What It’s Like To Be A Foster Child

I’ve been asked many times, “What is it like being in foster care?”. With so many books, movies and tv shows depicting life of foster kids there are many common misconceptions. No 2 foster kids have the same story to tell. We all went through different abuse, living situations and it all has effected us differently. Though its hard to describe what is like to be a foster child in words I will try to paint you a picture. Here’s the quick story of what it was like to be a foster child.

I can remember that day when we we’re removed  from our house. We were taken to the DFS office and that night the foster care worker told my brother’s and I we wouldn’t be going back home. The first thought in my mind was “where we would be going?”. I was 15 at the time and had heard horror stories about living in a foster home. I was more than worried, I was scared. I was mentally getting myself prepared for what I might face. I expected the worse and felt like I might have to protect myself and my brothers from something. We were told we were going to go stay with a family that lived on the outside of town. It was called emergency placement.
That first day in the home was extremely awkward. No matter how much someone opens their home to you the awkwardness is still there. We were going to a new home where we didn’t know how they lived or how they did things. You don’t know their routine, their rules or expectations. They did eventually cover some of the rules and tried to make us feel as comfortable as possible given the situation. All we had were the clothes on our back and a few things pairs of clothes my parents had dropped of the case worker.  My brothers were younger so they had a lot of questions, most of which couldn’t really be answered. They had other kids which seemed fine with us staying there and seemed to enjoy our company, but I always wondered what they thought of us taking some of their attention. I was scared, but I tried not to be “needy”. With every new situation I would feel worry. I would get into an activity we were doing, but when it was over, what was next? I think the biggest thing I felt in the beginning as a foster kid was “what’s next?”.
 I really felt uninformed about the whole process from DFS. I thought we would be placed with my extended family and just be in foster care for a short amount of time. For us that wasn’t the case. After a week in emergency placement we were told we were going to be moved to another home. I was told it was a children’s home in another town I had never heard of. The word group home didn’t bring to mind any rainbows and butterflies. While in emergency placement I had learned we were in a safe place and I didn’t want to leave the security we found. We had no choice though and we packed up the little we had. On the drive out to our new home I remember not wanting the drive to end. I had so much racing through my mind as we approached the group homes. There was a sign out front and we pulled past one home and down to another. It was a very large house and there where kids several kids there. We pulled in and after a few minutes of my caseworker introducing us she left. This was my new home. I settled into a small school with a graduating class of 30 something. Everyone knew I was a foster kid that and that was stigma I had to overcome both in school, in the community and in work. It’s funny how someone can feel sorry for you, but can think of you in a bad light because of the same reason. It’s hard to maintain school, trying to fit in, what’s going on with your parents, your life in your foster home and your emotions all at the same time. I had visits with my parents, going through the motions until they signed away their rights. It’s a mix of emotions when it finally happens. Even though I didn’t want to go back I wanted them to admit what they did. After they signed away their rights I definitely felt it was me against the world. I knew I would have to toughen up because I wouldn’t have parents to turn to.
  As a foster parent please don’t take everything personal. Sometimes things are just so confusing and it’s hard to know how to let it out. Most foster kids just want to me in a “normal” family life and are cared for. Try to make sure you keep kids in the loop. I always hated feeling like something was going on in my case and I weren’t being told. I understand not everything can be shared, but being left in the dark is scary. Do make sure and let us know what there is something to look forward to. Being in foster care doesn’t sentence you to anything. You may not have had control of how the story started but you can write the ending.
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25 Responses to What It’s Like To Be A Foster Child

  1. This is a great article. I myself am a foster parent, and I can definitely see where you are coming from. I love to hear from kids who have survived the system and can give advice on how we foster parents might be able to make more of a difference.

    • Anonymous says:

      Being a foster parent makes a huge difference and can have a huge impact on a child’s life, whether for the positive or the negative. I lived with too many people to count growing up. I think the two things I would say to any foster parent, is to try to empathize with the child through poor behaviors and realize the child is acting out as a way of processing severe trauma, and to do your best to allow the child to feel like a legit part of your family. It is important for children to know that they BELONG.

    • rae says:

      “It’s funny how someone can feel sorry for you, but can think of you in a bad light because of the same reason.” That is the most relatable thing I’ve heard. I was in foster care and was always given sympathy but at the same time I was treated as a criminal or like I was a “bad” kid.
      This is a little off topic of what I’m talking about…but i had teachers try and give me old clothing or bags from their children. I know what they were doing had good intent, but i wanted normal. No sympathy, no stigma and no special treatments. I wanted to be able to walk with everyone else.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love your words, “Being in foster care doesn’t sentence you to anything. You may not have had control of how the story started, but you can write the ending.” I too grew up as a foster child. My childhood was traumatic, a horror story that no child should have to endure. My life in foster care was full of trauma, never knowing what the next day would bring. Although my life was traumatic, I have not let it define who I am today. I became a successful business woman who put aside work to foster and adopt two little boys that I added to my family of two grown biological children. Today I am the Founder and Executive Director of Fostering SuperStars and the Director of One 4 Life, a mentoring program strictly for foster children.

    You are absolutely correct, “you can write the ending”. God bless you, you have come a long way my friend! http://www.fosteringsuperstars.org

    • I am inspired by your commitment. I was also a foster care kid for a 5yr period in my childhood. I have always wanted to give back as a foster parent. I am 52 yrs now & I think I am at the point that I can make this a reality. I still have to work to suuport myself & I am caring for my 8 yr old grandson too. My concern is how to bring in one child that is compatible with my grandson & will also allow me to continue working on a semi-fulltime basis.

  3. Imafoster says:

    Thanks for the feedback! In the beginning of this project I didn’t realize how much it would help the foster and adoptive parents so I’m glad that I can help people from that background as well. @Miranda thanks for taking the time to help those children in need. @anonymous I’m sorry you had to go through those things and no one should be subjected to it. It’s great that you didn’t let that become an excuse to set back and dwell. Thank you for all you do. I think it’s a great thing to give back and show others your can still be successful in life after abuse.

  4. Lizzie Klingler says:

    Thank you for sharing. I loved reading this. I am trying to share more about my story, but that takes courage. My biological father forbids me from writing anything, even though he has no part in my life at all. He never contributed in a positive way to my life but he forbids me from sharing my story.

    • Imafoster says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m sorry that you feel that you cannot share your story. You should be able to, not only because it will help you, but could potentially also help others. There are ways to tell your story without everyone knowing who’s story it is. You could always start an anonymous blog or contribute a anonymous guest post sharing your story.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this…as a foster parent, many of us want to understand more and better..we want to be able to give kids a safe place to land when life blows up on them. I grew up in a home of abuse, but no one picked up on it…so, I was never taken. I really love that last sentence…” Being in foster care doesn’t sentence you to anything. You may not have had control of how the story started but you can write the ending.” Words to live by. Bless you in your journey!

  6. “Thank you” sounds redundant after all the previous comments, but none the less needed. So, thank you. I recently became a “spiritual” foster mom (yay me!) when a young woman, delicate and special I befriended said that is how she seen me. Also, blatantly explaining to me that since she didn’t have a mommy and I didn’t have children that God just worked it out that way 🙂 Can I say “duh!” Lol. I’m starting to believe that even with a particularly special calling as “spiritual” foster parent, that God definitely has worked this out perfectly. She did not have it as nice as you portray your life in working through the system, but this article truly has begun to help me see her world through her eyes.

    My husband and I had already determined in our hearts that we would adopt when the time came .. but this quick?! And by way of a child adopting US?!?!?! I’m seriously tripping over myself at this point reading the words as I type. Again, thank you for helping in allowing me to see a glimpse of her world through your eyes. God bless the foster children and their foster parents! 🙂

    • Imafoster says:

      Thanks for the feedback! It always encourages to work harder when someone lets me know this has helped them in some way. Unfortunately many foster kids have way worse experiences both before and during foster care then I did. I’m hoping to start trying to work towards setting up something with my former group home to meet with some of the kids and share more stories and insight from different perspectives.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. You give a wonderful insight into not only your personal experience as a foster child, but all provide an inside view to current and prospective foster carers on the emotions, feeling and thoughts that foster children have. Your commitment to raising awareness and promoting foster care is truly inspirational. Keep it up!

  8. With your permission, I would like to link to your blog post from my blog the90tenproject.com I think it will be helpful for others to read your experience. Please let me know if you are okay with that! Thank you so much.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the info I’m writing a report on adoption and it helped me a lot I think I’m going to get an A+

  10. Anonymous says:

    thx for sharing your story. I am a foster child. I to learned to do my own laundry. I have learned a lot of new things being in care. thank you all foster parents for what you do

  11. Keyasha Wheeler says:

    I’m a 13 year old African American girl. I’ve been in care with 2 of my sisters for 5 years. I try to look at it as the best was possible.

  12. Anonymous says:

    A girl in my grade is a foster kid and she said that it is hard not knowing when you are leaving and not knowing what is going to happen when you change houses. She also says that it is hard cause you get friends and get use to the family then you have to leave. One of my best friends who I consider as a cousin also is in foster care right now because her mom had to go up to northern mn for a family emergency and someone said that her mom smokes right in her and her little brothers face. Is that really an excuse for taking a child away figuring she was going through other stuff at the moment???

  13. hi says:

    Hey! I am fifteen and i live in a group home… my first one in fact, and I am so sad and confused…. I lived with a foster parent for the first time before they placed me here, and she was an mean woman.. she just hadn’t truly grown up yet, and she was wild like a teenage girl, a much younger sense of maturity compared to myself.. and to get to the point, really… she said that i had a lot of these issues to get rid of me from her home w/o being investigated….. I had told my social worker about some things she would do, and yeahh….
    But I want some help… I am not like the girls there! I have goals and aspirations, and I want to become a graphics designer, and i have never done drugs! I just feel so alone, I don’t fit in, and Im really really scared…. I just want to go home…. I miss my mom, and my brother and sisters….. please, can someone just tell me what to do! Its so chaotic here too, there is always a girl fighting with another girl or staff for that matter, and I am SO overwhelmed by school and expectations, that I am going crazy. The yelling stresses me out, and I am trying so hard to be more mature about this situation, but I can’t!!! I’m just a kid…. my voice isn’t as great and powerful as they told me it would… being an asian american girl sucks too, because everyone finds a way to make fun of me for my race, and its just really… ugggghhhh…. someone please give me some guidance, I’m so lost and confused. I’ve been here for five months, and I’m told I’ll be leaving soon within this month or two, and I’m really excited, but the wait is killing me! All I can do is wait and cry about how I am absolutely useless in my OWN life! someone please reply.

    • FosterMom4Life says:

      I’m replying to “Hi.” Just wanted to say, I hope that you don’t get this because you’ve moved to a fabulous home and are no longer feeling so stressed out. The hardest thing to do sometimes is wait, especially when you’re not getting answers. You are assigned a court appointed attorney called a Guardian at Litem. If you feel you don’t know enough about the case, where you are going to be or who you will be living with, at any time you can ask the facilitators of the group home to call your attorney. He or she should meet with you at least once per month. You can also call your caseworker. They will be more vague about what is going on, but if you remind them of your age, they will take your wishes into account. You will also have hearings where you will go in front of the judge and the judge will make rulings based on the recommendations of your attorney, the case worker and the State’s attorney and your parents’ attorneys. Be prepared to speak up if you don’t like what’s happening. Know that you have a right in those proceedings to say what has happened to you, what you want, what you don’t want and be heard. Know that you may not always get exactly what you want when you want it, but at this age, you have a lot more control over the process. I hope and pray that things work out for you. I know this situation is not ideal, but just know that God has His hands on you. Blessings.

  14. Ronald Cheney says:

    I was taken at young kid (can’t remember) for foster care, got tossed around a bit then Americans stationed in Canada adopted me and I became an American citizen and had a new Family,,,,,so I thought.They were stationed back to the U.S. as I was with them at about 10 yrs old or so and I was already messed by age 10 and did some things in the U.S. and my new family went through the courts in america and they were no longer my family and I was placed in foster care and group homes in the U.S. for a couple yrs and then deported back to Canada and placed back into foster care and group homes until I was actually 19 yrs old. You know much things I may have done but what about the stuff that was done to me while in foster care.I think at age 12 or 13 I actually took a bottle of pills and overdosed but survived. It’s not right what has been done to me and then I am to go out in society like everything is okay. Your teen age yrs are the foundation to your adult life and my foundation was shattered long before I was even a teenager. I was kicked around like a soccer ball all those years. I’ve been single all my life (except one time when I was drunk all the time) and I will soon be 44 yrs old, had I not been drinking each day I would of been single all this time because off the stuff done to me and the rejection that kept being shoved off to other homes. I’m to this day to horrified to go in public. I spent another 15 yrs after foster care moving all over Canada because it was the only thing that I knew, just keep moving over and over.My life is crap and I have had my life taken from me. I could get into some real stuff about foster care. I’m alive but I have never had the chance to live, there is so much to tell about being around others, being in public, no trust for others, not being able to get close to people, not ever laughing but just smiling,,,,,,the list just keeps going. I have never had any birth family. I wish that I could of had a life but there was so much done to me at a early age in foster care. I would like to be able to enjoy my life and be given to me to enjoy what I have never had.Where’s my compensation for the years of hell I have endured from foster care to be able to enjoy my life.

  15. rae says:

    Im now 22. I was in foster care from age 12-18 (aged out),
    A few things that I think are important to remember if you are planning to take in foster kids.
    Foster kids already feel different/disconnected from other Kids their age. Please, please please refrain from treating your foster child differently than your biological children(if you have any). If you’re giving your bio kid special treats/nice clothes/special access to the tv, pool, food,access to certain rooms of the house. Make sure that your foster kid has the exact same treatments.(as long as they’re age appropriate of course)That’s something i noticed automatically. That goes for chores aswel. Same chores for ALL kids. Do not buy your bio kids brand name clothes. But only buy your foster kids the cheapest clothes you can find. When i asked if I could go to the mall like her real daughter. She replied “what would it look like if people saw a foster kid wearing expensive clothes?”. Made me feel unworthy of nice things. I will always remember that as I was so taken back by her reply.

    Eat as a family. A whole family. Not just a foster child family. I was in a foster home where only me and the other foster child ate meals together. I cannot speak for her, but it made me feel like I was a burden on the family and that I did not belong there/was not wanted. We never ate meals with the foster parent and/or her bio kids.

    For the love of all that is good in this world Do not lock up rooms that are only prohibited to your foster kids. I learned to pick locks at an early age because of that lol. I didn’t steal anything ever. I was just rebellious and didn’t like how i wasent allowed in the nice tv room but her real daughter was. It made me feel unworthy. She also locked up pots and pans because when i was 17 I loved to cook. her real daughter was only a year and a half older than me and she had unlimited everyday access to the stove/oven and cooking appliances. The foster kids were not allowed to cook anything that wasent in a microwave or toaster. I would pick locks when this woman was not home so I could get the pans to make breakfast for myself and the other foster girl. I never made a meal without also making a plate for the other foster kid. I would never isolate someone like they did. She deserved everything I got. When I would pick the lock to the nice tv room. I would make popcorn and watch movies with the other foster girl.

    Small things like that I noticed from the beginning. Even if you don’t think the kids notice these thing. They do. They’re most likely extremely conscious of their environment and how people treat them. They’ll take the smallest difference and believe that they are being slighted against or discriminated.

    This shouldn’t have to be said, but do not use these kids as a way to pay your mortgage,bills or for any other selfish reasons. Do not steal from them. Manipulate them Or use them as your own personal slave.

    These are all things I have experienced first hand.

    Just be a good person

  16. Jmazz says:

    Hopefully Th eres a foster parent out there reading this… My daughter is in a foster home with people who are constantly making degrading, insulting, and just plain unnessicary comments about ME, MOM. This really upsets my daughter of course, as were on our way to having her back home for good. She’s afraid to say anything to anyone in fear of being treated worse. She won’t let me say anything either. I don’t know what to do. My daughter also has told me the foster mother has lied to the social workers about me, tells my daughter to lie and go along with it. I pay child support bc I work, and I have to buy my daughter clothes bc the foster parents but buy her thrift store clothes she has told them aren’t at all her or ANY other teens style. So the foster parents claim they buy her clothes but she refuses to wear them….well then did you really but HER clothes? This has to STOP, I have 2 toddlers and cannot pay child support AND buy her clothes every weekend. Please ANY advice is welcome!!!

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