When Victor Sims was an infant, he was placed into Florida’s foster care system, where he stayed until he was adopted at the age of 12. Now an adult, Victor has been a successful advocate for children and youth.
Victor—who is very close with his adoptive family—shared his experience in foster care and adoption with AdoptUSKids.
What was your experience in foster care like?
I entered foster care when I was a baby. I don’t know how many foster homes I was in, but I can remember 11.
I actually enjoyed going from home to home for a period of time because I got to know what I wanted to choose in a family based on those homes. For example, I experienced so many different traditions and holidays. One minute, I was celebrating Hanukkah. The next, I was going to Christmas! So it was a cool experience when it came to exposure to many things.
“When you’re with the right family—when you connect with the right people—it’s everything.”
But while I enjoyed so many of those weird nuances that happened because I wasn’t in a traditional home, the hardest part was the actual rejection when you hear the words that you’re not going to be adopted. I remember when I was nine, about to turn ten, I thought to myself, “I’m about to hit double digits. I’m not ever getting adopted now.” I really believed that.
And then, I came to my forever family in 2005! I had just turned ten. It was Christmas Eve. They called me their early Christmas present.
How were you given a voice in the adoption process?
My parents asked me if I wanted to be adopted. I think that’s what I enjoyed the most—that they wanted to be clear that it was both of our decisions.
And my worker was very good at that, too. Even when I was younger, like seven or eight, she’d say, “The family doesn’t just choose you, you also choose them.”
I think that’s why it doesn’t feel like so much trauma. I would go back after being in a foster home and go, “You know, they weren’t really a good fit anyways. I didn’t like this thing about living there.”
And because of how my worker talked to me about the process, I started making specific requests on homes.
What were your early memories with your adoptive family?
When they said they were going to adopt me—and others had said this before—it actually sounded believable. My biological sister was already living there. And they were the first people I called mom and dad. Even prior to being adopted, I never called them Mr. and Mrs. anything. It was just always “mom” and “dad.”
And then, right before my 12th birthday, I ended up getting adopted.
What was it like being adopted into a family with your sibling?
My sister’s name is Victoria. I changed my name after being adopted but wanted to remember where I came from, so I named myself after my sister. Victor and Victoria!
Beyond the name, being adopted with Victoria helped me stay connected to my biological family. Initially, I didn’t want to connect with any of my family. We have a lot of siblings and I wasn’t trying to find any of them.
The nice part is that Victoria really wanted to connect. She and my mom went on this whole scavenger hunt to find every one of our family members. The benefit is that when I got older, I was connected with all those other people that she connected with when I wasn’t ready to. And next year, we’re having a family reunion with our bio mom’s side of the family.
In what other ways did your adoptive family help you stay connected with your bio family?
My sister and I have a whole other set of sibling groups, and my mom was good at continuing sibling connections. She’d say things like, “I’ll take you over there to see them” and “Do you want them to come on vacations with us?”
She was always about those connections. That made it clear to us as kids that it was never a competition for her. She didn’t make us feel like we needed to forget our bio family. She’d say, “Hey, that’s part of who you are.”
I love her so much for all of that.
What else makes your mom a great parent?
Before trauma-informed care was a thing people had a name for or talked about, she was living it. She just understood everything. Punishments weren’t real punishments. She was very conscious about everything.
What I’ve learned from her is that when you’re with the right family—when you connect with the right people—it’s everything. I see my mom as the world.
Looking back now, what do you think about your experience in foster care?
In all, I don’t regret the experience personally. I always look back at it and think, “Yes, it was long, but it was probably one of the most powerful and right experiences for me.”
I was adopted into the perfect family for me. Looking back, this made all that worth it, because I found my family.
From your experience, is there anything that you want foster and adoptive parents to know?
Trauma is helped by true connections. If people are willing to put in the fight and go through the bad days, the reward on the other side is so much better.
If you want to help a young person, continue to connect.
Now you’re a child welfare advocate. What drives you and what brings you hope?
What brings me hope is that, as time continues to go on, people in the field are intentional in making sure trauma is reduced year after year inside the foster care system.
I believe people who come into it really do have a good heart that just gets worn down. When I’ve gotten to work alongside other child welfare professionals, I’ve said things like, “Hey, I understand you’re having a bad day but you remind me of this caseworker I had that I loved.”
I also teach the practice I wish was available to every child. For example, I truly heard the voices of every one of the children who were under my care and influence. I was going to do whatever was necessary to make sure they were completely heard, seen, viewed, and valued.
And is your adoptive family still close?
We are the closest people you’ll meet. I talk to my mom for probably an hour a day. My parents adopted seven kids and I’m always impressed that my mom can be everywhere at once.
But yes, all of us are really close. We have a family group chat. When Covid-19 first started, we got on the phone all the time. We even did a lip sync battle…which was a hard experience because of the lag time!
There’s never a quiet moment.