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Serving Youth & Families Since 1880
Serving Youth & Families Since 1880

Spotlight On Foster Care

Interview On Foster Care

cortezCortez Lee Carey interviewed by Christopher Winston.
This series presents first person perspectives on foster care, kinship care, and adoption, from individuals who are now young adults. The following interview offers insights on one aspect of the foster care experience.

Cortez is a Clarion University student seeking a successful career in business. Growing up as a troubled youth in the foster care system, Cortez struggled to find meaning and value in life. Guided by a team of youth workers throughout his youth, Cortez was able to create a new vision and focus for himself. Cortez seized the opportunity to intern at Three Rivers Youth last summer to be a part of the change in the lives of other foster youth.

CW. What was the hardest part about growing up away from your parents? 
CC. Being separated from my siblings was the hardest part of growing up away from my parents. My biological mother has six children; I didn’t meet three of them until I was around 12 years old.

CW. In what ways do you think people take being raised in by their own parents for granted?
CC. I have friends who argue with their parents on a daily basis, who threaten to move out as soon as possible just because their parents get on their nerves. I feel as though a lot people who live at home take their biological parents and the support that they give for granted: the financial support, the emotional support, housing. They’ll always have their relationships with their parents to build on and look back on. Meanwhile, being in the foster care system, I never know what is going to happen to me.

CW. Did you have to move around a lot?
CC. I had to move around so much that I became used to change, and then it wasn’t so hard. It was my life. I would be told that I would be moved into a different placement, or foster home, or group home, or whatever the case may be, and I would start acting out as soon as I knew the change was coming. Why, because I knew I wouldn’t have to face repercussions at the place where I was staying; so why not do whatever I feel?

CW. How did growing up as a foster child affect your relationship with your biological family?
CC. My biological family is a little crazy—but whose family isn’t, right? My mother is dispised for letting us be taken away from her even though many members of my extended family have been in the foster care system at some point in their lives. I want to build the relationships with my extended family, like my cousins, because they are just that—family. I think that family should be close, but I didn’t have that luxury growing up.

CW. What did you think about the children that weren’t in the foster care system?
CC. Coming up, I was somewhat jealous of kids who lived with their parents. For example, I envied the relationship one of my friends had with his mother. They were best friends, but his mother also knew where to draw the line and be a mother. She took care of him and he could talk to her about anything. They were really close and I never had that.

CW. Do you feel closer to people who are involved in the foster care system?
CC. I do. We all have something in common. Now that I work with youth within the foster care system it brings me joy to bring them joy. It is a pleasure to understand someone else and for them to understand you.

CW. How has being a foster care youth affected your plans and dreams?
CC. As a younger foster child, I had a tremendous imagination and aspirations. But, by middle school and high school everything went downhill. I had no dreams, no future goals or plans. I got involved with independent living programs and my relationship with Christ grew stronger. I saw that I could aspire to become someone, and so far, everything has turndown around.

CW. What are the qualities of good parents?
CC. Honestly I don’t really know. Other than two foster homes I lived in, I haven’t really experienced much good parenting. I’m happy with the way my life has turned out regardless of what I’ve gone through. My older brother, who is ten years older than me, is like a father to me. We’ll have to see what happens once I become a parent.

CW. Are there people who have impacted your life in a positive way?
CC. Number one would be my biological brothers, plus a number of independent living workers, case workers, and God, of course.

CW. What resources were provided in your foster care experience?
CC. I was able to meet my biological family when I was 12. And I later on, I was able to experience a great independent living program, which I strongly recommend for youth that are aging out of foster care. There is so much support that is needed and so much given that I really didn’t anticipate. I hope that I can pay it forward, because it helped me so much.

CW. What is the most important thing a foster child needs?
CC. Support. Like, I did well in school until the 7th or 8th grade. Then my grades began to drop because I was moving around a lot from house to house, group home to group home, and school district to school district. Although that was all I knew I got tired of it, frustrated. My independent living worker talked to me about finishing high school and helped me realize that I could make an impact in life. I had a little brother who looked up to me and a felt I needed to try being a good example to him.

CW. What are your doing to help youth in the foster care system today?
CC. I am actually implementing a mentorship program – nothing too fancy, just spending time with youth living in group homes and spending time talking with them. Some of them are going through things I’ve been through, and some have experienced things I haven’t even imaged were possible. I get help from them by helping them to aspire to get a postsecondary education while I am in the process of earning my own college degree. I try to show them, like others have shown me: you don’t have to settle for things the way they are.