Serinity is a former foster youth who first entered the dependency court system over a decade ago. This is a full account of her experience—written in her own words, captured with real photos and fully encapsulated in a poem she wrote while in foster care.
I lived with my grandparents from birth—I never knew my dad, and my mom was pretty much out of the picture. When my grandpa passed away, my whole life changed. My grandma and I moved in with my aunt, but their broken relationship prevented us from staying longer than a couple of months. When my aunt kicked us out, we jumped between staying with neighbors and at motels until eventually I was left at a family friend’s house and my grandma became homeless. This arrangement was also short-lived, however, and before I knew it, a policeman was knocking on the door to take me away. In January 2012, I entered foster care at the age of nine.
I didn’t stay long. It only took two weeks for the foster dad to send me back to the shelter. He ultimately wanted a child to adopt—I was not up for adoption.
This foster home was much more familial. There were other foster kids that would come and go that I enjoyed bonding with. The foster mom was extremely helpful in providing me with things I needed to succeed in school and get out of my comfort zone. I stayed with her for three years, but as I became a teenager, I found it harder to communicate with her. I felt that we weren’t getting along the way we used to, so I made the hard decision to move on.
I hated it there. I was treated unfairly, had little privacy, and what little I did have was invaded. The foster mom favored her biological daughter over me, and we almost never got along. I wanted to leave as soon as I arrived, but I gave myself some time to try to work things out. After about a year of seeing that things weren’t getting better, I finally left.
These foster parents chose me. They were counselors I met at a summer camp, and we kept in touch because they wanted to care for me. They were kind and I enjoyed spending time with them for a while, but I soon discovered that some friendships are ruined when you start living together. We argued, mainly over conflicting opinions about major life choices, such as which high school I would attend and what I would major in college. It felt too controlling, so I moved again.
I was placed back in my second foster home because it was where I had stayed the longest and was the most comfortable. I hoped that after some time apart, things would mend and I could be happy there again. They did, for a time, and I stayed there for two more years before the same issues started to arise.
At 16, I had the option to move into a Transitional Housing Placement Program (THPP). It offered me more independence, which seemed to be what I was searching for, but I was afraid to leave the familial environment I had always known. I had to get used to caring for myself and reaching out when I needed help, and it felt both strange and freeing. I loved being in charge of what I did and where I went, but I was lucky enough to still receive help with things like transportation and food. This is where I stayed until I aged out at 18. From there, I spent some time at a home for adults called the Transitional Housing Program (THP) before moving out of the area for college.
Since then, I’ve learned so much about what I need to thrive on my own. Most importantly, I discovered the significance of asking for help when I need it and not being afraid to do so.
I met Patti (my CASA) just a couple months after I was placed in the system. I was shy at first but quickly warmed up to her. I had therapists come and go, social workers get transferred, foster parents continuously changing, but Patti never left. Because of this, I felt the most comfortable talking to her about my problems and what I needed—and she always found a way to help out. She advocated for me when I couldn’t speak up on my own and advised me whenever I needed a second opinion. We met weekly, and she took me to do fun things, always checking in with how I was doing mentally, in my foster home and at school.
Each time I wanted to move to a different foster home, Patti worked with me to see the pros and cons of doing so. Having been with me for so long, she was able to help me explain to new therapists and social workers what I needed and why. When I did move, she always helped me adjust, getting to know the foster parents and home situation so she could better understand any issues I might have. When she felt moving wasn’t in my best interest, Patti gave suggestions as to what could help, and each time I did move, she advocated for family therapy to ease tensions in the home. No matter where I went, Patti stood up for me and often voiced what I couldn’t.
My favorite thing about Patti has to be that she tells me what I need to hear rather than what I want to hear. It shows she cares about my well-being and values my needs. She helps me see reality and make the choice that’s most fitting.
With Patti’s friendship and advice throughout my time in foster care, I was able to graduate high school with amazing grades and attend my dream college. I am now in my senior year at the University of Redlands, and Patti and I are still in touch, even though I’m no longer in the foster care system. After all this time—over a decade later—she still asks about how I’m doing, what I need, and advises me on life problems. I am extremely grateful to Patti for being one of the biggest parts of my life, and I honestly don’t think I could have gotten through foster care without her.
Simply put, it’s tough being a foster kid. We lose the meaning of “home” and instead go back to “some house” after school. Whether placed in a foster home with enjoyable parents or stuck in an uncomfortable one, there will always be struggles we have to face that we often can’t do alone. Having a CASA is so important because they help navigate us toward success. It is also incredibly impactful having someone we trust to celebrate with us when we jump over a hurdle. CASAs help us find “home” again and discover that it isn’t just a place to feel safe in, but also the people that make us feel safe and loved as well. Experiencing foster care doesn’t have to be survival of the fittest if there’s a light to guide us homeward.
by Serinity Curtis
You are ready to leave
your home behind and start again
in a place filled with people you don’t know,
people who might understand you.
You are ready to leave
the boy who plays tug-of-war with your bra,
the girls who refuse to let you sleep
while they manifest romance into a plastic corpse,
the one who shoves apples and broccoli
down your throat.
You live in an imaginary home
with imaginary people and imaginary love.
You belong with real people –
Outcasts who guzzle until dawn,
rejects who leap far above the clouds
way into the atmosphere.
But you don’t do that.
Your imaginary mother never lets you step far from her sight.
Instead, she grasps your hand and helps you walk
through the shadowy avenues of rebels
to the gate of your classroom.
You are ready, though,
to join the delinquents who fail their tests,
the rotten sides always poked at,
the doormats who ink each other.
But you don’t do that.
Your imaginary siblings won’t be
licked by the Devil’s tongue.
You look past every mistake,
wipe their tears when their knees are scraped,
peel off the bags dangling beneath your eyes
after a night of braiding their hair and painting their nails,
letting them demolish you in Smash Bros,
or trying not to burn the house down
when you microwave hotdogs . . .
No, you are ready.
You will leave the imaginaries to be the real.
The ones who make you laugh
until soda bubbles sting your nose,
the ones who flood your room
with balloons on your birthday –
– When is it again?
for the ones with too many
holes in their faces,
the ones who protest a night without a man
tangled in their sheets, clothes littered across the floor.
You are ready to leave . . .
You are . . .