Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time at FosterHope Sacramento and it was amazing! Just listening to people share their stories was INCREDIBLE. I’ll be honest, Foster Hope is one of THEE best agencies around, They put so much effort and love in everything they do. You can tell how much they care. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to become involved with them! Thank you guys, and keep up the amazing work.
Fun Fact #11: Foster children have a difficult time with attachments and.. basically everything in between.
I’m mid-twenties and I’m still trying to figure life out, especially when it comes to forming friendships and developing bonds, I’m just not good at them, and for the VERY few people that I somehow manage to keep around for more than a few weeks or months- it’s an accomplishment, I swear. For those of you that have stuck around for at least a year or more – you must be some kind of special. Remember that.
I’m still learning how to love people and develop positive attachments or let-people-in. Growing up, I never let anyone close and rebelled a lot. Today, I’m very selective about the few people that I keep in touch with. I’m great at making friends, and very social, but keeping them is a whole ‘nother story. Trust me, it’s not because I like being alone or that I don’t want to have people in my life, its because people will inevitably let you down in one way or another and I prefer to avoid uncomfortable situations. Or at least that’s what I learned at an early age, I know that’s not always the case, I KNOW there are good people in the world doing amazing things to help each other, but as a kid, I was hardly ever exposed to that sort of thing, so here I am years later trying to cope with years of abuse, neglect and everything in between.
Pushing people always my way of letting people know Hey-you’re-getting-too-close-I-don’t-want-you-even-though-I-need-you kinda thing.
Most foster kids – by the time they have reached a certain age will have built this emotional brick wall that disconnects them from the rest of the world. Its something that took years to establish and it’s not something you’re going to fix overnight, I promise. It’s something that is going to take years of work and months of you restoring their values and views of decent relationships and trust (also keep in mind It’s not something that a therapist is going to fix or help with until THEY are ready to receive the help)
In fact, most (keyword) OLDER foster youth will avoid therapy sessions at all costs, and that is because therapy sucks! You know it sucks, WE know it sucks, so don’t expect therapy to be something they look forward to. In the bigger picture YES, therapy is helpful and positive and makes changes from deep within that are necessary in order to grow and move on from the past but that’s not something you are going to be able to explain to your foster children because they won’t care. It’s difficult to sit there in front of someone you hardly know and bare your soul, I can guarantee you that no one who is forced to go through therapy will enjoy it, nor will they gain anything from it.
But I promise you, they will let you know when they are ready. We all come to a point in our lives where there is nothing that will numb the pain. There isn’t a drink or drug available that will cure the void that fills our heart, and for those children that develop bad habits that are hard to break, understand that its a soothing mechanism. The best thing you can do is re-direct and guide them, hoping they will take on healthier habits. TEACH them, what life is really about and show them new sports, games or physical activities that will interest them.
The “teenage years” are supposed to be one of the most difficult stages of life, it’s a time when children are just figuring out what they like, who they are and what they want to become.
- High school
- Getting A License
- Preparing for college
- Playing sports/music
- First loves and first heartbreaks
and so many other things that we as adults, forget because it’s been so long. Back then is what what made us who we are today and we lived in a different decade, so let’s be real. No one understands teenagers, I was a teenager and I didn’t damn well understand myself, and they know we don’t get it. Don’t they? Don’t they tell you all the time? how you never “understand” them.
Let me tell you something, How do you expect a kid who is in the system and experienced more than most adults you’ve known your whole life – How do you expect them to react when you start giving them rules, expectations, normal chores, responsibilities and consequences like every growing teenager should have. I’m sure more than half of the time you get hostility and backlash in response (It normal I swear) The only difference is, we are emotionally damaged and need more attention than most. Basically, we need you to hold our hands like children.
I’m sure you get frustrated with a million different situations that you can’t control right now, you’re probably feeling powerless, like your never going to get through to them, or you’re hurting because: “why do they keep doing this to me?!”
It’s time to get over feeling defeated and unsure of what to do, and its time to start UNDERSTANDING what it is these kids are going through and what it is they need. They need you to be there for them through all of their good and bad days, because yanno what? no one else was.
This wall was built after years and years of attachments gone wrong and broken “happily ever afters” that never happened. Right now, as these older youth are transitioning into adulthood they are still learning what positive relationships are, WE are still learning that there ARE good people in the world that won’t hurt us. So stick with us through our bad days, and our good because even though they may run out screaming they “hate you now” or they “don’t care” or “Screw You” what they are really mean is..
“Dammit I messed up again, I don’t know how to fix this””
“It’s the only thing that makes me feel better, I hurt”
“No really… I NEED you, Please don’t leave me or give me back
I feel like everyone is entitled to a bad day but the difference between foster children and maybe a child you have raised since birth is, We are going to have bad months, bad weeks and bad years. It’s going to take time, I mean A LOT of time to reverse and rewire all of these negative thoughts. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it a million times because it’s so important. BE PATIENT and understand that the only thing that you need to do right now is BE there FOR them.
As an adult, I’ve tried my best to become the person I never had, a person that is loving, caring and genuinely good and loves unconditionally because that’s what children need (especially foster children), someone who loves them unconditionally, so become someone that loves them unconditionally. We all have a child within us that is fragile and just needs a little care, sometimes I still feel this lingering void of a girl that was never loved or sheltered. Sometimes I still have bad days because once you’re a foster child, You’re always a foster child.
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
Fun Fact #10 – Foster Children Lack Confidence
I must have heard it a thousand times growing up the way I did,
“You’ll never amount to anything”
“You’re going to be alone for the rest of your life”
“NO ONE will love you”
I still remember the look on my biological fathers face as we sped down the freeway – his hands flailing wildly in the air above him as he shouted and glared at me from the front seat of his red Chevy pickup. I always hated that obnoxiously loud truck and the way it roared like a diesel that was 3 bolts short of falling apart or losing a tire.
Every time I hopped into the backseat of that truck I would close my eyes and take a deep breath in an attempt to prepare myself for the toxic car ride that would soon follow. When he wasn’t screaming profanities at me, or howling from the front seat about what a failure I was, he was sputtering an exchange of hateful words to his wife in Spanish. Eventually, I learned to tune his voice out and found solace in the little things that flew past my window outside. I would watch people walk down the busy streets and stare at other drivers as we hurled past them, picturing myself in their backseat as someone else. Anywhere else. I grew accustomed to people telling me I wasn’t good enough and I’ll never be worth anything, After years of listening to the same things from different people it slowly bore a hole in my confidence and self-worth, I started believing them!
I mean, maybe they were right? Maybe that’s why my placements in the system never lasted. Growing up, I was extremely shy, withdrawn. and little rebellious. I hated being the center of attention and I had this terrible stutter that just wouldn’t go away no matter how many speech therapy classes my teachers enrolled me in,
I was broken and nobody wanted me– or so I thought.
It took a long time before I was able to extinguish those little voices in my head telling me I was worthless, It took about 10 years and a few therapy sessions in fact.
Fast forward to now and it looks like my next adventure (in 10 days!) will be on a train to Monterey to join forces with a local Foster Care Agency so that I’ll be able to share my experiences and become a voice for youth still in the system. I’ll have the opportunity to help guide hundreds of foster parents while I sit on their “Former Foster Youth Panel” and give advice on how they can help children currently living in their home. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to shed a little bit of my perspective on what it’s like going through the system, in hopes they will be able to find something beneficial from listening to the story of a foster child that once was.
I was asked not long ago,
“Well, what do you want people to gain from your speech in Monterey?”
and I didn’t really have an answer until now, I guess the truth is that — I know that being a foster parent is not easy, and I know that it gets overwhelming and frustrating at times, when you have a child that is rebellious or withdrawn, or when you have children that come into your home and leave quicker than you expected… It’s difficult to encourage and promote the development (FYI READ THIS AWESOME BLOG) of these young children when you don’t understand their background or where they came from. I know this because I was both a foster child and foster mother, and I hope that by the end of our talk, I’ll be able to give them a fresh perspective or new tool for patience.
Sometimes, patience comes with the ability to understand and I’ve learned that if you’re struggling with patience it’s likely because you are not able to understand someone’s past and if you can’t understand their past, then how can you help shape their future?
Other than that, I’m sure there will be a million questions that I’ll be able to answer. I’m so beyond excited for this opportunity to help Foster Hope Sacramento. This is going to be such a positive and uplifting experience for everyone involved. I was told there are going to be a lot of team building activities and group exercises to help encourage and promote one another, and I think that’s exactly what I need right now! It’s going to be amazing I’m just not sure that I’m entirely ready? I mean do I prepare the speech beforehand? Or just wing it? I’m usually pretty good at “winging it”
Well, I suppose I’ll have 10 days left to prepare a little confidence and muster up the courage to stand there in front of everyone including my fellow peers and former foster youth on the panel.
**Takes a deep breath **
Alright Monterey, Here I come!
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
This is a MUST READ if you ever consider becoming a foster parent. Beautifully said Rhett! For more blogs, please check out: https://lighthouseforwanderingsouls.wordpress.com/
Fun Fact # 9 – What is Closure?
This blog is long overdue, I guess I just needed more time to let that trip to LA sink in.. I think I just needed some time to fully comprehend the events that took place over the course of my three-day adventure in the city of angels, It was such a bittersweet ending.
Well, I did it! I sat there, a complete and utter mess in the studio audience for Ellen Degeneres as my favorite band performed merely a few feet away from me while the camera crew zoomed in on every tear. I’m not going to ask what happened to the footage, and frankly, I hope it never sees the light of day. I was literally, A screaming, SOBBING mess. I told myself years ago that I would eventually see that band play live, little did I know that it would be on the set of Ellen Degeneres.
An old friend introduced me to Mumford and Sons a long time ago, I still remember the first time he serenaded me with “After the Storm” there was just something about the way that he sang it which comforted my broken soul. At the time I was going through one of the most difficult things I had ever encountered, and those lyrics unexpectedly poured new life into the emptiness that lingered in my soul. It awoke something in me that I didn’t even realize existed, it gave me H-O-P-E. It was a depressingly beautiful song, and I’ll never forget it.
Have you ever felt so utterly connected to someone, that no matter what you try and do to forget them, their voice just plays like a song on repeat in your head? I fully believe that everything happens for a reason, I believe that people come in and out of your life for a purpose, even if you don’t fully understand it, and it’s only momentarily – it’s exactly what you need at the time. In this case, it was the music that he left behind which gave me the power to push through some of the darkest moments in my life and for that, I’ll always be thankful.
Beautiful soul breaking songs like:
and 8. Home gave me the ability to slowly twist the cap from atop the glass bottle which contained my bubbling heart. I didn’t know how to deal with emotions, I told people what they wanted to hear, I was a compulsive liar and I hated myself and everything I had become. I hated my parents for leaving me in the foster care system, my family for never caring enough to pull me out of the system and the many social workers and probation officer’s that tossed me around, barely giving me enough time to breathe between placements.
Over the course of a few months and between the sobbing and drunken nights watching the ceiling spin while I kicked bottles of wine over, I played these songs on repeat, for hours on end until I couldn’t remember what time of the day it was. I could feel the pain between the lyrics with every word that was sung and I loved it. I loved knowing that I wasn’t alone in feeling helpless and defeated, I loved the message between the lines and the boisterous banjo that rattled in sync with the keyboard that somehow tuned into my heart. These were the songs that gave me the ability to heal, and for some odd reason that I’ll never fully understand – helped cleansed my thoughts.
After months of writing, and months of realizing that there were two paths in front of me,
- I could take these life experiences and drown in them, letting them succumb me, OR
- I could take these memories and put them on a shelf (literally a book) somehow make peace with them, and move forward.
What do you think I did? I’ll be honest, I wanted to say fuck everyone and everything and give up because life as I had known it thus far was full of pain and I was sick of hurting. But instead, I remembered the soft melancholy voice that first introduced me to my favorite band, and then I knew. If this stranger, somewhere in the middle of bumfuck nowhere believes in me, Why couldn’t I believe in myself? So, I dusted myself off and wrote a book. I put all of my pain into the pages and word by word I found myself through writing and I hoped that one day it would help someone else.
That year after writing the novel went by terribly slowly, There were moments of doubt. Moments I didn’t know if I could survive my husband’s lover, his family and the loss of my niece all at once. There were times of regret and moments when I thought about burning the pages of my sappy little book and leaving everything in the past, But I’m sure glad that I didn’t because… then there were moments like last month when things couldn’t have been more perfect.
I told myself for years that I would see them play live and when I finally had the opportunity I purchased crappy seats in a huge Colosseum knowing full well that I would never be close enough to feel the magic of their performance, But I didn’t care because I knew just being there was enough. EVEN IF! I had to drag my family on a road trip and drive 6 hours to a city I had never been – bankrupting us along the way. I just didn’t care, I knew that I needed to see them, little did I know that I would end up merely a few feet away from them on the set of Ellen Degeneres watching them belt out “Only Love”
What an adventure..
I left a piece of myself in that city, I suppose that’s what closure is all about. Leaving the past behind no matter how much it hurts.
To be continued…
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
Fun Fact # 8: It’s okay to be human.
There is something about the way music illuminates my soul. I typically listen to that really depressing kind of music that makes you want to cry or scream into a pillow. You know, the kind that’s really impactful and deep and when you listen to it, it almost feels like ripping open old scabs that haven’t fully healed. I love the sad stuff because it makes you bleed and feel again. I think the ability to feel and embrace a variety of emotions is so beautifully human. Emotion is what drives us to make every decision we’ll ever make, whether it be out of love, anger or hate. If your taught properly how to channel those emotions and deal with your feelings then it helps you to become a stable person as you grow into adulthood.
When I was younger I had no idea how to deal with my thoughts or feelings, My opinions and viewpoints were never validated and I believe for children that are learning and still growing – THAT is so important. Validation, if you’re never taught the importance of validation then its very difficult to become empathetic and for me, I would have to say empathy is my favorite feeling of all. It’s what gives life meaning and value. I feel like without knowing that its O.K to feel and be human, we spend a lot of time and energy focused on beating ourselves up over things we don’t understand, we become selfish and focus on us, forgetting that the world isn’t just about us. Its about US (as a whole) if that makes sense?
Anyways, sometimes I ramble. so yea, back to what I was saying!
That really depressing music is what makes me feel most alive and it usually ALWAYS involves some type of screaming over an acoustic guitar, piano or banjo. Music is what pretty much what pulled me through the foster care system, music is what changed my life and helped guide me to where I am today but every few years I’ll come across a song that just tears into my soul,
This song gets me EVERY TIME, I’ll be honest. I cry like a baby! I love the soft melancholy keys that play in the background while Charlie Puth rips into the intro with an undeniable passion, like its pulling at the seams of your heart. I love the hope that lingers behind each word as the lyrics embrace loss yet somehow manage to instill hope. There’s just something about the way he sings,
“I’ll see you again”
This song reminds me of the time when I fostered my niece. I thought growing up in the system would give me some sort of insight on what it would be like to be a good foster mom. I used to tell myself when I was younger: I’m going to grow up and take in LOTS of foster kids.
But the reality is, I could only do it once. I know there is such a huge need for more foster parents, Trust me, I KNOW. Maybe one day in the future I’ll be ready to foster again, but for now that little girl left a hole so deep that it still hurts two years later. Every now and then when a 50 ft wave comes crashing in (read this post to understand my reference) I somehow find my way back to this memory.:
I still remember the way her tiny hands felt against my face when she would look at me and call me “momma” her little fingers were plump and soft and not yet fully formed. I used to take both of her hands and place them on either side of my cheek as I looked her in the eye and say ” I love you girly”
She would spread her little fingers wide across my cheek and squeeze, ” I love you, momma”
I would then take her little open-faced palm and softly nibble while she giggled and pulled away laughing, only to place them right back and my cheek and make me do it all over again. She loved it! She loved us, we were different than everything she had known before and she felt safe, I could sense how happy she had been with us. She made everything brighter when she was around.
At one point, before my marriage dissolved we had this big oak table that sat in the middle of our dining room. It was a beautiful hand-carved piece of furniture that, funny enough, was given to me by an ILP Worker when I turned 20 and moved into my first apartment. The table was round with a thick base that made it extremely heavy to move around and was difficult to squeeze through doorways, but we somehow managed to haul it around over the years. By the time I was 24 and fostering my niece it had already taken so much of a beating that I was nearly ready to throw it out, so when she began carving pictures into it with a pen, I wasn’t really upset. Instead, I told her,
“baby, we are not supposed to use pens like that”
She looked at me as though my words had peaked her interest. Squinting her eyes, I watched them shift from the table and back to me as her mouth slightly dropped in awe.
“if you want to draw, let’s use paper, okay? ”
“look we can do it together,” I said.
I placed a crayon in her hand and slid a piece of construction paper in front of her. Sitting beside her, I watched as she spun the colorful wax in circular directions on the paper. Licking my finger I placed it atop her scribbled letters and pressed hard into the oak, but it was useless, The damage had been done. Rubbing away the ink only revealed the depth of her carvings. They were permanently etched into the top of that oak table and weren’t going anywhere. A few months later before she left she asked me with tears in her eyes,
“Are you gonna keep the table momma?”
“Yes baby, Yes. I’m going to keep the table” and just like that we never saw her again.
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
1. Foster children typically have a tough time keeping people close.
This new house is empty and cold, It has this eerie quietness to it, A complete and utter silence during the day… then when night rolls around it all seems to come to life.
The refrigerator seemingly breathing sounds from the kitchen and into the living room, a hefty buzzing with the occasional stutter. It’s creepy.
As I sit here with my computer on my lap staring off into the distance I can’t help but notice the ceiling fan above chattering as it spins, creating a stale wind above. A flat stale wind that blows in my direction making me rethink the idea of keeping those windows closed. But I can’t bring myself to open them at night, I’m too afraid of what might be lingering outside. I feel like behind every little sound or noise there is something or someone waiting to jump out at me. This house terrifies me so much that I find myself awake late into the wee hours of the night.. or shall I say morning? When 5 am rolls around and the sun begins to break the skyline, I know it’s about time to sleep.
“After all, it’s not likely someone will break into the house this early in the morning right? ”
Plus, it just feels right going to sleep when the sun is out, I feel safer for some odd reason. Sometimes just watching that sunrise through my bedroom window gives me a little sense of hope.
As the sky awakens and hits its peak, I fall into a deep sleep and forget the world around me exists, forget that I’m alone in this empty house with nothing to do, and no one to call.
Once a foster child, always a foster child.
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
2. In foster care, you spend A Lot of time alone.
Well Hello, there old friend, Your back. Why? I thought I rid myself of you long ago. I thought when we partied ways things were going to be different, I had hope for a future that I wasn’t sure existed but I fought hard to create.
I had this picture in my head of what life was supposed to be like and I dreamed of something so beautiful I needed to see it for myself. I wanted it to exist so badly that with enough motivation and hard work, I made it to that little place without you dragging me down.
Damn your such an asshole.
And now, As I sit here typing in the midst of this future I created for myself I realize how quickly this future is falling apart. Something always brings me back to you and I can’t seem to escape it. We knew each other well at one point, You were always by my side and though I despised you, there was some solace in knowing that at least you wouldn’t leave because there was nothing beyond the emptiness you brought with you.
Your presence sucks.
Yet here you are again filling my soul with your wickedness. Loneliness, you’re a malicious son of a bitch. Why have you returned?
I’ve been flooded with memories and things I haven’t thought about in years. Its like gates to hell have been kicked open and thus pours in the demons of my past haunting, taunting and torturing me every day now! I don’t recall ever hurting this much.These memories haunt me, these people, this past.
People call me strong, They tell me how amazing I am for being so brave through all of this.
- She still goes to work
- She still takes care of her daughter
- Shes is still pushing forward
Some days I don’t feel like I’m moving much at all, some days I’m stagnant and falling backward slowly drowning in these memories. Sometimes my old pal “loneliness” decides to keep me company
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
4. They never teach you what love is
When everything first happened I used to go to this cafe for months on end trying to figure myself out through words and typing. Every other day or so I would find myself there to work out emotions and steal the free wifi. I suppose it was never really considered stealing tho, huh?
That quaint little cafe kept a hold on me for longer than I could remember. I’m not exactly sure why I kept going back day after day, week after week.. Perhaps it was the sugary caffeine.
I used to sit in the same corner and waste away hours reading, writing and listening to the kind of soulful music that heals your heart because for a while there, when my marriage dissolved, I found myself losing my thirst for life and music was a way to melt into another world. When it first began, it was pretty unexpected. It was one of those things that just happens out of the blue. At first, you have no idea whats going on until it sneaks up on you, then your suddenly in awe because you could have seen that coming from a mile away if you had paid attention. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so shocked when my life fell to shit If I knew how to love properly and paid attention to the signs of this sinking ship in the first place. I suppose all of those abandonment issues really took a toll our marriage, I suppose I never really knew how to love anyone.
Even though its been over a year now and things in my life have been better than I could have imagined, I still recall those first few months like it were yesterday. Sometimes, I still dream about those lonely days back when I wandered into that cafe sobbing behind thick shaded sunglasses. Behind the tears and beyond the loneliness I found solace in knowing that I was surrounded by a sea full of faces and a continuously revolving door that never ceased to bring in a flood of chatter. I guess you could say it was sort of relaxing bathing in the existence of busy people as they go randomly about their day without noticing me, and hell! it sure beats sitting at home with nothing to do and no family to turn to.
Sometimes, that cafe still haunts me. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and hear lingering chatter from that noisy cafe I used to sit in. I used to find comfort there, Now its just another haunting nightmare I can’t escape.
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur
7. They don’t prepare you for adulthood.
With the last of my money, I slid the silver coins across the counter and toward the dark-haired barista. Embarrassed I said, ” Sorry, its all change! I think its $2.55 though”
I was always terrible at counting, I don’t I think ever made it to Algebra. In fact, I was pretty terrible at everything in school, but mostly because I never stayed long enough to retain anything. I guess growing up with shitty parents and bouncing around in foster care will do that to ya! I keep telling myself that even now, 10 years after I emancipated that I’ll be okay. But truthfully, as much as I try. I don’t think I ever will, It’s like this piece of the system is ingrained in my bones. There is still this empty void that lingers behind every smile that seeps from between my lips. It’s almost like a stench really, this foul cloud of emptiness, shame, regret and sorrow that fill the air around me.
“One everything bagel with cream cheese please,” I told her,
I waited for her to finish counting the nickels…
“Eighty-Five, Ninety-Five… Two. Two-Fifty Five, Alright! Thanks”
With a sigh of relief, I made my way back toward the table where I left my daughter on my laptop. She giggled as her tiny fingers pressed the keys rapidly on the keyboard.
“Careful with my laptop kid,” I told her.
Her eyebrows gathered together in the middle of her forehead as she glared at me slightly annoyed, “I know mommy, I’m not a baby. I’m S-I-X” she announced with a fierceness.
“I know, I know” I mumbled as I pulled out my phone and began fumbling through emails and messages from work.
I was tired, overwhelmed and completely unsure of what to do for the next two hours while we waited at the cafe for school to start. A little old woman sat in the corner staring at me with a smile on her face, an adoring smile almost as if she wanted to say: “Aw how cute. look at that mommy-daughter duo sharing a bagel and cup of Joe at 6′ O clock in the morning”
Like no, Stop Staring. This is not cute. This tiny whining child sitting next to me is not cute right now! and my overly tired morning eyes and scraggly brown hair is nothing to smile at. Just no.
I wanted to yell it at her, I wanted to tell her to stop staring but instead, I took my half of the bagel and crammed it down my throat begrudgingly, wishing for the day to end even though it just barely began.
I let her play on the computer until about 8 am when it was time to leave for school, and oh goodness did the time go by ever so slowly as she complained every 10.5 seconds. I was cranky, Tired and didn’t get the chance to let my patience meter build up just yet.
“Mommy I’m hungry” she would announce as loudly as possible. I wanted to be sweet and tell her softly, I know baby, but we don’t have money for more food right now, you have to wait until we get to school for breakfast.
I wanted to tell her, but she just kept whining and complaining. She started getting fussy and smacking the keys on my computer, talking loud enough for the whole cafe to hear and each time I would tell her, “Shh let’s use our inside voice” she just kept getting louder and louder…
“BUT WHY MOMMY, I’M just H-U-N-G-R-Y”
“YEA! Me too!”
Guess I’m not a morning person. Fudge sickle.
© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur