Young man I was put in foster care when I was around nine years old. Young woman I went into foster care when I was thirteen years old. My father was physically abusive. Young woman My mom was struggling with drugs. And it wasn’t a good place. Young man My dad, he was in jail most of the time, because of his addiction. Young man My parents were not responsible. There was neglect going on. A lot of neglect. I was at school and, ah, they, ah A police officer and the guidance counselor at the time,.
I don’t know remember her name, sat down and told me what was going on, and that I would be put in foster care. My sister and I, we were sat down in the police station while they were looking for a placement. And it was scary. After, like, being ripped out of my mom’s house, and I was just an emotional wreck, I would always act out. And my foster parents just had enough of it. So she just contacted DCF and had me moved. Unfortunately, sometimes children do have to move abruptly.
And often times it’s not by their choice or by ours, it could be a circumstance involved in the foster home, that children need to move. I was in eleven different homes, but I was also in three of those homes twice. I went through about ten different foster homes, within five years. I’ve probably been to about sixteen different placements. It gets really fuzzy because it becomes, like, a lot of places. I would move, for example, probably from Burlington to Bristol to Colchester to Bethel. And those are, like, distances.
School Stories of Youth in Custody No Decision About Me, Without Me
I went to Fair Haven Union High School, I went to Rutland High School, I went to Rutland Intermediate School. Winooski… H. O. Wheeler… um… To Poultney, to, I believe Castleton Elementary, as well. Um… goodness. Chuckling Otter Valley, Fair Haven, Castleton, Rutland, Stowe, Lamoille. I’m going to estimate, maybe ten schools. That’s all I can remember, off the top of my head. Children and youth have to move out of their homeschool district, at times because we do not have the resources available,.
We don’t have the foster homes available, in the school district in which they are attending. Overnightpoof!you disappear. I didn’t even get a chance to say bye to any of my friends, or tell them where I was going. It’s… like you’re a ghost. You’re there one minute, and then you come back to the school the next day and, Hey, where’s my friend that was in foster care Where’d they go And you ask around and, due to confidentiality, no one ever tells you what happens to them.
It was hard, because a lot of my friends were at Rutland, at the time. And then I made a lot of friends in Poultney then got moved to Fair Haven. And the same thing happened got a lot of friends in Fair Haven and then got moved back to Rutland. After Fair Havenwhich was the third school in two years I stopped making friends. Making friends and all that was pretty hard, after a while. I kinda gave up on it. You don’t have your friends to run to and be like,.
Man, this happened over the weekend, and I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it. Shutting myself off probably saves me a lot of hurt from just, like, making friendships that aren’t going to last. I didn’t get to walk at graduation, but that’s because I didn’t develop any friends at Lamoille also, why walk at a school you don’t know anybody in After a while, my behavior actually became affected by my movements and my not being stable. I had a short fuse. I was stressing out I had such a major change in my life.
That I wasn’t there to focus there on academics. I was a miserable kid, in middle school, I was the meanest, and through high school, too, some of it, just because of stuff. The first time I got in trouble, I really I just told a teacher to go F themselves. I was throwing chairs, I was getting physically abusiveabusive. I actually ended up getting left back, in ninth grade, twice. I was suspended from school within seven days. I was depressed, I… just didn’t really care about school, anymore.
You know, I think a lot of these kids are just very good at trying to get people to give up on them so that they’ll just leave them alone. And so, I think, to recognize that, and to respond to that, for what it is, is important. Yes, they do have survival behaviors that can be really challenging and hard. And they have experienced, often, trauma, really horrific kinds of traumas. And that affects who they are and how they act upon the world. Having experienced trauma, kids are, you know, less available to learn, um…
That it’s all about meeting basic needs, trying to feel safe, and feeling a sense of belonging. And then you expect me to sit at a table and do math or do handwriting or not poke my neighbor Or not scream and be mad, or slam doors or lockers Like, think about it. As adults, how would we respond, if we were in this position You’re not worried about learning, anymore. You’re worried about, how long am I going to be here Is it worth me trying here, when I know, well, there’s just another place right down the road.
That I’m going to be sent to It increases the dropout rate, because, in order to want to stay in one place, you need to develop roots. There’s plenty of reasons that you can’t learn when you get sent to another school you haven’t slept for a while because you’re homesick like, that’s happened to me when you haven’t seen your mother, or you’ve been promised to see your mother and you weren’tthat promise was ripped away from you. I had ADHD, I hadn’tI hadI couldn’t focus on anything. And the constant movement was, well, we’re going to move you.
And a lot of times I was moved without my medicines. There was no learning with that moving. Every time a student changes schools, they lose four to six months of educational progress, because, from school to school, the curriculum is not exactly the same, the approach to instruction is not exactly the same. You know, the adjustment period to a new environment, you know, certainly takes away from a student’s ability to focus. I missed half of what I needed to learn in English, and I never took anything above Algebra I, in math.
What I was learning at Otter Valley, they were repeating in Fair Haven, and, by the time I got to Otter Valler, Rutland, they were doing the same thing they were doing two years ago at Otter Valley. Not every school uses the same curriculum. So, even though you go from a sixth grade to a sixth grade, depending on how the structure of the curriculum is set up, you may either be repeating what you’ve already done, or you may be missing there may be gaps, where you’re missing pieces.
It’s easy for kids to get discouraged and to just give up, and often that’s when you start to see some of those behaviors that, you know… come out just to save face. You know, I don’t want to be seen as somebody who can’t. You can’t learn if you don’t feel safe. You can’t learn if you don’t if you’re the loner, if you’re the eightball, the black sheep. There is no learning. And so you add missing big chunks of the academics and then unfamiliar structure,.
Unfamiliar curriculum, unfamiliar teachers missing relationships, missing their family and their homes the addition of visitation and all that goes with that and they’re not educationally available. Once a child is taken out of their home, if you can maintain some stability, um, and often that stability, you know, gets created in the kid’s school I think that’s critical to a student being able to continue to progress and be successful, um, in their education. We really believe that it’s in the child’s best interest to stay in their same school,.
Because the school staff know this child really well, and the child may have behaviors that they display in the school, but the people who know this child are the bestequipped folks to deal with this child and the behaviors that might be displayed. School really provides that consistent structure… and predictability. They know that, when you come through the doors of the school, the expectations are going to be the same. So, the benefit of staying in Otter Valley, for my first year in foster care, was the fact that I grew into Otter Valley in my home,.
So they know my family and I wasn’t labeled as that foster kid. And so, for children who come into care, they need to remain in their schools, so that they feel that they so that they have a connection, so that something keeps them grounded. We’ve got to mitigate the fear, we’ve got to, you know, help them feel that that stability, that safety you know, just meet those basic needs in school, if that student is going to be available to learn. The challenges that kids face when they live in a different town.
From where they go to school, is, how are they going to get there That we need to identify who is going to transport them and how that transportation is going to get paid for. If you can somehow get someone to transport a kid from their current district to let’s say, with me, from Poultney to the Fair Haven Union, or Fair Haven to Poultney that little extra time would… make that kid extremely happy. I could’ve still went to Otter Valley, with a fairly short commute.
Um… it wouldit would have been a little more inconvenient for the social worker, the mentor, but it would have been more beneficial for my education. It is a challenge, certainly, for foster parents and teachers and schools, to figure out, how can this work How can this work for our students How can this work logistically Which is really hard. So there are times when the school supports the transportation needs, by having a teacher arrive to school early, maybe some school staff will stay later, to accommodate.
For the foster parent’s or relatives’ scheduling needs. Every morning somebody from sometimes it would be different people but somebody from DCF would pick us up in the morning, drive us to school, and then our foster mother would drive us back, or foster father, at the time. I think if schools can be somewhat flexible and if DCF can help to rally whatever supports are available, and be creative about that, about transportation, if foster parents can help each other out, to make those kinds of things happen, that those are really.
It’s important, and I think it really benefits the children. If, for whatever reason, they want to stay in their school and that’s not a possibility, then they need to be allowed to have time to transition, to say goodbye to their friends, to do the pieces that they need to do to kind of give them time to grieve the loss of their school and their home and those pieces, so that they can move on. Those students at that former school need to say goodbye, and the child needs to say Goodbye or See you later,.
Or make plans to stay in contact with different members of the school staff or their friends. Then you have some legwork to do to start to help them make connections, to do those all those pieces to talk to teachers, to put all those pieces together, so that you have a planned transition. So having foster kids as a welcome committee with that are already in the school, to welcoming new foster kids, it gives them an instant friendship, because they automatically have something in common, and it gives them the comfort of having friends in the school.
As folks become more aware, and teachers, administrators, and communities become more aware, of what it looks like and feels like for kids, then I think we can create our systems in a way that’s going to work. These students are very reluctant to trust anybody, reluctant to make any sort of investment in fact, there are experts trying to get you to give up on them. and so to have the consistency of you know, a few adults very invested in your success, And so, to have the consistency of, um,.
I think is critical. Any time a teacher just reaches out to show that you’re still human, and you’re not just this person that nobody wanted, it definitely helps the student. They will identify for you, either in really outright verbal ways or subtle ways, who they really feel connected to. and I think it is really important to rally those people. Mr. Ruby, my teacher at Fair Haven, didn’t assume that I was a problem child. He took the time out to treat me like a human, and ask me what’s going on and how he can better help me.
Through seventh and eighth grade, I had Mr. Nerney. He was just a science teacher, but he was, like the man. He kept me on track, all the time. I did have mentors that helped. I had this one guy, his name was Chuck Bradfield, he taught me how to fill out a job application. He taught me a firm handshake was important. You know, he taught me all these kinda basic things that I’ve kept with me, that’s gotten mehelped me. It just helped for a teacher to care about me,.
And basically show me, hey, you can do good, you don’t have to be like your family, you can become something. We know that relationships are what provides children with the ability to be resilient. And so, they really need that. They can then start to trust and develop a relationship that may be the difference between them completing school or becoming a dropout. Listen. To schools, I would say, Listen. That’s the biggest thing. They need to have a voice. They need to be able to say, you know, Yes, my old schoolmy current school is working for me.
No, it would be really good to have a fresh start kind of what the options are. So, now we realize that it’s very important to include the youth in these conversations. We need to know what they want and, even if we can achieve what they want, we need to be able to have that conversation with them, to support them through whatever transition is needing to occur next in their life. Having, like, a supportteam meeting every month, where the foster parent, the social worker, the schools are all involved.
Guidance counselors, teachers, if need be to talk about grades just to show this one individual that, for one day a month, we’re focused on you and what we can do for you to succeed. What do you need What can I advocate for you How can I help you, and what would you like to do What are your goals Just consult the kids, talk to the kids, because, if they feel more included, they care more about what happens to them. Being able to have a voice in your life.