After my first foster home, I lived with these people that was planning to adopt me, but they didn’t ’cause they had a baby of their own.Â After that I went to another foster home that was gonna adopt me.Â There were seven of us – the lady said that she wanted a big family.Â I loved her as a mom, but the kids didn’t like me and the dad thought I caused him his heart attack or something, from stress.Â I went to a group home after that and stayed for over three eyars.Â One day, a couple days after Christmas, I went down to the office and my social worker said, “You got a famiy.” I could have said no but I said yes so I could have a family.
At first it didn’t feel different ’cause I always thought I’d move again no matter what.Â That’s just how I felt since I moved all around.Â To be honest, I was scared.Â I stayed in my room.Â I just wanted to stay in the house by myself and watch TV.Â Then I was testing.Â I got on their nerves.Â I got the gift to push the right buttons.Â I just push sometimes to see what happens.
When you’re older, you got that shield around you.Â You got your attitude set, like “You can’t tell me nothing.” Especially in group homes, you gotta act like you’re tough.Â So I came here and I was like, “I don’t care.” My parents just kept reflecting that I knew I wasn’t the toughest, baddest person in the world.Â Then when someone would tell me something, I’d start thinking, “I really don’t know how to do this, so I should just listen.”
Being adopted is better because you’ve got a family that’s yours – like, “That’s my mom.” In the group home they did love you, but not in that way.Â This love is like love for your life.Â I feel it.Â It took until about this point, though, because this is the longest time I’ve lived in a family.
I have one real brother but I never met him.Â My social worker tried to get us in touch with each other, but the parents, I guess they don’t want him to know that he was adopted.Â But you gotta tell ’em sooner or later.Â No person for their whole life should not know that they’ve got the family out there that wants to find them.Â It’s wrong not to tell them.Â It’s like stabbing them.
I met my biological parents a couple of times.Â I’ll always remember this – my mom took me to a bar and they played this Michael Jackson song I liked, “Thriller.” It was like the first time I really saw her, and I guess the last time I saw her.Â I was eight.
I want to be an engineer or a stockbroker.Â An electrical engineer ’cause it’s the future.Â Everything works on electricity.Â A stock broker ’cause I can handle the stress.Â Â I can do all that.Â Bring in some cash.
What you have to do is build a base.Â It’s like building a house.Â When I first came here, I made my base.Â I made the lower part of the house, the first floor.Â Then I made the second floor. Right now I’m doing the tippy top of the house.Â I just need a little bit more.Â Just get your education.Â Just worry about if your mom is happy – “My son got A’s.Â My son did this.”
What do I worry about? Sometimes college.Â I want me and my friend to go to the same college.Â Mostly girls, job, football – teenager stuff. I would rather have these worries than staying in a group home worrying about if I’m going to be adopted.
-an excerpt from A Rage to Do Better: Listening to Young People from the Foster Care System, by Nell Bernstein; Michael, 14, lived in three foster homes and one group home before being adopted at the age of 10.