My name is Tony. I spent over half of my life in foster care. I was fortunate because I only lived in two different foster homes during that time. My mother struggled with emotional problems and addiction. She was in and out of prison for much of her life. She was in prison when I was born so I went directly into foster care from the hospital and she went back to prison.
I stayed in my first foster home for nearly seven years. It was the only home that I knew. When my foster parents were in the process of adopting me, my mother decided to take me home. I did not even know her and after meeting her briefly three times, I was forced into the back seat of a car and driven away as I watched out the back window and saw my entire world get smaller and smaller until it vanished out of sight. My mother took me to a different state and cut off all contact with my foster family.
The next seven to eight years were a mixture of intermittent happy times with terrible, frightening times when my mother was using drugs and going in and out of prison. I saw and experienced things that no child should know about. We moved many times and I went to many different schools. Friends and neighbors often helped us find food and a bed for the night.
When I was nearly 14 years old, I was again abruptly taken out of my world and placed in foster care. I was taken from school to court with no knowledge or preparation for what was about to happen. I am a mixed-race person and had always identified with African-American culture. I was placed in a white home with strangers. My foster parents, Pauline and Charlie, patiently waited while I adjusted. I continued to go to the same school and knew one of my foster brothers, also named Tony, and some neighbors, so the environment was not totally strange to me as it was the first time that I was removed from my foster home when I was seven. Thankfully, I was able to keep my same friends.
I gradually settled in and came to understand why unconditional love is so important. My foster parents were always there for me. I flourished in my new environment. I was never relinquished for adoption even though I and my foster parents were prepared to proceed with an adoption. I aged out of foster care when I graduated from high school about a week after turning 18. My foster parents made it clear to me that I was part of their family for life, so I could get on with my own life without worrying about having a home.
My foster parents always encouraged me to maintain contact with my birth family. I have remained very close to my brother, James, and have contact with many members of my birth family. My second foster mother found my first foster parents when I was in high school and reunited us.