My story is not like some children who enter foster care. I was protected from the very beginning. On May 12, 2015, my life was changed forever. My siblings and I were greeted by policemen and a caseworker as we got off the school bus. This is a day I will never forget as I believe many children who come into foster care remember the day their entire lives changed. That first day everything happens so fast as you are asked a million questions and the only thing you want is to go home.
For me this was not an option. I was meant for a different family. A family that for the next eight years would support me in ways that I did not know was possible. My story started at the age of 12 and ended with a forever family at the age of 15. On May 13, 2015, I went to live with my forever family. I entered the system with three other siblings, two months into foster care, my older sister left our placement. In January of 2016 the other two siblings I came with left as well, only they went back to what we knew as “home”. As a heartbroken 13-year-old, I could not believe that the family I had grown up with did not want to raise me as much as my siblings.
Looking back now, I could not be more grateful for what happened right in front of my eyes as well as behind the scenes. Years later I found out that not only did my social worker fight for a better life for me, so did the people I call my parents. My social worker advocated on my behalf. She told not only my parents but the courts that the best place for me was with my new family. At 13 years old I thought I knew everything I needed to know about life, as I had been the adult in my life for as long as I could remember. This move in my life showed me I knew nothing but how to survive in an environment that did not notice me but I learned a new way. It’s possible to heal from intense trauma.
My adoptive parents have taught me many things but the lesson I am most thankful for is the lesson that I matter. Eight years of unforgettable memories and most of all achievements that were made possible by not only this unforgettable change but the people who made everything possible. The family I gained, two parents, an older sister, and an older brother, have been my greatest achievement. On March 4, 2020, I changed my last name to match the family who took the time to show a closed-off little girl what unconditional love really means. I could not be more proud of my story and where it has brought me. As of now, I am a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga majoring in Social Work. Many people ask me why I chose this major after everything I went through. I have always had the same answer: my social worker made a huge impact on my life and I am not sure where I would be if she, as well as my mom, did not fight for a better life for me. This is my reason for joining the field of Social Work is so that I may have the opportunity to fight for the children who have to be adults in their own lives. I want to be the adult that advocates to keep them safe and protected like mine did for me.There are many ways in which my parents made me know I belonged, they treated me as their own, never made me feel as if I was a burden, but most importantly every time I tried to push them away they pulled me in closer. Feeling like I finally belonged was the best feeling, this is the goal of Tennessee Kids Belong. I believe I can make an impact while being an intern with Tennessee Kids Belong by letting others know my story, as well as letting the youth know they are not alone and they do belong. Since May 12, 2015, I have been told that I was different, in a good way. I was meant for something more. I believe social work is my something more.