Did you ever play that game where a piece of paper on your forehead tells the players how to treat you, but you don’t know what the paper says? Maybe it says, “Ignore me,” and you find out what it’s like to be treated that way.
What if you had a label on your forehead that could never be removed? Let’s say the label says, “Crack Baby.” Imagine what that could mean. Even when you grow older, people will expect little from you other than misbehavior. They may think you are stupid and feel sorry for you, but they may not choose to be your friend.
Now imagine the label says, “Former Foster Youth.” You will probably be surprised how difficult life can be. Someone will probably ask what you did wrong. Landlords may not be willing to sign leases with you because they think you are unreliable. And yes, lots of people will feel sorry for you.
Neither of these labels can encapsulate who a person is. Of the 660,000 young people who experience foster care in the US each year, there are 660,000 varied meanings to the experience. Not one of these youth can be fully defined by the foster care experience.
Most children living in foster care were removed from home for their own safety, through no fault of their own. They are valuable human beings not because they have a “Foster Child” label on their foreheads, but simply because they are themselves.
If you hear a conversation or a news report that treats foster youth inappropriately, get into the conversation and correct the misimpression. If we are for these children, we will work to change the national conversation about them to one of strength and appreciation for each young person’s unique worth.
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