad attitude and could not control my anger. I used to tease the cats and even killed my sister's fish. I would not follow directions. I would always do things my way and not the adult's way.
But after I went into foster care I learned how to control my anger and get along better with my siblings. I would like to go back home and get along with my siblings much better than I used to.
I would tell the judge that I have completed all my goals, and that I am confused about why they won't send me back home to my family.

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Messages for a Judge about My Family

I will ALWAYS love my family. No matter what they do, I will still love them.
—Sarah, age 15
There are so many things I could say to a judge about my family, but if I had to choose one thing, I would tell them that no matter what, we never give up! Sometimes it becomes very hard for my brothers and I to persevere through things such as mowing the lawn, doing homework, and even eating broccoli. I thank God that I am blessed to have parents like mine. --Sasha, age 16
I hope that the judge would see that my family is the best and that they all love me to death and have been with me and supported me since I was born. Next month I am transitioning from the foster home back to my home with my family. I am so excited to live with them again and show them how much I have learned from my experiences at the foster homes and group homes. I have lived away from my family for three to four years and I can't wait to go back home! --Taylor, age 17
I was 11 when I was placed in foster care. . . . I have been in 6 foster homes, 4 group homes, 1 lock down PRTF, and soon to be stepped down to another foster home. . . .
My sister Destiny will soon be 18, and has planned to sign herself out of foster care. My mom has requirements she is supposed to meet but hasn't really made an effort. My dad signed away his rights. Outside of my sister I have no close family I would be able to live with. The court initially gave my mom a year, but kept extending it till it turned into four years. But my team keeps telling me it's still a possibility to live with my mom.
--Krystyna, age 15

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