Foster Culture

Foster Culture: Living Arrangements

As an example to what I am terming foster culture I would like to tell a little story.

There used to be a group home in Missouri called Kids House. The home was started by a woman names Barb who smoked and drank and was really funny and tried to do the best for the girls that came to live in the home. It held a total of 12 teen foster girls. Usually from the ages of 12-20. The home was really like a huge house. It was broken up into several sections, there was the downstairs dorm, which housed 6 girls that were either new to the house or short term placements. The upstairs dorm, which housed 6 girls that were deemed to be long term, the general living area, which consisted of the kitchen, livingroom and 2 all purpose rooms. In the downstairs, near the downstairs dorm room, was a locked section of the house that were for the “house parents” and staff. The bathrooms were like public bathrooms, there were several stalls and one shower in each. Each week, each girl was assigned to a certain task/chore that they had to complete each week in order to receive a 4.00 allowance.

All the girls went to the local public school and took the bus everyday and every night, they’d hop back on the bus and go back to the home.

There was a girl that lived in the upstairs dorm that had a diagnosed learning disability and because of severe abuse she had suffered in her life, behaved like a child, rather than a 17 year old. Her name was Cindy. Mandy, a 16 year old, also living upstairs, behaved like Cindy’s mother. Other residents were allowed, based on how well they were liked, to participate in this faux family as aunts and sisters. The older or long term girls, living upstairs, were always the dominate personalities in the house. When a new girl would come to live at Kids House, you would survive there, if the long term girls decided they liked you. It was very much a popularity contest, with no relief from peer pressure during a never ending dysfunctional slumber party. A lot of your popularity relied upon a few key factors being: how long a girl had been in foster care, the things they travelled with, how they looked of course and their story – their dramatic, must tell all sad story of abuse. This may almost sound healthy until you learn its true intent…foster teens live with one ups, the worse you have been abused, the more homes you lived in, the more hell you’d been through, the more status and clout you would have. Whether you kept this status was a different thing, if a girl did not follow suit with the rest of the girls, she would be shunned.

Foster children have a high rate of learning disabilities (something I will explore further in this blog). If you managed to not be one of them, be fairly good looking, have a dramatic shell shocking past, then your status within the home would raise without having the advantage of living in the upstairs dorm.

Also, since this house was in the country, almost anyone that came to live their from the city was automatically “popularized”. The very idea of the “big city” was harsh and savage enough in itself that anyone from there got props. Only after opening up and letting the other girls get to know you, would they decide if you were to be accepted for the long term.

Foster Culture, wah?

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