This series presents first person perspectives from individuals who grew up in foster care, kinship care, and adoption. Now they are young adults who are blazing pathways to success in life. The following interview offers a glimpse into one view of the foster care experience.
Shanice is a student at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania where she is pursuing a degree in Social Work. She strongly believes in providing foster children with the support and understanding they need to thrive and works hard to be shining example of success.
CW. What started your involvement with the foster care system?
SS. I became a foster child when I was 3 months old and I’ve been in foster care ever since. I‘ve always had connections to the system and benefited from resources provided by community-based organizations. Growing up outside my parents’ home was difficult for me.
Many children don’t get the chance to live with family members while in foster care. I have a younger sister and a younger brother and we were always together until we were separated when I was 13 years old. That was one of the hardest things I had to go through in life. We were so close and then relocated very far from one another, so it was extremely hard to communicate what was going on with each of us. Ever since I was able to have visitation with my biological family, we’ve had a good relationship.
CW. Did you move around often?
SS. I moved around a lot, as a result, I had constant difficulties and anxiety. For example, you walk into every new living situation virtually blind. You don’t know who you will be living with or where you will be going next. You have to get used to a new family, with different life styles from the situation you just left—every family has its own culture. Schools and friends continuously change.
CW. Were there particular people who helped you along the way?
SS. Absolutely. To this day, I am as close to one of my foster sisters as if we were biological sisters, and there were several women who supported me during my high school years.
CW. How has being a foster care youth affected your plans and dreams?
SS. Being a foster child has definitely affected my career choice. And I think I value relationships more and look for the good in people. When I was in middle school, I wasn’t planning or setting any goals, I just wanted to get away from the teasing and harassment. In high school, I started setting goals and moving toward my dreams. By the time I got to eleventh grade, I was taking college seriously. My high school graduation project was about foster care and on being a foster child. I just didn’t want to go out like a statistic. So I thought: what can I do to improve my life and better myself as a person?
CW. What is the most important thing a foster child needs?
SS. Foster children are usually moved around a lot, so we need extra love and guidance that no one foster family is able to provide over the course of an entire childhood. When I talk to other foster youth, they say that all they want is someone to love them. And with guidance from someone, or more than one person, who is consistent and caring enough to help them stay on the right path, I think foster children can turn out to be very successful.
CW. What are the qualities of good parents?
SS. The qualities I want my foster parent to have are: love, respect, being genuine, guiding me to grow as a person, providing me with a with sense of security, and making a long-term commitment, if possible, for life.
Other than my biological mother, the person I view most as a mother figure is my current foster mother. I have been with her for two years and she has three girls who she loves and adores. She brings that motherly strength that I have been looking for since I was young.
CW. What would you do today if you could help children in the foster care system?
SS. I would show support, guidance, and love. I would be the best mentor I could be.