A long journey to a great destination
In this guest post, Joshua Christian describes his path from foster care to family.
My journey through the child welfare system lasted 18 years. During that time, I moved from home, to home, to home.
Because I didn’t know the rules going into a home, and I never knew how long I was going to be there, I would try to be a perfect child for as long as I could. It was like wearing a mask that covered up who I was and what I wanted and needed. It felt like I was living every day in survival mode.
And, truth be told, I wasn’t always the perfect child! I did make some poor decisions. Some of the moving probably was my fault. But the majority of it wasn’t.
My thirteenth placement was a detention center, where I was surrounded by juvenile delinquents. Not because I had done something wrong. Because they had nowhere else to put me.
But I wasn’t like the other kids in the facility, and I didn’t want to do the things that they had done. I was really scared. And I was really frustrated with God. I couldn’t understand why he had this plan for me and why I kept moving.
Little did I know that a few placements later, I would meet the man who was going to change my life forever: my case manager, Matt.
Matt talked to me. He listened to me. He asked me about the bad stuff he saw in my file. But he also looked for the good stuff. I could tell that he wanted to get the full story about me. And that he respected me as a person. Which of course, was scary! He wanted to see behind my mask. He wanted me to let him in.
It took time, but Matt gradually started to become a mentor to me. And eventually, a father-like mentor.
A week before my eighteenth birthday, Matt called me. It was about 10:30 at night. He said, “Hey, what are you doing?” I said, “Hey, I’m going to bed! What are you doing?”
He told me that he and his wife, Linda, wanted me to move into their home. But only if I wanted to.
I almost said no. Because I was still wearing this mask, and I was still in survival mode. I was afraid, because Matt knew me for who I was. There was no putting on this mask in front of him.
But I said yes. I would move in with them. It was hard, but it was great! Finally, I had loving parents. A mom and dad. I never knew how awesome a mom could be! My mom is really my best friend. She listens to me all the time—even when I am ranting.
Matt and Linda have provided a loving environment for me, and I have thrived.
I’m in my third year of college. And in these past few years, I’ve been a foster care advocate. I’m on the Indiana Youth Advisory Board and am a Jim Casey Fellow. I advocate for change on the state and national level.
I’ve heard it said that we’re working for changes that should have been done yesterday. Some people might find that discouraging. But I know that sometimes it takes a long journey to arrive at a great destination.