The Systems that Force Foster Youth to be Resilient

As Foster Care Consciousness Month approaches, I’m reminded concerning the narratives we inform about individuals who skilled foster care. We frequently use this prickly phrase “resilient” in these tales.

I need to complicate and push again on the notion of what it means to be resilient. As a result of it isn’t a lot that we’re born resilient, it’s extra so that foster youth should change into resilient, born right into a circumstance that requires them to be. Celebrating the resilience of foster youth isn’t an issue, however not interrogating the techniques in place that require them to be resilient, is.

Not all foster youth are in a position to simply merely overcome their difficult circumstances, not alone at the least. We’ve got to present up for them; in spite of everything, that is the social contract we made after we eliminated kids out of their dwelling of origin.

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Kenyon Lee Whitman

I keep in mind emancipating from foster care and leaving for faculty. I had this sense of urgency that I all the time had to be doing one thing, and no matter that one thing was, I had to do it completely. This was a response to nervousness and worry. This was a response to feeling alone — like I had the load of the world on my shoulders. 

What is usually under-discussed and over-simplified are the issues that make foster youth “successful.” Part of what drove me (and to some extent nonetheless does right this moment) was a response to my trauma. Part of me was all the time hustling as a result of I used to be afraid to sit nonetheless and cope with the methods during which foster care dehumanized me and my household. Additionally, going to faculty with out household privilege, with out the protection internet of a nuclear household, meant I didn’t have a lot room to mess up. 

Rising up, adults would say on a regular basis that I used to be “so mature” for my age. Now that I’m older, and hindsight is 20/20, I say, thank the trauma. As a toddler in foster care, I skilled a number of traumas earlier than I used to be 10, so I rapidly had to assume like I used to be 20 so as to survive. The maturity adults fawned over was me rising up too rapidly.

There is a deleterious affect that being in survival mode has on the physique and thoughts. Trauma lives within the physique in a method that can have a critical affect on our lives. I say this to say, needing to be resilient, is due to a system (foster care) that has been constructed to dehumanize kids and their households. 

Many people are participating in a kind of cognitive dissonance, or perhaps a willful ignorance, that allows this habits to persist. We can not preserve ringing the resilience rally bell with no crucial examination as to why foster youth are in fixed survival mode. We will’t preserve celebrating “resilience” if we’re not actively eradicating the techniques in place that are marginalizing individuals who have skilled foster care. 

Sure, Foster Care Consciousness Month ought to be about celebrating the wonder and brilliance of younger individuals who expertise foster care and all that they’ve completed. However we must also be elevating consciousness of: 

  • The systemic racism in baby welfare
  • The surveillance of Black households by way of the household regulation system
  • The methods during which baby welfare establishments enact neo-colonization by persevering with to take away Indigenous kids from their households and land
  • The methods during which younger persons are not supplied the mandatory help upon emancipation from the system, to title just a few

Till we do that, we’re not bringing actual consciousness; we’re not telling foster youth we truly take care of them. Quite, we are attempting to be saviors and collaborating in performative allyship. Consciousness wants to embody the complete spectrum of the experiences foster youth face.

Concerning the Creator

Kenyon Lee Whitman

Kenyon Lee Whitman is the Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow on the College of California, Los Angeles.

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