By Aaliyah Lannerd
Photo via Flickr
The foster care system is supposed to provide a safe environment for young people, but my own experience was far from safe or nurturing.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My cousin and I were walking barefoot to the corner store. On the way home, as I was eating an ice cream cone it seemed everything was fine. But a few minutes after we entered the house our door flew open and men in big black suits came bursting in.
They held their guns to my cousin’s and his dad’s head and told them to get on the floor and to put their hands behind their back. They searched the house for my mom and my aunt, but they were not home.
I remember a guy picked me up and placed me on the couch. It was at that moment that I saw my cousin and his dad handcuffed and walking out of the house with their heads down and officers behind them.
Everyone in my family was separated. At first I thought my mom gave me away. I was six years old and felt as if I was unwanted and unseen.
My foster home was not the best. It felt like they didn’t really care about me either. I had no clothes and had to wear their four-year-old daughters clothes.
I felt like I was never going to see my mom again, or have my own room or my own clothes again. I remember sleepless nights when I was so afraid to close my eyes because I would see my family being dragged away from me.
I isolated myself and became used to the dark.
About 30,000 children end up in foster care every year. Many of them already carry traumatic experiences with them and continue to suffer trauma while in the system. An investigative report by the Los Angeles Times, found that from 2008-2011, there were 22, 330 abuse cases reported in relation to children in foster homes.
Around of 1,000 of those cases involved serious allegations of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. The investigation also found that children in private homes were three times more likely to suffer abuse from their foster parents.
Children in the foster care system are also twice as likely to act out in school or show more aggressive behavior compared to students who have not been in the system.
Because of these experiences, many foster care youth suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research shows that 21 percent of young people who went through foster care and have aged out have been diagnosed with the disorder. I am one of them.
With all of this evidence shouldn’t we be asking ourselves just how safe our foster care system is for the young people in it? In order to help foster youth who carry emotional and physical scars, we need to do more to raise awareness and push for change.
Fourteen-year-old Aaliyah Lannerd joined We’Ced because of her passion for writing. She believes everyone has a powerful story and is inspired to become a great story-teller. In the future, she also hopes to get more involved in her community and one day attend UC, Berkeley.