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By Gissel

My brother and I went into foster care when I was 9 years old and he was 7 years old. It was a very difficult experience to remember because we wanted to be home with our parents. Unfortunately, by the time they were done investigating my case, my mom had been deported to Mexico. My dad was in Mexico as well, and so my long term stay in foster care began.

I ended up staying in care until I was 17 years old. The time went by quickly because I was constantly moved to different foster homes. I lived in about 10 different homes, it is difficult for me to recall exactly how many. I lived in Victorville at one point, and then back up to the Reedley area and cities in between. Although I moved a lot, I didn’t mind it at the time because some of the homes were not good for us. The foster parents didn’t always care for us, and our social workers didn’t always believe us when we complained.

But getting out of a bad placement was the only way in which moving was helpful. I would become comfortable at one middle school, and then I’d get moved. We’d have to push to stay at a particular home that we did feel comfortable in, but we weren’t always lucky enough to get to stay. A lot of times my brother and I were really well behaved, but our foster parents would say something like “They are too much.” I don’t know what she meant by that. I don’t think she realized how hurtful this statement was, or how hurtful it was that she told us that she really wanted children younger than us. Essentially, we weren’t good enough. At one point, we were removed from a home because the husband wanted to include us in family activities, and his wife did not want us to be included. Even though I was young, I understood what was happening and the implications of what they were saying and what they were fighting about.

One positive aspect that came out of this experience was my relationship with my brother. I’m so thankful I had my brother to be with me while we were in care, it brought us together. We weren’t always able to stay in the same home together and that was really a struggle. But when we were in a home together we became very close.

Changing homes and schools so frequently made it really difficult for me to be successful in school and establish friendships. Finally, I got to stay for at Dinuba high school and I was finally happy to settle in at a school. High school was an escape from home and I focused my energy and attention on school. I think I always knew I wanted to go to college. I always knew I wanted to be someone and that college was the only way to get there.

I learned a lot going through foster care. I had to grow up quickly. I had to learn how to read adults, and how to be responsible. I learned how to view things from a different perspective, and how to understand others. The most important thing was I learned how to be grateful for what I do have, and to appreciate what is really valuable and meaningful in our lives. I really came to appreciate the value of family and the relationship I had with my brother. My time in care made me really appreciate my parents. In fact, It was difficult to adjust to living with them when they came back to the United States. But since I had lost so much time without them I wanted to make sure the time I spent with them was meaningful and I appreciated having them.

When I think about other foster youth it’s hard for me to say what I would tell them. There are so many factors - the support we had, our own way of dealing with things and so on. It’s difficult because when you’re in foster care, you don’t really care about advice, you just want to get through it. I think the best advice I can give to others is to understand where a child is when they are in care. Just be there to support the way they are feeling in the moment – lost, scared, and sad. I found reassurance within myself, and I tried to motivate myself by thinking that God let’s everything happen for a reason. It doesn’t always seem like that, but it’s helped me because I reminded myself that in the end there will be something positive to take away. For me, the positive reasons of being in foster care was that I learned persistence, resiliency, love for my family, and to value the time I had with them. I have a completely different outlook on life, different then what I think I would have had if I had not been in foster care. Now my entire world view and outlook on life has been shaped by the years I spent in foster care.

Another positive aspect to come from being in care was the support I am receiving now in college. It’s possible I could have made it through school without financial aid and support from the NextUp program, but it would have been extremely difficult. I’ve received so much support and that’s allowed me to focus on being the best student I could be. Now I have the opportunity to further my education and make a completely different life for my children. My biggest motivation in school and in life is my children. I will never be able to show them how much I love them because it is much more than anyone imagines and it is something that does not have measurement. All I can say is that I will forever love them and I will always be grateful they are in my life. I just want to give them a better life than I had, and I want to teach them what I learned but without them having to go through the struggles I had to overcome.

I am planning on transferring to Fresno State in Fall 2019. I have plans to get my bachelor’s degree then join the Highway Patrol, and I am currently working on getting an internship with the Reedley Police Department this summer. Eventually I would like to get a master’s degree, and ultimately, I want to get a doctorate as well, but I know that will take time and hard work. My focus will be on psychology, I want to understand why people do what they do, and why they think what they think and what their motivations are. My time in foster care definitely piqued my interest in trying to understand people.

Whatever path I choose to take I feel as long as I set my mind to it I will find a way to accomplish it.