"Foster Kid" in Chicago Public Schools reminds teachers and schools to be supportive

As part of a journalism project, my Chicago Public Schools student Gabriel wrote about his experience as a student in foster care.  This is his editorial.

Most people when they hear “foster kid” assume they have problems, and that something's wrong with them.  But that is not the case at all. They could be the nicest and most humble people, and no one will know because they do not take the time to know them. I want people to understand that being a foster kid was not in our control and there was nothing we could do about it. It could be parents affecting our lives or just unfortunate events taking place.

My personal experience with having to deal with homelessness and being in the system as a foster child really affected my academics. During my junior year, I was extremely stressed.  Not only did I have to do tons of homework assigned from my teachers, but I also I had to find an actual home to do it in.  Overall, it affected me mentally and emotionally, but I would rather not talk to anyone and tell my business.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute or NSFW, “In the U.S. 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. The number of these foster kids who are eligible for adoption, on average, every year: 101,666.  Thirty-two percent of the children who are eligible for adoption in foster care must wait at least 3 years before they will be adopted.”

Luckily, I was fortunate enough to receive a foster family within the first two weeks of going into the system. The system makes a lot of foster children feel like they aren't good enough or deserving of a family. On top of that is the fact that foster children have to cope with the idea that they won't be adopted right away, and it could take days, months, or even years, and this is while they're eligible for adoption.

The National Foster Youth Institute also states that, “Despite the promises of the foster care system, as of 2012, more than 58,000 children in the U.S. foster care system were placed in institutions or group homes.”

If you don't know, a group home is a home where a small number of unrelated people in need of care, support, or supervision can live together. Not only do they have to wait at least three years to even be recognized; they might not even be recognized or adopted at all. A reasonable change to the system such as more funding for group homes could potentially help foster children.

More funding could lead to better living situations which in some form can help foster children cope with their situation better. Another reasonable change could be being there for these children as in taking time to know them and their struggles. Many of these children have powerful stories and explain how they endure with their everyday lifestyles. That way, they could let out some of the feelings they have bottled away.

A way teachers can help students in foster care is by helping them if they're struggling in class. For an example, these students might need more assistance with their academics. Also I would recommend being a little more lenient to these students because teachers have to understand that not all foster children have access to the internet, which can halt their work because they won't be able to do it outside of school.

At school, a program for students in temporary living situations helped with anything really, such as hygiene products, transportation, school supplies, and school fees.

As a student in foster care, I believe telling others about your situation really helps. I do not say the whole spill, but I give them the summary of it. I actually received a lot of help from strangers more than my own family. Using the resources and information given to me will help me be a wise and kind individual. People who took time out of their lives to help me actually made me who I am today, and without them, I believe I would not have been able to make it to my senior year of high school.

Gabriel is a student in the Chicago Public Schools.

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