My experience with child welfare is short since it just recently started. I entered the world of foster care at 16, in July of 2020. My family members took me in as their foster child. I was also assigned a social worker. I liked her personality and how she connected with one of my foster parents. Looking back now, I envy that connection because we never had that. She only came to visit me once a month. When she came, all we talked about was my case, with her throwing in jokes here and there.
I also remember being very confused when people from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) came into the house and asked me questions like “Are you happy being here?” or “Do you feel safe?” I would always say what they wanted me to in order to make the awkward series of questions end faster. It was also not my foster family’s fault that I didn’t feel comfortable or like I belonged there. I mean, I still feel like I don’t deserve to be living in this house that I could never call mine. Maybe that is why I am listening to Creep by VINCINT as I type this.
What people don’t understand is that at the end of the day, we’re all human. People get blinded by what they have been through and they forget people have feelings. We see this happening everywhere. One example is how fatphobic people can be, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. There are some people who bully plus-sized people and the person being bullied may feel traumatized. At least it’s what I have noticed. This can also happen in care.
The negative backlash DCYF gets and how foster care is overlooked by society affects the children involved in the system. If you feel lost and confused like I do, just know that you are not alone. I’m sure I am not the only youth who just entered the system who’s heard stories from those who have been in care most of their lives. You hear about experiences with group homes and different foster parents and feel alone. Like you shouldn’t be there. Like you have some type of leverage over other youth because your story doesn’t compare to their hardships. You don’t think your story is worth sharing. I am here as your fairy godmother to tell you: never be ashamed of your story, no matter how bad or positive you think it is compared to others. I am here to remind you to share your story. It is so important for people to know about your time in care, so we can make changes to the system and make it better for us and the generations to come. As the K-pop band BTS says “You Never Walk Alone”!
My name is Suelly Barros Pires and I am 18. I am a youth cohort in SPEAK, a youth advocacy board in Rhode Island. I love artsy stuff, although I may not be the best artist. I am also a K-pop stan.