Intersectionality Week: The Foster Care System
Posted 22 January 2021JBH tells us about their experience with intersectionality
JHB tells us about their experience with intersectionality
TW: mention of scars
Often, we reflect on our lives with the ability to see how what we have been through experiences or how we have been seen socially and how it has motivated us, persuaded us and caused form our to identity.
As it is Social Mobility and Class Intersectionality Week. Some of the Union reps and staff have reflected on how the socially their identity is often disregarded ignored or forgotten about and how their class is disregarded. They have been covering how the system institutional ignores these characteristics or forgets to look at how our identity is made up of more than one thing understanding how our identity is a complex woven net made up of characteristics, like social class, sexual orientation, gender, race, class, disability and many more.
Often as someone from foster care my identity is often labelled as two core characteristics, my sexual orientation and the fact I am a foster care survivor. Most people forget to see how my identity is made up of so much more, my experiences based on gender my heritage, my access to education, medical needs. I hope here to show how my identity is more complexed than most assume to see, but to show where the foster system lacked to see my identity as more then my gender.
A little about me
My identity is often maimed to a stereotype or a bad interpretation of how a TV show (some with of the best of intent) has portrayed foster care, assumptions based on people, who live within more healthy family lifestyle, will make about around my own.
Now, often the first question I am asked when I say I am from foster care is a probably one you will want to hear is the answer to: what happened to my birth parents? Honestly a lot of people from foster have an array of reactions and I cannot speak for everyone but speaking for myself I often deflected. To point I want to say is this is not the best question to ask, you should never be so frontal with a question as you do not know what the person is willing to say.
I am going to try to explain how my identity and social class can be affected by foster care, using my own experiences of foster care alongside closest to date statistics whenever possible to support what points I am talking apart.
I also want to note my experience of foster care is completely different to others, as we are all individuals and I hope you get to understand that not base assumption of what I’ve said about other people, but to see how their difference between all of us.
I am from originally from Northumberland, a working class village. After complications within a toxic living situation, I found myself being relocated into an emergency fostering home. (These are used to protect those that the system believes to be at risk, until they are able to make the necessary arrangements for more stable foster care.)
I was relocated to living in a residential fostering house in Newcastle, a city not too far away and in a better place away from my past. Being accepted into care was a rough experience at the age of nine and I felt like I did not fit in. Within the residential home, I was one of three girls, four years younger than both the others.
I was at that residential for around a year, ending due to harassment from previous household (to a point police and courts had to be involved in my life again). I want to say this is not common, but a sadly a lot of children in foster have this issue, it is a constant shadow that lumes on my shoulder. Often clutching me when someone knocks at the door, scared to be dragged back through the need to run, the need to be moved.
After this occurred it was moved school, taking me away from the few friend’s id been able to make, I moved on being passed from multiple short-term fostering homes, with an array of foster parents none similar to me, often in house full of just me, stuck as the only girl. As I grew, I begun to ‘act’ out, struggling to adjust to not only the city I was now living in, but also making friends then losing them struggling to interact with people. I felt kind of like an outcast too at this age, as it was the time we learn about our identity, learning to point out how those around us are different (much like my orthodontist did with my teeth at the time). My foster parents often disregarded my experiences in care ignoring things that bothered me leaving me in a situation where I’d been uncomfortable falling on coping mechanisms.
Often the other kids I was with would question about scars, especially when it came to school uniforms and dresses, which I often would not even wear and sometimes instead taking clothes from foster brother’s, trousers to wear which got me in trouble often with school and foster.
My support worker, he would often shame me on parts of my body, and identity that made me hard to foster for long times. No understanding I need help with what id been through, my experiences were ignored.
Interpreting my identity
When it came to games classes I’d often skip out on or try to hide, much to avoid the questions about scars, but also feeling the need to keep my eyes down to the floor. I was coming to a sense that I wasn’t like the other girls, not just being from because of class difference being cemented as a lower class citizen by being from care.
But I was trying figure out my identity something I felt to be queer. I was never interested when my friends talked about Harry Styles or a boy band… more moved when I heard Tilda Swinton or Elliot page.
It is commonly estimated around 30.4% of kids in foster identify as LGBTQIA+ as compared to the 11.2 % of children out of foster identifying as LGBTQIA+. Yet this is an American study that was carried out on their fostering system, the office of statistics has not done this.
A common problem with education is its diregaurded till recent years with Queer education back then I didn’t have any teacher to show me a sign it was okay. But within in foster care their was no one there to help me come to understand.
Within 2014 at the time I came out to my foster parents due to inspiration from Elliot Page. They were ignorant reacting horrible remind me of toxicity I was able to escape, but I felt to scared to tell my social worker. Taking me to place where I was not accepted and taught I ha flaws because of my identity. These foster parents broke my ability to trust, by the time I arrived back I ran away.
I fell into a point much like my fellow foster siblings, ending up homeless, because a system supposed to parent us did not work.
A time were I struggled to survive falling in to living with different people never staying somewhere two log, me running away wasn’t the best solution but it’s the only way I felt I could be okay, until I was helped and relocated to someone who helped me for a short time till I chose to move on. The only person who accepted I was queer, the first one to not call me a lesbian in a horrible way.
I got to live for a year with the feeling of comfortability till I finally left foster. Living on my own.
Leaving foster care
It’s found that 1 in 4 of young adults leaving foster care at end up sleeping rough, which is a failure from our system to provide the safety net that normal families have. The structured leaving path often is underfunded staff unable to keep track of everyone that’s left, running around loosely trying to keep track of a thousand leaks and they don’t have enough buckets.
Foster leavers don’t always have the ability in a healthy system you would have blood relatives to fall back on, which we do not, and we often struggled to find support from the system with funding for education.
This is the same reason only 12% of foster care leavers go to higher education. There isn’t stability or ability to get there from the system the plans their support workers help make often don’t fell concrete and even then you have to get near lucky to stay in uni. I worked 2 jobs just to survive the time through college, then to get into university, I worked 2 more jobs to afford to live whilst not in education.
This is how hard it is for foster kids: it is the same inequalities that those from the lower class, the first-generation university student, those from the mining town, which still struggle feel the lack of support around half the year when compared to their peers who are third generation or even second generation.
Institutional ignorance is a sentence that summarises the foster care system. I think it’s best shown how their approach is flawed and even now when I see my support officer, my experiences of what happened to me have been ignored or is brushed like a bad case never accepting that I was ignored by a system treated as a lesser class compared to those not from foster stook with a label. Often so many foster leavers struggled to come to terms with what has happened - the idea of trying to give someone a normal up bringing, while by term defining you as not their child.
I’ve shared my experiences and have struggled to separate fostering from other elements of my identity trauma, being queer, feeling of abandonment. It proved to me writing this that our identity and treatment of our own identity by those around us is not viewed as intersectional seen as 2-D when it’s so much more.
No one relates homelessness and education struggles to people from foster care, but as I’ve shown our identity is much more complex than what you believe.
Then this year has been incredibly hard for those from care the government made access to additional finance more available, but it was still hard to claim, for myself with the idea of social disconnect being torn through us, we had found ourselves alone and not thought about struggling to feel accepted or included when feeling ignored. When we did not have family to fall back on a system that couldn’t help us throwing us in damaged sites that need removing.
I don’t know how else to end this but I hope next time you think of foster you see it more then how you use to.