FOSTER CARE LABELS & WORDS THAT KILL THE SPIRIT
As you can see from my psychiatric, neurological and speech and language reports from the foster care system, a lot of effort was put into describing my personality and mental capacity. One of the most disturbing words the doctors used in describing me was “retarded.” I realize that it is not politically correct and I may offend some of you for even saying this word…BUT I have a right to use it as I was diagnosed with that label in two of my reports. I believe that this word, along with loser, stupid, and dumb, are some of the most damaging words in the English language. These words are extremely harmful to kids. What we think we can become, we usually can become. I believe labeling a child can become a self fulfilling prophecy. If a child is constantly getting cut down and labeled, I believe he will lose the will to try and become something better than expected. Yes, I had slowness in development and yes, I had a lot of emotional problems. But if everyone hastily slaps a label on a child, he or she will eventually live up to that characterization. How can somebody grow if it’s already assumed their growth is stunted? This applies not only to children of all ages, but adults as well. We all need positive reinforcement. Don’t let anyone’s thoughts identify us and tell us what our limits are. Don’t let anyone design you and fill your head with doubt, you stand up proud and determined to become the architect of your mind and soul. You are the master of your own mind.
These hurtful words and labels do not uplift children in the foster care system. They are meant to demoralize them and make them feel like lesser beings. We need to let these children know that they are respected and worthy of love and a family. Even when kids bully or joke about being a “retard” or saying “I am dumb,” or, “You are stupid,” it gradually instills that negativity in their minds. The result is that oftentimes kids will have severe self esteem issues and may grow to fit that label. Their mental hard drive is being programmed, and these labels and words may never be erased. If you assimilate these limiting, destructive words, you may start believing what they imply.
And if everyone else believes in their accuracy, it can lead to various forms of self-destruction. You can see it in kids suffering from low self-esteem and lack of confidence in the foster care system. They just might be living up to a that label somebody else has applied to them. What labels have you allowed to characterize yourself or your children? This labeling could have damaging effects throughout their life. We have to change the way we look at the children in the foster care system. We have to look at them with compassion and a listening ear.
If I had known how I was labeled as a child, I know I would have turned out very differently, and would possibly be in prison or even dead. Don’t let anyone use a label to turn you into something you are not.
I dislike the word “retarded”. I believe mentally-challenged children are angels sent from Heaven to teach us the virtues of love, appreciation, sacrifice and selflessness. I have more respect for mentally-challenged people who overcome great obstacles than “normal, high-achieving” individuals. These special, mentally-challenged individuals are a gift. They are great teachers. We can all learn from them. Anyone with a disability is here to enrich our lives. Respect them, watch and listen to them. Even though some are unable to speak, we can still learn a lot from their silence. We are all connected as human beings. If your soul is open, it will allow you to see the little miracles working throughout our daily lives in mysterious ways.
Derek Clark was a child in foster care and knows first hand on coping with adversity and overcoming hardship. His 13 years in the San Francisco bay area foster care system reflected a life of humiliation, aggression, emotional distress and overwhelming anxiety. Having suffered unthinkable child abuse, abandonment, emotional distress and being wrongfully labeled, this has never held Derek back from accomplishing what he set his heart and mind to.
Derek Clark states “Foster care saved my life. It made me stronger. I tell other children and youth that are in foster care that we are not our labels and that we are worthy of love. My message is centered around hope, courage, resilience and redemption.”