In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
“I Finally Found My Perfect Family”
by Kita Seger, former foster youth
The next few weeks are a whirlwind in my memory. I had so many emotions coursing through me that I almost felt numb on a day-to-day basis. My grades dropped (I had been a straight A student), and I lost my appetite. I also lost a sense of who I was and who I belonged to. I tried therapy to “fix” the issues with my adoptive mom, but we only had six sessions. The therapist tried to diagnose my adoptive mom with a mental disorder, which made her abruptly stop the sessions. We later found out that my adoptive mom suffered from schizophrenia (her mother had it as well) and she had done me a favor by placing me back in the foster care system.
The adults in my life knew that a plan needed to be made so that I would have some stability. I couldn’t stay with Denise and Dennis, because they had two teenage sons and I was sleeping on their couch. They collaborated with my church adult friends, Deana and Bob, a couple who I had been especially close to, and they became licensed foster parents for me. I readjusted to yet a new family and slowly came out of my depression. I thought all of this turmoil in my 15 years of life was because I was simply a “bad” kid, but the adults in my life reassured me that this was not my fault and everything would be okay.
None of us thought a new adoptive home was a good idea, and Deana and Bob were perfectly happy to keep me as long as I needed. I also did not want to be adopted by someone else. I was still confused and hurting from the horrible loss and I still had a little glimmer of hope that I would move back to my adoptive mom. However, I knew deep down that we would never be a family again and I resorted to pushing her out of my life completely, so that I could heal on my own terms without the constant confusion of her schizophrenic words and actions.
Meanwhile, school became my escape from my hectic home life. I thrust all my energy into my studies and concentrated on my scholastic future. Deana and Bob were very helpful in keeping my grades high and also gave me the spiritual support I needed in this difficult time. After a year, Deana was going to have a baby, so I asked my caseworker to move me so I wouldn’t be a burden. Despite my beliefs, they supported my move and said they still wanted to be in my life.
My caseworker moved me to a girls’ group home the last day of my junior year of high school. Upon my arrival, my adoptive mom voluntarily terminated her parental rights, making me a ward of the state again. This made me realize that I was technically an “orphan,” an “unwanted child,” and I felt considerable loss knowing that I would “age out” of the foster care system on my 18th birthday without a permanent family.
Living at the group home allowed me to grow to my fullest potential and I learned a lot about myself. I lived with 10 other girls and I learned how to speak up for myself for the things I needed. It was a very structured environment and our behavior was constantly monitored. I was one of the few girls that complied with the rules, did my chores, had a part-time job, and was college-bound, which made the other girls resent me for receiving more privileges for my good behavior.
During this time, I applied to colleges and reconnected with my older sisters and maternal grandmother who lived in San Francisco. I remember asking Denise and Dennis about my older siblings but Social Services didn’t know where they were. So one day when my caseworker called telling me Taña wanted to get in contact with me again, I was stunned and nervous because it had been 13 years since I had seen her. But I also knew that finding my oldest sister again was the last thing I needed to feel complete before I aged out of the system. I made a trip to San Francisco to visit schools and had a momentous reunion with her and Geneva. We have since become very close, but there will always be a big gap in our relationship that I grapple with every day. My other older half-sister Mariah and I have never had much of a relationship. She had my nephew, Andrew, when she was 15 years old and struggled with addiction most of her adult life. She has been in and out of jail and now resides in a psychiatric hospital in San Francisco; her son now lives with his father.
When I reconnected with my maternal grandmother, I had all these questions about where I came from and who our family was. She had all the answers, and for the first time, I learned about my Mexican heritage. She introduced me to her extended family and I was able to gain a deeper sense of identity, feeling like I found a part of myself that had been hidden from me for so long. I learned that our family began with a freed slave and a Choctaw Indian from Mississippi and that I come from a long line of strong resilient individuals.
During my time at the group home, I also became really close with one of the staff members who became my mentor and is still in my life today. She made living in the hectic house bearable, and she helped me talk through my many losses, which helped me heal. I still carried much hurt from my dissolved adoption, but she made it clear to me that there were people in my life who still loved me as their own daughter.
And she was right: Denise and Dennis had been there for me every step of my tumultuous journey and I realized I would not age out of the system without a family, because I had their unending love. I still had to request overnight passes from my caseworker to see them, but I needed their support and would go to their house as often as I could. They never pressured me; they were just a loving constant in my life.
I was accepted into the University of San Francisco to earn my degree in Psychology. I was ecstatic to move to another state and start a fresh part of my life where I was in control and doing what was best for me. At the same time, I was sad to leave my home state, where all the memories, good and bad, had taken place. Denise and Dennis put me on a plane to my new home and said they would be there for me whenever I needed them and to call them for anything.
All four years of college, they stuck to their word. I called them whenever I needed advice and some parental love. Dennis would fly out about once a month for his job and we would have a father-daughter dinner together. He even surprised me by bringing Denise during one of his trips. As soon as I looked out my apartment window and saw her step out of the car, I flew down the stairs to hug the mom that I knew was mine.
My birth mother died during my junior year of college from cirrhosis of the liver due to her years of alcoholism. When she was in a hospice in Colorado, I asked Denise and Dennis to fly me home to say goodbye. This was extremely hard time for me because I hadn’t seen her since I was adopted at seven years old. Taña and Geneva were there as well and we had a moment where we all forgave her for choosing booze instead of the love of her own children. When I saw my birth father’s face, for the first time in my life a flashback of him abusing me came full circle and I realized what that memory was. I couldn’t be in the same room with him, couldn’t even look at him, and Dennis told him he had to leave while we were there. Taña knew of the abuse that took place when I was a child and took this opportunity to confront him. I felt that I may be able to forgive him if he would just admit to scarring me for the rest of my life. However, he denied it completely and this left me with a deeper hole in my heart. I refused to let him into my life even though he wanted a relationship with me. I relied heavily on Denise and Dennis during this time. They were there for my emotional breakdown and gave me all the support and love I needed to recover from this experience. I have since forgiven him for myself to fully move on from the experience, but he will never be in my life.
At 21 years old, I began experiencing lots of anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks about my loss, emptiness, and the un-dealt-with trauma I had carried with me for so long. After graduating from college, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life, whether or not to defer graduate school at Columbia University. Denise and Dennis helped me weigh the pros and cons and fully supported me, offering to let me live with them and take a year to work through my pain, to heal, and to go to therapy for myself. I am so grateful I did, and I’m thankful that I had my support system with me.
During that year-long period, I felt like I had stepped back in time because I was living with the parents that I had found at five years old. Everything felt right and I experienced the love from Dennis’s extended family all over again, which made me feel like I truly belonged to a family. I no longer felt like “an unwanted child” and my nightmares disappeared.
I know that I deserve to be loved and that I can be happy despite my past because I had such great role models to look up to. I realize that Denise and Dennis saved my life when I was in dire need and I always had a place to go or someone to call when I needed parents. They are my permanency. I know I would have made it through the system even if I didn’t have them, but they made all the difference. The summer before I graduated with my Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, Denise, Dennis, and I made the decision as a family for them to legally adopt me at 23 years old. I gained three brothers that they also adopted over the years, but I am still very close to my biological siblings, even though we are all separated. I have finally found my perfect family.
Today, I work at a non-profit organization as an Adoption Resource Consultant, finding permanent forever families for children who have been waiting in foster care for over a year. I will continue advocating for the 500,000+ children and youth in care until each and every one of them has permanency.
Kita was separated from her four siblings when she entered the foster care system at age five in Boulder County. She was adopted, but reentered the system eight years later due to a dissolved adoption. After aging out of foster care at age 18 and graduating from high school with honors, she went on to earn her degree in Psychology at the University of San Francisco. Kita attended Columbia University in New York to earn her Masters in Social Work. Her dream is to continue advocating for her brothers and sisters in the foster care system until every one of them has permanency. Kita found her permanency with her original foster family and was adopted by them in 2011. Kita has had the opportunity to do hands on advocacy and train her peers in foster care on various critical topics like permanency, while interning as a FosterClub All-Star in 2009. FosterClub is the national network for youth in foster care. Kita’s life aspiration is to change young people’s lives wherever she goes.