I Found My Passions
What I’ve learned from transitions: Reflections from foster care alumni

by Daphne Charlot •

Daphne Charlot

Living in an abusive home caused me to have stunted self-esteem and difficulty expressing myself. On and off I would take medication and see therapists, but nevertheless my trauma would prevail. This is because the root cause was my biological parent. Living in their household was constantly reopening my psychological wounds.

I was convinced I needed to tough it out until I was 18, when I could finally leave. That notion was decimated when I realized college financial aid was going to be an issue. My parent threatened to not sign my FAFSA application as a way to blackmail me.

It was time to make a difficult decision. It was time to call Child Protective Services. This time I would not lie to them about my situation. I was a senior in high school and about to graduate, but I needed to get out of my current living situation.

After I reported my situation, I was living in more fear. At first I stayed at my grandparents’ on an air mattress, wondering where I was going to end up. I heard horror stories about foster care not working out for kids my age. I knew I was in a very desperate situation. Then a family in my hometown offered their home to me.

Living with a supportive family allowed me newfound confidence. The constant stress of my rocky relationship with my abusive parent had fogged up my ability to realize my strengths and how I could grow. Being with a supportive family also allowed me to realize my privileges today and my gratitude for an improving life. That the family ate dinner together every night dumbfounded me.

At times, I was almost guilty. I almost felt I had abandoned my roots, but with time I found this was not true. My roots, my biological parent, and my past life do not prohibit me from appreciating the new family I live with. I could be grateful for the resources they provided without abandoning who I was.

There was also a sense of forgiveness for my past situation. I had come to understand clearly that forgiveness was going to take years, but I knew my parent had a mental illness they had to deal with and a story of hurt they had to heal from. They were also a survivor of trauma.

These resources and the comfort I began to feel allowed me to get in touch with the passions that were beginning to prosper in my head. I realized I loved to think about how the government and the economy worked. I had a passion for solving problems. I loved learning. I realized that my feelings of not being good enough academically was a falsity. The epiphany I experienced allowed me to fill out my FAFSA application and realize the purpose of an education.

Education is the key to having some influence of changing the world we live in today and the way it treats child welfare issues. Kids who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, kids who are marginalized for their race or for their gender identity, kids who are in gangs, kids who are being abused… these kids are a part of a cycle that must end.

Not every foster kid gets the justice I got, or has the realizations I have felt. Many end up not truly finding a home and find themselves in abusive households again. But my transition was worth it, because through it I learned how to express myself without fear. The decision I made by leaving my abusive parent was valid. I was able to find my passions that were within me.

Through my experiences of poverty and abuse I am sympathetic to these causes, and want to use my passions to evoke a new chapter—a chapter where we pay great attention to child welfare and the education system so we can find better avenues for the youth of today.