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September/ October 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue 7

My Thoughts On Foster Care From the Inside

By Katherine Applegate

When I was five years old I was placed in foster care. I was in five different homes. The homes for the most part were OK. I have a lot of fond memories. I do, however, have some that I would like to forget. I was adopted in my fifth home by a great couple. My adopted father ( I will call Dad, not to confuse anybody with my biological father) is 15 years older than my adopted mother (Mom). My Mom is only 11 years older than me. We have a really good relationship. I moved to my adopted home when I was 14. So...if you got the math right that means my Mom was only 25 and my Dad was 40. I guess you could say my Mom was kind of like a sister. We had a lot of fun together playing games and other activities. After a court battle with my biological father I was finally adopted when I was 16.

I think my experiences in foster care have made me a better person. I realize that there are a lot of people who go through some pretty rough stuff in life. I'm not saying my life was a bowl of cherries . . . but it really wasn't that bad. Sure it would have been nice to have a stable family with a nice home a white picket fence and a cat sitting in the window. But really . . . we know that only happens in the movies. When people ask me about my childhood and I tell them. . . . they say WOW I can't believe you have been through all that and you are such a nice person. What exactly does that mean? Am I supposed to be an ax murderer or something? I get really confused by that statement. My experiences have also helped me to be more understanding of situations in my job. I was a supervisor in a group home for handicapped children for six years. Some of the children in my case load were in foster care or adopted. I remember a night around the dinner table at the group home when one of the kids was having problems with her attitude all day. I asked her what the problem was and she began yelling at me and saying I wouldn't understand because nobody has gone through things she has gone through. I said, "try me!" She proceeded to tell me that the reason she is here is because she is a foster child and nobody wants her because she has learning problems. Now maybe I couldn't relate to the learning problems but I could relate to being a foster child and being shuffled in and out of homes most of my life. She couldn't believe it. She couldn't believe that someone like me was a foster child. She and I had a really special relationship while I worked there. I still see her from time to time and she is doing well.

My biological father was an orphan. He lived in an orphanage most of his young life and was adopted around 10. I was told that it is sometimes hard to break that cycle of foster care. I think when I heard that I told myself I would never let anything happen to my children. Nobody would ever take them from me and I would do everything humanly possible to keep them. I, with the help of my wonderful husband, have decided to be foster parents. We currently have two boys who we are in the process of adopting. I don't think we will adopted any more, but we may take more foster children on a temporary basis. Overall I had a good childhood. I had some bumps here and there along the way but with the grace of God and help from all the foster families I lived with I wouldn't be the person I am today. I say all because I believe you are molded to what type of person you are going to be at a young age. Although when I look back on my foster care experiences and don't like all the homes I was in they obviously did something right.

~ Reprinted with permission from The Foster Parent Community web site:  

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