Kids in Foster Care Need People to Believe in Them

By Hunter, Treehouse Graduation Success Student

Below is the transcript of a speech given by Hunter, one of the youth in our Graduation Success program, at this year’s Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon.

Hi. My name is Hunter. I’m glad to be here and tell you about myself.

I don’t talk to my parents anymore, but there was a time when we were a family. My dad had a good job. But then my parents started fighting all the time. I didn’t realize they were doing drugs. They didn’t seem to care if I went to school or was out late.

I had a group of neighborhood friends that I would hang out with. We would get into fights, and I would do daredevil things like playing with airsoft guns. I liked school so I didn’t skip often, but I would get into fights with people all the time.

My parents put me into Fairfax, which is a place you go when you have anger issues. At the time, it didn’t change me. I didn’t have any support from friends or family. At home, my mom would lock me in my room. She was either distant or aggressive with me. When my dad was high on drugs, he would physically abuse me and my older brother.

When I was in the fifth grade, I remember making up a lie that my parents wouldn’t feed me and telling people at school. They saw bruises on me and called CPS. A man with a recorder interviewed us. They brought all three of my brothers into the room at the same time. We were raised to defend the family and keep things quiet, so my older brother answered for us, saying, “We don’t want to answer that” to every question. So, the truth never came out.

My dad was laid off the summer I was 9 years old. We became homeless and lived in our car.

During the day, we’d drive around, and my parents would deal drugs. My dad would have me go with him to beg. It was super embarrassing. This experience made me and my younger brother, Ryan, super close. We could talk in code, almost like we had a secret language. We’ve always had each other.

Our closet was the trunk of our car. I remember getting bullied for smelling bad because we couldn’t shower. My fifth-grade teacher would talk to me and keep me company during lunch. He was always someone I could talk to about stuff. It was a really hard time for me. Then one day, our parents didn’t show up to pick us up from school until 9 p.m.

That’s when my brother and I were taken into foster care. We were scared because we were separated from our parents and each other. In eight years, the longest we’d been apart was one day. We called our social worker about 30 times, insisting that we be placed together.

The next day we went to live with Ryan’s IEP teacher, Claire, and her husband, Brock. We slept in the same bed because we were afraid of not waking up next to each other. We would go over what we were going to say to the social workers—that our parents never did drugs and it wasn’t a bad situation. We just wanted to be back with them.

We lived with Brock and Claire for a year, and things got better. I still struggled with anger issues. I would slam doors, scream and get into fights. But they never gave up on me.

Brock got me into basketball and on a rec team. We’d bike every day and shoot hoops. He treated me like I mattered, and I felt valuable to someone. Claire was the first real mother figure I’d ever had.

But we had to move because their living situation changed and they could no longer keep us. We all cried when we moved, but we still keep in touch.

So we had to start over again with a new family. This family wanted us to go to a Mormon church, but we had been raised Christian. The best thing about that placement was they got me into Boy Scouts. I went to camp and learned a lot of stuff like how to start a fire and tie knots. But that placement didn’t work out either.

Sometimes, I would hear that a placement didn’t work out because of my anger issues. But no one gave me the help I needed to get better. I became really depressed. Our next placement was with a single foster parent—a teacher named Ryan. While living with him, I got into football, and it turned out I was pretty good. There were four boys living there, and we all got close. We would play X-Box and go outside and play sports.

Right when we were starting the adoption process, we found out there was an issue with Ryan’s adopted son that made it impossible for us to stay. We’d been living there for almost two years and were so close to having a permanent family, but yet again, it didn’t work out. It felt like another person was abandoning us.

But then we met Troy.

Troy shows me what love is. I have tested him a lot to see if he means what he says—that we are really there for good. Troy built trust. Even when I would have angry outbursts or say mean things to him, he would tell me: “You can do all this, but I am still never letting you go.”

I know he always has my back for everything. I finally realized I could relax and let go of some of my anger, knowing I have a stable placement.

Troy got me into wrestling. I am now a freshman in high school, and I’m on the varsity football and wrestling teams. Sports help me cope with my feelings and have also helped me make friends.

I’ve been working with Hayley, my Treehouse Education Specialist, for almost two years. When we started working together, I had D’s and F’s. But she has helped me get the support I need to be successful, and now I get A’s and B’s.

Treehouse arranged for me to get a math tutor when I was struggling with my homework. Hayley is always there for me. If I have an issue with a teacher, she will be right on it, talking to the teacher and making sure I get what I need. We set goals together. Right now, I have a goal to get at least a 2.8 GPA this semester. We also talk about future goals, like what kind of career I want.

Law enforcement runs in my family—police, Navy Seals, the military—and I want to carry on that tradition. I may join the military or maybe the police academy when I graduate. Right now, I’m focused on sports and school.

Youth in foster care may have a different story than most kids but it doesn’t mean we are that different from anyone else. You never know what people have been through.

I knew Ashley (who also spoke today) from school. We share second period. But I didn’t know she was also in foster care. It wasn’t until we both agreed to speak here today that we realized we both use Treehouse. I never would have guessed she was like me in so many ways.

Kids in foster care need people to believe in them. They need parents like Troy and the chance to find out what they are good at like playing football. They need a place like Treehouse that helps you stay on track to graduation.

Thank you for being here today to support us.

Learn more about the different ways you can support youth in foster care at treehouseforkids.org/take-action.

Subscribe to Our Blog

About the Author

Hunter is one of the 750-plus youth in the Treehouse Graduation Success program preparing to graduate from high school and pursue their dreams.

Leave a Comment