Hi, my name is Kayla McNeely. I have been in the foster care system for about 8 years, and I can honestly say that it’s been quite the journey. I have been in 11 different foster homes and 1 residential treatment center. I was put in the foster system for many reasons, it was the hardest thing but also the best thing I ever went through. Leaving my biological family to live in a stranger’s home, wondering how mad your biological family is at you, how awkward it is in the stranger’s home, how their kids are looking at you like you’re a weirdo.
The longest placement I have been in is the home I live at now almost 2 years. One of the reasons I have moved around so much is from when I was younger, I felt so guilty leaving my family, even though I knew they weren’t good for me. I still loved them and wanted to be with them because they were my family. So as a kid I never let a family love me or let myself accept the love because I felt as if I didn’t deserve it because I thought I abandoned my family for strangers. You, as a foster parent, might not understand what I mean about this but I guarantee the first time a child says to you that “You’re not my mom,” or “I wanna go home,” or “my parents never made me do that,” you’re probably going to think to yourself “I took you out of a bad situation, gave you a safe place to live food, heat, a good example of how things are supposed to be,” but the sad thing is, we don’t see it like that.
Sometimes, we see you as the enemy. We might feel like you took us from our family, that you think you’re better than our parents, that we don’t belong there with your good food, nice house, etc. Of course, these things aren’t true but we think they are. Another reason I never stayed in one placement for too long is because If I felt close to the family or felt a pinch of happiness I expected to be kicked to the curb. So, what I would do is test my foster parents, and of course, most of them failed. I can tell you from experience and from other foster kids we push and push and push until you finally give up. We are always waiting for the day you tell us we’re moving.
My best advice is: don’t give up on a kid too easily. Countless times late at night with my foster sibling I would sit up and talk about when our foster parents were going to give up on us and what would happen to us next. Also, if we confide in you, and trust me, that’s a big deal. It means we trust you, which is hard to do when you are in foster care. The one thing that helped out was that my foster mom not only tried to talk to me and help me understand what was happening, she also talked to my mother and would tell her things that a mother would like to know about her daughter. It helped to see that my foster mom didn’t look down at my mom, that she wanted to help her get me back. And that was important to me because it made me feel like there was hope. Now after 8 years and 12 placements I am a strong, independent adult who takes care of her son and goes to school.
I have found my family and I have accepted their love and let them in mine and my son’s life. And trust me, I have tested them and they have passed. I have also found my bio families, which a lot of kids will want to do as soon as they get old enough. It’s nothing against you, we’re just curious. So as you welcome kids in your home with all different stories, ages, fears, and issues, have faith in them, don’t judge them by their file, don’t think of us as a paycheck, or a house keeper, think of us as your child that you would do anything to protect and help through anything, no matter how hard it gets there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Because honestly if we were your real kids you couldn’t give them back to DHS and say,” It’s not working out.” Ground us, talk to us, get mad and disappointed in us but don’t send us off. Do what you would do if we didn’t have a return policy.
I wanted to share because Derek Clark helped me open up to others about my life and it felt great!