I had met Tracey the night I became just "One of the Girls," another story in this collection. She had been my hostess when I joined the Hughes family for an unexpected overnight visit due to a sudden snow storm.
Tracey has been reunited with her own family but she still keeps in touch with the Hughes family. She asked to add her own story to this collection and, with permission of her family as she is under eighteen, it has been included here.
||"I was about fourteen when I went to live with the Hughes and I stayed there for about two and a half years," Tracey remembers. "It seemed strange living in a house with other kids I didn't really know. In school, the other kids knew that I was in foster care. I was lucky, I didn't have to change schools.
"I really enjoyed living there," Tracey responded when I asked how she felt about being placed in a foster home. "It took a
while to adjust to the rules and I didn't always like them. I wanted the Hughes to lean my way a little, but it was all for the best. The Hughes really tried to make up for my not living with my family. They made me feel at home and part of the family. I knew their youngest child from school and that helped, too."
"In the summer, the Hughes took all the kids in their home with them on vacation. I remember going to a park where there was a great water slide. They let us bring a friend or two, depending on how much room was left in the van when we all piled in. It was fun. I come from a large family anyhow, so I was used to lots of people around."
"Oh yes, we had chores. If we did them, we would get an allowance. We had a chart to help us keep it all straight by telling us whose turn it was to do what. We all helped with the dishes."
|"I did a lot of things with Mrs. Hughes. We all knew that we could talk to either Mr. or Mrs. Hughes. I talked mostly with Mrs. Hughes, you know, `girl stuff.' I really felt that they cared about us. They praised us a lot, especially when we got good grades! When we had disagreements, they worked things out with us in private. It was very fair."
"Most of us were teenaged girls when I stayed with the Hughes. We each had our own room. The rule was `if it's messy, it's up to you. It's your space,' but, if you cleaned your room weekly, you got almost five dollars. It was up to you. Since we were all older, we did our own wash. I enjoy doing my own laundry. The house phone rule was, `no longer than fifteen minutes.'"
"I changed a lot since I went into foster care. I was pretty bad, you know, `bratty.' I'd talk back, cause trouble, argue and hang out with the wrong crowd. Since I've been with the Hughes, I've grown up. I went through a lot of `attitude phases.' I tried to improve myself, whether or not it was a little or a big thing, just to be better. I've changed many of my old friends, but not all of them. They grew up and changed, too, and they're okay now."
"The Hughes worked with me on improving my attitude. They'd suggest things I might try to change. It was up to me. I thought, `the Hughes let me move in there, why should I treat them badly.' If I had, I would have probably had to be moved to a foster home out of town and I'd still be a `brat.'"
"I used to date an old boyfriend. The Hughes liked him. If I got grounded, I was allowed to have him or another friend over. I just couldn't leave the house. I thought that was very fair.
Tracey says that she wanted to become a better person and to make some new friends. In the Hughes foster home, with their attentive care and concern, she found the tools for self improvement and the support and encouragement she needed for the development of healthy self esteem. She's applied for an after school job at a local nursing home. Her future plans are somewhat varied. She says she would like to go into cosmetology. She'd also like to work with children and teenagers who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. She has a younger cousin who has this handicap. She is also considering becoming a licensed practical nurse and would like to help children who have special medical needs. "I might like to become a foster parent someday," Tracey said but added, "It would all depend on how my life was then."
I asked her what was the most meaningful thing that she experienced while she was in foster care. Her reply, "It was nice to have folks who cared about me and had patience to put up with me while I worked things out and grew up. The Hughes are great people."
Foster care is a necessary service, especially for teenagers whose problems are unique to their age. When parents are unable to care for their children, foster care can fill the gap and help the teenager gain self esteem so he or she can become a responsible, likable, contributing member of their community.