My name is Shannon, I live in Washington, DC, and I was born in June 1993. When I was 12 years old, I entered foster care because my mom said she was unable to take care of me; she felt like I was out of control. At the age of seven I was sexually assaulted numerous of times by many people, and one of them was my uncle.
My mother felt like I was out of control because I kept running away. I was running away because I felt like her beatings were out of control. She used to make me take cold showers and beat me afterwards. Sometimes I even felt like she beat me for no reason. I felt like I didn’t deserve what I was getting, so I felt like I had to leave the situation.
When I entered the foster care system I moved in with an older lady who was a Christian. She didn’t accept me because of my sexuality, so I felt lonely, scared, and felt like I was unable to trust people. Since I moved into the child welfare system I have been in at least 10 foster homes. In June of 2014, I aged out. When I aged out I felt like I was losing all the help I once had and that I wouldn’t ever have any more.
Through all these years I gained trust, loyalty, and respect, but most importantly I’ve learned to trust people. Even still, it’s hard for me to trust new people. Right now I live in a transitional living program and I’m very scared to trust them because I don’t know if helping me is really in their best interest. There’s things I don’t like about it, like the fact that it has bed bugs makes me feel uncomfortable or that right now I have been waiting almost three weeks for laundry detergent to wash my clothes. I feel like I have to get to know who they really are and know they’re not out to hurt me.
My advice to all foster care youth is to not doubt everyone; some people are really out to help you. I got help from my therapist – she helped me control my feelings and how to verbally express myself. I also got help from my lawyer who stuck by my side no matter what I needed or how bad I stressed her out. My judge played the biggest part in my life by making me feel comfortable and that even if I couldn’t trust anyone else I could trust her because she had my best interest in heart. She saw what I’ve been through and only wants a better life for me.
I think CFSA [DC’s child welfare agency] should have more counseling available for youth. When I was in foster care, I had a therapist who was with me from age 12 to 21 and I think she has done a good job with me through the years. While I didn’t receive my psychiatrist until two months before I aged out I think so far he’s doing a good job with me. Overall, I think the system should really evaluate and plan who they place kids with, and make sure they get the therapy they need.
We thank Shannon for sharing her story and DCAYA and The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project for featuring her on a panel discussion after The Homestretch documentary screening at WHUT. If you would like to contact Shannon please reach out to Garet Fryar at firstname.lastname@example.org.