This broken home

Foster kid drawing

Its nights like these

That I don’t mind staying up late

Even though I’m a morning person

Its nights like these

When you want to stray

I understand your burden

I love each and every one of you all

Different and the same

Even deep down within, when I recall

That you called me out my name

I love your wounds

Adore your flaws

The nature of your resilience leaves me in awe

I’m glad you finally see my passion-Gabby

I know it’s not fair but you’ll get there- Ashley

Kiana you wanna put this wall up

I’m just glad you’ve learned to like me before our time’s up

MaKayla don’t be concerned with all the boys

Even though your mom never gave you any of the attention you yearned to enjoy

Jenny don’t be in a rush to grow up so fast

You douse yourself in makeup and I hate when you make fun of my ass

Alecia, I barely see ya- cause you’re somewhat new

You’ve shown me respect from day one

There’s something different about you

Every time I’m just about done

I fall back into my passion for you







Young girl

You were one of my favorites

Ironic because you gave everyone the most trouble

Sweet, innocent and filled with all the impurities of the world at the same time

The definition of an oxymoron

You never bothered to stop, you always wanted more on

How to cover up the scars that life has given you

You covered your scars with more scars

With drugs, alcohol and std’s

In class you got D’s and out of class you got the D

All of this for a pain you were intent on suppressing

You let me know you loved me, but it was a slippery slope and you couldn’t stop

You were like my little sister, I love you a lot

I took you to my family’s house

I cooked your favorite ethnic meals and when you came home high

I just sighed

And took you into my arms

I understood

You’re not too young anymore

You left abruptly

You didn’t even know you were leaving

You were there one day and when I came back to do my work

My untiring work on you, you were gone…

Where are you now?

Lost in the world

Almost 18

What will you do then?

You used to cry day in and day out for my family to adopt you

I wanted so badly to take you in

But once again

you were taken away by the system.

Disposable Children


You were born to mothers who threw you in dumpsters

Like Kaihla did Isaiah

Little seeds planted in concrete, trying so hard to find your way up

At night you stay up laid up

Wondering what you ever did to not be good enough

Uprooted from your soil always having your foundation changed just when you begin to plant your roots

No wonder you were never able to grow

Progress comes slow

Because the nurturing you need is not free

At least not when you’re a child of the county

Your parent figures rely on the figures of their paycheck

And society says it’s your own fault that you’re a wreck

Says that you have no sense of respect,

When no one ever showed you what respect looked like

And it should be something that’s wielded unto you all the more

You, children of the night, have gone through more than any of us can imagine

And we just brush you off in a nonchalant fashion

We could learn a few things from you

Like, how to survive

How to hold your own when really you’re dying inside

It’s not fair; that therapy can’t do anything to solve the life you were born into

It’s not fair that you ALWAYS have the rug pulled from under your feet when you begin to


That word alone, when whispered, during your evaluations feels like an uphill battle

Because no matter how hard you try there’s something else,

The staff has recorded

Something else

The administrator wants you to perfect


Something else your social worker forgot to tell you to do

Haven’t all these people in all these positions got a clue?

You are their work but they know nothing of what it’s like to be you

At 5 o’clock they put you behind them

When you really need someone standing behind you when,

Their off-hours are your peak hours of vulnerability

Hello! We’re all humans.

These children will mess up, just like us-

 Have you ever considered that possibility?!

They’re no more perfect than us

But one slip-up and its back to square one

Why do we hold them to such strict standards we don’t even treat our own like that?

No wonder they feel like there’s no battle to be won

We keep telling them that the end is right around the corner

When their journey has only just begun

These poor tortured souls endure all this

And we wonder why they slit their wrists or turn to drugs so young

It’s a kind of cliché saying, but the youth is our future. They will soon grow up and occupy the jobs that we once had and their decisions will affect the outcome of our lives later on. With more and more U.S. children entering “the system” it is important to examine this niche in our population. From the outside, the system (which mainly consists of group homes) seems like a place that betters our adolescents. However, more often than not our youth become worse off.

Lets start with the psychotropic medications that are administered. 20/20 did an excellent job on uncovering the issues within this realm. Too often are these foster children prescribed high dosages of medications and have adverse affects within various aspects of their lives. I was reminded of this last night while I was working at a group home based in San Diego. One of the clients went into a hysterical cry as she sprawled out on the floor, shaking. I was at a loss for the cause of this reaction when I realized that she had made a fast switch over from Depakote to Lithium. The administrators of such homes tend to have too much going on to notice (or maybe even care) that an overuse of psychotropics has occurred.

Drugs are not the only main factor in keeping our youth and future at-risk, there’s also environment. Stable schooling and people are needed in their lives. However, with under paid childcare workers constantly opting to switch jobs it’s nearly impossible to meet that standard. Then, if it’s not the workers milling in and out then it is the movement of the child from one facility to another, which most likely gives way to halting their education and switching schools as well. The goal is to make a group home replicate a healthily functioning family home as much as possible, but you tell me what normal home closes your bed after running away for a couple of days? This happened to a 15-year-old last month and she came home to find out she had no home. Granted, there is supposed to be some type of discipline so that the child learns that such behavior isn’t acceptable, but what “normal” home would detach from the child so quickly?

Then there is the ethic. There is this unwritten rule that has been established within the home that the workers aren’t supposed to bond (or “get too close”) with the “clients”. I thought the whole purpose was to develop trust and connections while maintaining boundaries. On my first day working at a group home, I walked in the room and asked them about the music they were listening to. I noticed that my co-worker eyed me warily and the next day my boss let it be known that we are to keep our distance- as if they are some type of dangerous species. I do know that if you develop a relationship where the person sees you as a friend then there can be issues. It is always important to know the cut-off of your relationship with the adolescents.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is putting individuals with unhealthy lifestyles together. Habits of one person may rub off on another and vice-versa. The staff and counselors are to act as role-models too, however  I don’t believe our influence equally balances out the bad influence.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not some self-badgering individual who hates her job. I am not blaming the faults on the shoulders of the group home, administration or government policy alone. I have tried my way of doing things (that conforms to the rules too) as well as the official way and I’ve seen the difference. When you give a piece of your personal self to these children it establishes a trust within the relationship. Most just want to be heard and to be recognized as an individual. County therapists and mentors have noticed that the youth gravitate towards me and acknowledge that I truly care. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a rough childhood and can relate. Maybe not. I think it truly does take a village to raise a child, but that village (the staff, administrators, government, etc.) must learn to work together.


Photo Credit

© 2012, AMBER MCKINNEY. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license,

(Which means you can share and repost this as long as you attribute it to muah! ;D)

Our Future: At-Risk