How Kinship Care Made Me Stronger

by Emily •

I was 12 years old when the department of social services first entered my family’s life. My siblings and I were placed in my grandmother’s home. The term was called “kinship care.”

As a result of the things I went through with my mom, I was very angry. Looking back, I can say that I was a little hard to deal with, but I felt that no one in my family really tried to help me cope with what I had to undergo.

No One Tried to Help
When I moved in with my grandmother and aunt, they already had a preconceived idea of me. They treated me differently than they treated my siblings.

I absolutely hated it there. I felt like a burden. I would cry, I would act out. I felt so lonely and even angrier. No one took the time to try to help me.

Instead, they would show me that they did not want me there. One thing that sticks in my mind to this day is when I had to have surgery on my shoulder. No one gave me a bed to sleep on. I had to sleep on a pallet on the ground while my grandmother, sister, and aunt all slept comfortably on beds. I felt my grandmother only took us in because she wanted people to think she was this loving woman.

It Made Me Stronger
Being placed in kinship care made me so much stronger, though. I decided that I was going to go to college and make something of myself. I told myself I was going to be successful and that my family would regret treating me the way they did.

Kinship care did not last very long for me. I asked to be placed in foster care. Asking to be placed in foster care was very crazy for me, because I had watched so many movies and heard about so many horrible things that happened in foster care. But anything was better than what I was dealing with at my grandmother’s house.

Foster Care Was Different
In the end, I am so glad I asked to be placed in a foster home. It was the BEST thing that has ever happened to me. I felt a sense of stability with my foster mom. She made sure I had a nice room to myself, with a warm bed. Her family treated me way better than my own family.

When my circumstances changed, I realized how happy I was. My anger went away.

As a result, I was able to let my guard down and just be a happy kid. I noticed that I was actually smiling and laughing, something that I rarely did before being placed in her home. I had always thought I was just an angry, aggressive, bad kid and that how I felt and acted had nothing to do with the circumstances I was in. But when my circumstances changed, I realized how happy I was. My anger went away.

My Advice for Adults
My advice to kinship care providers is to not take children in if you’re not going to make sure they are fine mentally and emotionally. Treat them like you would want someone to treat you. Think about the fact that they are being taken out of their element, away from their parents, and put into your home where they already feel uncomfortable to some extent.

My advice to social workers is to be sure you are not trying to force or plead with family members to take in youth, because it could be just as damaging to them as the environment they were taken out of. If a family member is hesitant to take in the youth, do not force it.

Lastly, my advice to foster parents. When a youth comes into your home, please welcome them with an open mind. Have some empathy for them. They are already going to feel uncomfortable being placed in an unfamiliar environment, so make them as comfortable as possible.

Emily is a foster care alumna and a member of SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out).