Adaptability. Depth. Creativity. Authentic. Unbreakable.
These are just some of the positive traits (“Super Powers”) of foster youth. Foster youth have experienced unique challenges at a young age, challenges that most adults will never experience. As children in the foster care system, foster youth have had little control over their lives. They have been removed from their families for neglect and/or abuse whether they wanted to or not. They have been placed with strangers in an unfamiliar family whether they wanted to or not. They have experienced severe grief and loss that only a true family can understand. And they often act out behaviorally due to having no control over their circumstances, their desire to be home again and their world appearing to be unjust and cruel.
At this young age, foster youth are limited in their understanding of what has happened to them and their families. They lack decades of life experience that would normally help them make sense of their circumstances that are occurring by no fault of our own. As valued adults in the lives of foster youth, we must understand that “negative” behaviors of foster youth are more than just a kid who is trying to exploit us and the system. Foster youth are hungry to be someone’s most important person, their hungry for us to recognize their talents and interests while promoting their uniqueness throughout our community. These are parental efforts that build a child’s self-worth and confidence to overcome, achieve and thrive.
We don’t typically see a foster youth asking for pity but most often see them as needing things to get better so they can show the world who they are and what they are made of. They have unique insights into their personal strength and they grow into adults who become professional’s, first responders, counselors and leaders within our communities. Foster youth are the type of adults we all want as leaders in our communities and when we make time for a foster youth we are giving chance to greatness that lies within the depths of trauma. Here at Peacock Acres we initiate a relationship with our youth knowing the relationship must begin with re-building trust. When trust develops are fully committed to the relationship no matter how difficult it may become. The relationship can then grow through jointly overcoming challenges and celebrating successes until our youth recognize their value, talents and interests. They become secure and confident in their unique abilities and soon start practicing skills within our homes and community.
All youth need to see their community as their village or tribe. They need to know others outside of their homes and practice who they are. There can’t be any shame of who they are and where they came from so they build upon who they are as individuals, from within the community while seeking their potential.
Too often our assumptions of foster youth blur the lens of their potential. It’s reasonable to we start out assuming a youth is in foster care due to something bad that they did or there’s something wrong with them. But let’s evolve our understanding of foster youth to know that foster youths’ challenges have worked against them; first through a major disruption of care followed by a separation from family. Let’s pause and listen to foster youth and hear their life stories while shifting our view of foster youth to one of understanding, forgiveness and engaging.