Foster Care Helped Me Become Who I am Today

In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, we invited youth to share their stories about what it is like to be a teen in foster care. This piece was written by a young woman named McKenzie.

May 16, 2017 – Take one look at me and you’ll see a girl who may seem rebellious, childish, or maybe even rude. Inside there is a girl that has been broken, abused, torn, and abandoned. At the young age of five I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I was also told I had severe depression due to my grandmother’s death. I was told I needed to be in special classes because I would never function in normal classes. I was told that I wouldn’t become anything; I wouldn’t be able to have my dream job to work with children that have special needs. A few years later, when I was in the fifth grade, my brother Jacob was born. He was the biggest blessing in my life. Sadly, my mother was distracted by drugs and men and I was left to raise an infant on my own. Taking care of Jacob helped develop my love for children.

In the sixth grade, my mother got married. I became a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. This caused me to react negatively, and at 11 years old I was expelled from Markham Woods Middle School. I was sent to Journey Academy, a lock down school. This school felt more like a jail. The school officials would lock the gates behind us and check our bags like we were at the airport. We also had to go through metal detectors. I felt like I did something wrong. That’s where everyone’s idea of me came true. “Oh she’s just a troubled kid, she’ll never succeed; there’s no point of helping her.” My own mother didn’t believe in me.

Fast forward to when I was removed from my mother’s custody. I finally had the courage to speak up about what was happening with my stepdad and the sexual abuse. My mother told me things like: “Why would he do that to you? You’re nothing, you’re lying,” but I wasn’t. It had been happening for four years. As a young girl, he’d always told me that this is what fathers and daughters do, so I believed him. As I got older, I began to realize it wasn’t right when I’d ask my friends “Do you and your dad do nasty things?” One of my friends, Cortiana, told her mom and they saved me from that abusive home. I was placed with my aunt for two months in the beginning of my freshman year. After that, I was placed with my father where I suffered mental, emotional, and physical abuse. I began running away, and as a result my father would have me Baker Acted. I was also stealing money for food, doing drugs, and coming home at all times of the night. I just didn’t care anymore. I always wondered why? Why me? Why didn’t my family love me, or want me? I was left in a shelter for 6 months without seeing my mother, father, or little brother. In fact, my father called me and told me that Lynda, my stepmother, was making him choose between me and her. He chose her, and I haven’t seen or spoken to him since.

I’m telling you this not to ask for sympathy, but to explain who I am and what I overcame to be here today. Today, I reside in a Winter Park group home for youth in foster care where I am well taken care of and I finally have a sense of family. I am a senior in high school, taking four honor classes and I’ll be walking across that stage May 23, 2017. This is who I am. I now follow God and love Him with all my heart. I no longer ask why, I just say thank you.