By JC Flamini
Hmmm, where to Start? I just want you to know that the real meaning behind this is NOT about ME! It is to encourage YOU! I have been where you are, if you currently are in the foster care system, or where you have been if you have aged out of the system. You do not have to be a victim of your circumstances. I thought and believed that for a long time and it didn’t get me anywhere. I used to feel sorry for myself, and wondered why me? Why can’t I have a “normal” family? Then one day something powerful hit me and I started to think differently. I came across this quote that I love (author unknown).
“ Life is like photography, we develop from our negatives”
I started to apply that thought process to my life and wow, how it helped! Instead of feeling sorry for myself I started to be thankful even in the bad stuff!
I was born to an alcoholic and drug addicted mother and so my life was very unstable! I was in and out of foster care from the age of 5 until I aged out at 18. I saw things that most people would have only seen on television. One night, my biological mom was so drunk that she took an empty wine bottle and smashed it over my Aunts head! She would leave me alone and in charge of my younger siblings from the age of 5 while she went out to get her fixes. I was teased relentlessly from other kids for the clothes that I wore, but the truth is I was lucky to have any clothes at all since my mom spent all of our money on her fixes. Instead of buying us the things we needed, she would take us to the store and tell us to stuff clothes down our shirts saying that this way she would not get in trouble for shoplifting. We would go through the same routine with food, having to steal it because she sold her food stamps for drug money. Most kids do not have to wonder about how to get clothes to wear, food in their stomach, or if their parent is coming home, which was all in a typical day for me. To this day, drugs are still my biological mom’s first priority. I remember one time when she was getting ready to go out to the bar and my baby brother was crying. She was angry and took the iron and ironed his whole arm up. He ended up with 3rd degree burns. Episodes like that were not unusual, she was crazy while on drugs and angry while off them. I had to be a protector for my younger siblings, even though I was only in Elementary school myself. Our life with her was very much like walking on eggshells all the time.
In some ways I, being an adult now am thankful that I did see that stuff. I really believe that seeing those things prevented me from following the same destructive path! Those things scared me! Maybe had I not seen the destructive behavior I would have followed the same destructive path that many of my family had been on. I can proudly say that I am in my 40’s now and I have never touched an illegal drug in my life, nor am I an alcoholic. I have come a long way from the days of being in the projects and labeled as a troubled kid. I just want to encourage you that you also can “remove” the labels that you have been given and change all your negative circumstance and have them become positive ones. I am thankful that I can encourage others to know that we can be productive members of society. I have never been in trouble with the law. I have my own business. I have kids that are doing well and have not been in the system! Kids, that are loving and caring, and compassionate people. Kids that have been on the honor roll, have been inducted into the national honor society, and kids that have skipped a grade. Not typical of what society would have thought since I was a “foster” kid. I volunteer time at the schools and at church and have done many things to help with the military, (not just because I am a military spouse) I am thankful that I can give back to the community.
I believe that there are several things that led me to where I am today, first of all I had had a few amazing people in my life that were kind to me and looked past the “label”. I know that many didn’t understand the full extent of my situation because I kept what I could to myself. Of course, what I was unable to hide, they saw as when we had to change out in gym many saw the bruises up and down my back. The why of it all, was not spoken of back then. Now I can share the reason, which was because I wouldn’t smoke pot with my adoptive Dad’s new wife! Most parents would be grateful and praise their kids choosing not to engage in that behavior. I knew the destruction that life style had lead too. I was removed from the situation and my foster care journey began again, this time it was different, I had my high school Guidance counselor in my corner! She reached out to me and wanted me! She had asked my social worker if she could have custody of me! He said no, but that didn’t stop her, she then went to court and asked for custody of me .The Judge granted custody to her. There I finally found love, care and concern! She helped me realize that it wasn’t my fault! I did well while I was staying there, but she was not a certified foster home so my time with her there was short. Over the next four years I went around to numerous foster homes until I reached my 18th birthday, where I then was out on my own in this BIG World, I hadn’t even graduated high school yet, I was even told that I may not get to graduate, I was Like heck! I had not come that far not to get my diploma. My biological Mom had only had an 8th Grade education. I saw how she was on welfare and we lived in the projects and I was not going to follow any of that destructive cycle.
I look back at where I came from and the odds and statistics I have overcome and a lot of that is all because of the decisions and choices I did make. As a child we were innocent victims, but as adults we control our destiny. We can either choose to allow the past to rob us or embrace the obstacles that we have overcome and make those negative things positive. I know that many may judge and I want to tell you to stay far away from those people. Find people that are caring people who accept you for who you are! I was fortunate to have people in Elementary and Jr. High like that who saw beyond my circumstances and were true friends.
Recently on Facebook, I found some of them and it amazed me to hear, “You are the way I remember you! So filled with love”. Many said that they didn’t know what a hard life I had. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me! I didn’t want to be judged for things that I had no control over! If I can overcome all the adversity that I did you certainly can! Good Luck to you and God Bless!
Feel free to contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are wonderful sites like this FosterCareInAmerica.com that offers some great resources and others for you to reach out! Don’t let statistics scare you! You can beat them! I truly believe that you can come from one of the best families and become a “mess” or you can come like me from one of the most messed up families and be a success. It is really up to you what you do with your life, if you make better choices you can lead a fulfilled life. It is all up to you and what path you get on!
There were many people that helped me and have shown me unconditional love and acceptance; Grandpa John and Grandma Toni who love me and my children, without hesitation and I am forever grateful that I am blessed to be part of their family.
To my many friends, you are more like my family. I love you with all my heart and am thankful that I have you in my life as well. To my Children, you have been a huge blessing in my life and I am thankful for each and every one of you!