The Day I Went into Foster Care

This topic has been something that I understand many individuals who went through as well aren’t comfortable to talk about. But as time went on, and I have been on a journey towards healing, it’s something that I now feel I’m okay to talk about. And that was the day that I went to foster care. 

The day I went into foster care with my five younger siblings really turned my world upside down. I remember coming home from a shopping trip in Dubbo with my family, to shortly after, having the Department of Community Services, formally known as DoCs & police at my house. The next thing I knew, I was being asked to pack my things together with my siblings. Holding a grey plastic bag containing my belongings, we were told that we would be going for the weekend. Even when I was only 12 back then, I realized that something was not right. That’s when we began our journey in foster care.

At the time, I remember being distrustful towards the authorities. I mean, no one likes being lied to. I felt as if they hid it from us because they underestimated our ability to comprehend and just saw us as ‘kids’ who would understand. But I did, and the feeling of sadness, grief and loss that came with being torn away from my other siblings was something I never quite forgot. We went through such a lengthy process of about 12 months until we were finally told that this would be our life moving forward. That we will be under foster care until we are 18.

I still consider myself lucky, as I had an amazing foster family that took my brother in (later my 2 younger sisters) and me. They made sure we felt like a part of the family, and in time I felt loved and that I belonged. On top of this, I had a fantastic caseworker (after I didn’t connect and feel supported from the first one). He still keeps in contact me with even to this day, and I seriously don’t know where I’d be had I not gotten a caseworker who truly cared. 

Over the years, through the support and care that I received from loved ones, I rose and built resilience within me. My childhood may have been turbulent, but I did not let that define me. This is a message that I wanted to give across to the youth, especially other Aboriginal children and families. 

I remember even at 12 years old; I learned to speak up about my decisions and the situations I was in. It helped ensure that my future alongside my siblings was not just decisions made by adults, but by us too. 

To Young People Reading This:

Please remember, even though you are young, you always have the power to use your voice and participate in making decisions of how life will be as you go along in foster care. And also, I know you are not alone, that you will get through this. As you grow older and become an adult, you will learn that your life belongs to you. You have the power to change your situation, whether it be for the better or worse. The past doesn’t define you, but your decisions in life will. 

Something that I wanted to touch on, is how the foster care system can be improved. Over the years, I saw a huge step forward as policies changed and situations for the children got better. But this is a continuous system that we all have to work on constantly.  

Here are some ways our foster care system should look into to keep improving the system: 

Be sensitve from the beginning

There were many stories of how young people are removed from their homes. And more often than not, the police are involved. This leaves a bad impression on a child’s mind that authorities forcibly take them away without proper explanation. Please don’t underestimate how a child understands things. Talk to them, you’ll be surprised at how well they will absorb things if you just let them. 

When making decisions for young people, make sure you include them

If you’re keen on starting a business but have no idea where to start, there are so many deadly business support programs and organisations that are happy to lend you a hand. They can help you set up the different requirements your business needs to help you succeed. Check out these resources of amazing program that helped me embrace my business:  

Recruit more Aboriginal caseworkers and carers

Get yourself familiar with practices on tax allocation, how GST works, and knowing the differences between a sole trader, a company and family trust. I know it is all super confusing in the start, but it’s super handy to get to know it from the start so you aren’t left being bitten on the butt later. (Trust me, it’s a spider)

For our young people who are still in foster care, please know that there will always be better days ahead. I wish to share resources that you may want to consider reaching out to for support.

Keep the connection to culture alive

I knew I was Aboriginal from as young as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was 18 that I found out where my mob came from. I wasn’t given the supports to connect to my roots in foster care. So I didn’t have the chance to connect to know where I came from. I was placed with non-Indigenous carers whom I am very lucky to have. They did their best raise me and give me love and support. However, we found it hard to research and connect, as my carers didn’t hold the knowledge. But this shouldn’t have been an expectation on them; it should have been the responsibility of caseworkers to ensure I was taken back to Country, connected to family, connected to culture and my community. Supporting young people to connect to culture is one of the most important things to help them find and embrace their self-identity and connections deeper. I know I felt lost as I felt like something was missing, even so, taken away from me.

Maintain support for young people even as they leave the foster care system

I consider myself blessed as my foster family and the Aftercare worker I was assigned to were so supportive even after I grew older and decided to move out. I was given the support I needed – emotionally, financially and mentally as I went through transition. But I know this isn’t the case for all young people; I’ve worked on the ground and been there when placements broke down, when they’ve experienced homelessness and when they were left with a lack of support. I hope the youth in foster care get to experience this kind of support as they grow older. They have already been placed in a situation where they’ve been left vulnerable, and they do not deserve to be left in the same situation where they have to fend for themselves. A young person who has been through circumstances outside their control and trauma should never feel alone or uncared for (how is that fair).

Check Out

Also, I want you to know, that I am here too! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need someone to talk to. I am more than happy to connect and yarn.

To close this, I wish to ask our caseworkers and carers alike:

How are you helping the youth to have a voice?

What actions are you doing to ensure this doesn’t anymore, if not happen less to other young people?

How are you helping our children connect to country?

Don’t hesitate to let me know!

Mandaang Guwu’ thank you’ everyone, for taking time for this weekly yarn!

Leticia Anne