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Guest Opinion

Look beyond the “foster child” label


Foster child, a label that represents me — a child raised by someone who is not their biological or adoptive parents or a needy child, such as one living in an impoverished country, supported or aided by a contribution to a specific charity — defined in the dictionary.

You would assume, by definition that it would be correct. However, you are greatly mistaken.

As a foster child, there is much more to these two words than a definition could explain.

There is a lack of knowledge presented to society of who is a foster child.

You may have heard, “foster children are disobedient, rude, or bullies” or “foster children are poorly behaved and problematic.”

Society believes that we are helpless, juvenile children who come from broken homes and unable to keep up with the normal families surrounding us.

With a study about children’s mental health by Lohaus, et al. it was found that “the results underline the increased risk of foster children…increased internalizing as well as externalizing problems compared to children living in their biological families as well as of increased parental stress in foster parents compared to biological parents.”

There are different factors that are hidden from those who have lived with their biological parents throughout their lives.

They do not think of environment suddenly changing. There’s no warning telling you when you will be given up by your biological parents. There’s no how-to guide for new foster children. There’s no help or support when you are brought into the system due to how broken and overpopulated it is.

While my mother was being taken away in the back of a police car and my father passed away when I was 8 years old, I was sitting at home — alone.

Sitting in my mother’s apartment, waiting for her to come back, not knowing that was going to be the last time I saw her until I saw her take her last breath in March of this year.

All in the in-between of my father passing to my mother being taken away from me are moments I will see in the back of my eyelids.

Society does not see the behind-the-scenes of who a foster child is.

The statistics of who we are — 90% of children in foster care will experience severe trauma, only 50% will reunite with their biological families, and 25% will attempt suicide — are only for those still in the system.

For over 20,000 young adults who age out, 81% of young men will become incarcerated, 71% of young women will be pregnant before their 21st birthday, and half of their children are destined to be placed in foster care system themselves, 40% will be homeless within 18 months of being in the foster care system, and 97% of these young adults will immediately enter into chronic poverty.

Have you thought about these statistics before? Does this show how broken and demeaning the foster care system is?

Many of my friends did not know what foster care was. I was told by professors, friends, and others in my life that I don’t look like I would be in foster care because I’m too successful and healthy.

“For those seeking a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 1.8% of foster children would continue to post-secondary education compared to 24% of the general population,” stated For Others.

Because I am part of the 1.8% of foster children who made it to college and pursued a degree, I’m not a foster child in their eyes.

Because I’m not skin and bone wearing the same clothes every day, I’m not a foster child in their eyes.

Because I’m going to therapy for the trauma I experienced throughout my childhood, that still affects me, I’m not a foster child in their eyes.

Because I look like your typical student, playing on a collegiate team, studying a difficult subject, and pursuing a career that is competitive.

That’s what makes me not a foster child?

These statistics and thoughts pondering in the minds of the individuals who said I wouldn’t get to where I am because of a stereotypical label placed on my forehead.

Though the label changed throughout my life, the main one that was held on my Super Glue was “foster child.”

Haylee Harper is from Moncks Corner, S.C. Currently she lives in Glenside and attends Arcadia University.