Foster kids ‘grow up fast’ amid chaos and dysfunction

Deepika Sahota, Staff Writer

The student body at Bear Creek can be defined by one word: diverse. It encompasses students of varying ethnicities, interests, personalities and backgrounds. Although the school touts its level of tolerance and acceptance for all students, those who come from unconventional family backgrounds such as foster homes say they often feel misjudged by their peers.

Words such as “delinquent,” “aggressive” and “neglected” are often associated with youth in the foster care system. This preconceived image causes many foster children to be reluctant to come forward about their family situations.

“Sometimes, once someone learns that a student is a foster child, there are assumptions made,” Principal Hillary Harrell said. “[People may assume] that [the student] doesn’t care about school, that they’re troubled or that they’re going to be a discipline issue. In reality, the majority of our foster students aren’t like that. They may struggle, but they have had to grow up fast.”

Although the past trauma that some foster kids experienced may manifest into negative behaviors, more prevalent are the qualities of tenacity and resilience that shine through. Junior Savannah Hernandez, a part of just over one percent of Bear Creek students in the foster care system, strives to embody these strengths.

Hernandez, who has been in the foster care system since age 12, says she was placed into the system due to domestic abuse and neglect in her home. Describing her original household as unhealthy and chaotic, she has struggled to remain optimistic as she has cycled through numerous foster families.

“The first time I was taken away was very hard for me because I had never been away from my parents,” Hernandez said. “It was a new experience and I didn’t know the person I was going with.”

After being separated from her older brother, with whom she is closest, Hernandez realized that her life in the foster care system was going to be nothing short of difficult. Although she was placed back home with her biological mom in June of 2016, she had to re-enter the system in February after her biological mom allegedly violated the judge’s orders to stay away from Hernandez’s biological dad.

Hernandez says the homes she was placed in after her return to the system provided her with the worst experiences thus far, claiming she was sexually assaulted by boys in the home.

“[After the sexual assault] I had to leave and was placed in another foster home where I was treated like a slave for a year, carrying all [the foster parents’] furniture around.”

Hernandez says that these experiences have impacted her immensely but she has never been reluctant to share her story. She doesn’t deny that her life has been far from perfect, but says that moving past these unfortunate circumstances has been her main goal. Now she says she enjoys being active in school activities, as she is a member of the school band and belly dancing club.

Numerous attempts to contact Hernandez’s caseworker were unsuccessful.

Sophomore Natalie Brown entered the foster care system last April after alleged emotional and physical abuse from her stepmom and biological dad; she has been in two foster homes since. She describes her first foster home as restrictive for her and her brother, saying her foster mom did not know how to care for teenagers.

“[My foster mom] was not letting us grow up,” Brown said. “[My brother and I] were just trying to explore the world because we didn’t have the chance to in our

According to a study conducted by sociology researcher and doctoral candidate of Stanford Priya Field- ing-Singh, an overwhelming majority of parents of — 96 percent — routinely said “no” to their children’s requests for junk food. In 96 percent of high-income families, at least one parent said requests for junk food were usually declined. However, Singh reported low-income families almost always said “yes” to these requests. Thirteen percent of low-income families  reported they regularly said “no” to requests for junk food.“

Black teens were twice as likely to see ads for products such as fast food, chips and ice cream than white teens in 2017.

 “[My foster mom] was not letting us grow up,” Brown said. “[My brother and I] were just trying to explore the world because we didn’t have the chance to in our past years.”

Brown notices the preconceived images that people have of foster kids but says she works to move past these stereotypes. She says she enjoys being involved in extracurriculars, as she is the secretary of hip-hop club, an active member of student government and in belly dancing club.

“People like to describe foster kids as defiant and bad kids, but we’re not — we’ve just had a rough life,” Brown said. “You don’t know when someone is going through something.”