Foster Stories: Turning 18

The thrill of turning 18! Feeling the accomplishment of reaching a milestone is unforgettable. Each of us enters adulthood in different ways, we begin to take on new and unexpected expectations and responsibilities at different times and with varying levels of support.

For many foster children aging out of the system at 18, the transition often comes with the struggle of foraging ahead in life with little emotional, financial, social support or guidance.

KIFS staff member, Nicolette, spoke with one of our former foster children is one of our older foster children who we will call Susan, preparing to enter an independent living program. We asked her to share some of her insights, experiences, and future plans. She is in the process of applying to cosmetology school and hopes to eventually own a salon.

Her interest in hair, skin, makeup, and nails started at a young age. Like so many of us, as children standing in front of our mother’s dresser, tinkering at what seemed like a precious treasure trove of marvels, she was drawn to the spectrum of pinks and reds, the glittery rainbow eyeshadow palettes tucked into mirrored cases filled with tidy little squares and circles.

Her creativity found other avenues of expression in the visual and movement arts which she was able to pursue at different points in her life.

Susan: Every year for Christmas as a child I asked for makeup. It was a way that I could express myself through art. The other art forms that helped me through the most were dance and band. From 6th to 10th grade I played the clarinet. Listening to the music and improving made me feel good about myself.

I started dancing at three years old and danced until 6th grade. I won dance competitions and could express my deeper darker emotions with contemporary ballet - my happiness with jazz and hip hop. I could express how I felt through dance and I used dance to get through. It was a true coping mechanism.

Dancing with a group is different than dancing solo. When I’m dancing with other people - we lift each other up, you don’t really get that if you are doing it on your own, you are more critical on yourself, you are harder on yourself you want to be perfect.”

She was 16 when she was taken into foster care. She moved from the city to the country which was a huge change and shock. By the time she was in 11th grade she had attended three different high schools, Cooper, Connor then homebound then Grant County. Like any teenager, she was afraid of not fitting in. Eventually she felt comfortable and settled in. Last summer she met her current boyfriend and they recently celebrated their one year anniversary. “He has helped me through alot and is my number one best friend.”

Susan has been working with KIFS case manager, Fay Bevins for over 6 months. During our discussion, she talked about how impactful working with Fay has been:

Fay showed up 6 months ago and she has helped me through so much. I wasn’t sure if I was going to recommit (when a former foster child extends their commitment, they receive guidance on choosing an independent living program and tuition assistance and health care). I was afraid to live on my own. She helped me finish my packet, and she and Jessica have helped me apply for cosmetology school. If there is ever something I can’t do, they help me.

The feeling is mutual - “Yes, she helps keep me balanced”

Fay encouraged Susan to apply for Fostering Success, a program run by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).

Fostering Success has been such a cool experience! Especially seeing what happens behind the scenes. At (Department of Community Based Services) DCBS I learned how to file information. They are so nice and explained everything. Recently, I went to a residential intake to take a child into foster care, it was kind of sad but he was such a good kid and it seemed like it was the best thing for him.

I thought their main goal was to keep the biological parents away, but what they are trying to do is make everything better and hope the child isn’t put in that bad situation again. They are trying their hardest to help them. I didn’t know what was happening when I was put in foster care.

I only knew you get taken from your family and everything you are used to. You don’t figure out what happened until you want to. It’s not something that’s easy to accept that maybe getting pulled away from your family is the best. No one wants to think that.

It is really awesome to see how things are dealt with at DCBS. I thought I had gotten taken away from my mom, when really my mom was the one saying I can’t deal with her anymore. I blamed the wrong people.

My foster parents have helped me so much. I overcame alot with their help. They feel like my biological parents. I don’t see myself ever losing contact with them.

Nicolette Meade