From ages 13 to 18, I hated everything about the child welfare system: my social workers, my foster placements, court dates–you name it, I hated it.
I was so frustrated with the idea that the choices my parents made forced me to be “different.” I felt very embarrassed and ashamed of my “ward of the state” label, and would try my best to hide from it in all social situations.
Those feelings followed me all the way to my freshman year of college. I was so excited to be in a new setting where no one had to know about my foster youth identity, and I could finally be “normal.” The only thing that still tied me to that identity was my involvement with the Guardian Scholars Program (GSP).
I’m sure you can imagine that for someone who was striving to finally “fit in,” living with three other former foster youth girls, and being associated with a program to support former foster youth on campus wasn’t something I told any of my new friends about. With that said, I also was not in any position to avoid the love and support I was receiving from my GSP family.
The more I started to get involved with the program, the more I began to recognize that my GSP family, and all current and former foster youth, were the only people who truly understood the struggle and isolation that one can feel from the child welfare system. I also began to realize my foster youth identity didn’t need to shame me but could empower me.
Read Heather Matheson's full article here.