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I remember aging out of foster care like it was yesterday, I was terrified. I knew the next step was all me. No one was out there to lean on, no one sitting at home worried about my safety, no empty bedroom at my parents house to land in if I fell. I had gone eleven years in the foster care system without ever learning the importance of vehicle maintenance, the credit system, a resume, or how important it is to save money. Honestly, I didn't even know how to make myself presentable; makeup and fashion are not exactly priority lessons for foster kids. I left the system with as much as I came to it; a black bag with my clothes and closest possessions.
After more than thirty homes, 16 schools, and a few juvenile halls that served as respite, it was safe to say that everything in my life was impermanent. I didn't really take stability seriously; in fact, I resented it. Getting a vehicle or an apartment of my own was a far off dream, my credit had been used and detrimentally damaged by my biological mother, and before I turned eighteen my credit score was 440. I was receiving a monthly income from a program called "Independent Living." The program had all the right intentions, I'm sure, but the method was nonsensical. I had no sense of responsibility, just freedom, money and no accountability — the biological daughter of two drug addicts who abused the welfare system and robbed charities.
I had no one, so I found someone. I met a man no better off than myself mentally. We both had childhood issues resulting from abuse and neglect. He was exciting and completely obsessed with me, and abusive. I had never experienced a good relationship, or saw one displayed, I didn't know that what he showed me was not love; it was simply a perpetuation of my childhood trauma. He was a thief, a drug addict, and just a boy, but I found his instability oddly comforting. He resented that I didn't do drugs, he thought it made me a "narc." Within a few months we had been together for a lifetime. Everything went chaotically well for us until the day he stole my grandmothers 38 Rossi Special, pistol. It terrified me when he showed me boastfully. I knew she would absolutely retaliate with the law, something he seemed not to be concerned with. The day after he stole it, I hid the pistol in a duffel bag and tried to sneak it back to her by asking my dad's girlfriend to place it back in the house. I told her that he had stolen it and that I was terrified of both he and my grandmother. She agreed to help me out and be inconspicuous. Ideally, it would end up back where it belonged as if nothing had happened. But my life was rarely if ever ideal. Three days after I returned the pistol I was served with court papers for theft, in my name! I was the one they accused, I was the one they wanted, and I am the one who served the time for it. Two years of my life on probation, in and out of court, random bouts of jail, humiliation, and more uncertainty than ever before, for trying to do the right thing. No home, no credit, not much money, abusive relationship, surrounded by drug addicts, and a fancy new felony, all before I turned nineteen. Oh, and a baby on the way!
It took everything I had inside of me to leave that man and start a life for my daughter and I. The struggle was real, the pain was constant, and I was completely driven by fear; but I did it. I learned what I needed to know as an adult by trial and many errors.
Today I am the mother of three amazing children and am doing pretty well. My credit may say otherwise, but with the life I grew out of I'm very proud of how I ended up. I no longer lie about my childhood and my past; it made me who I am. It gives me strength and a leg up in tough situations. I am driven and grateful that I broke the pattern of criminality in my family. I do not speak to any of my biological family, nor do I keep in contact with previous foster homes.
My story starts with me, and my children will carry it on.

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