Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Did she really need to be in foster care? There are abused kids out there who need real help

Still too young to be set free
Oakland Tribune, Jan. 15, 2007, pg. 1.

AT ONE POINT in everyone's life, we hear "everything happens for a reason." Well, I never truly believed in that saying until about 10 months ago, when I turned 16 and thought life was one big party.

I was doing what every 16-year-old girl should not be doing, but I was determined to make my own mistakes. I was tired of my mother saying,"You should learn from the mistakes that I have already made." Well, you adults should already know how hardheaded us teens are!

I ignored my mother's words and went from a 3.7 grade-point average, perfect attendance and teacher's pet to a 1.7 GPA and a teacher's nightmare. Well, that's what I was to six teachers who didn't even know who I was when I actually showed up to classes.

It's not that I did the whole grade-drop thing on purpose, but I figured out how to sneak out at night when my mom went to work at her night job in Oakland. I did go to a better area of town -- Alameda -- but that didn't change all the illegal things I was doing. I was drinking, experimenting with drugs, and to put the icing on the cake, was dating a 22-year-old man for about eight months.

Everyone knows that all people go through the years of so-called "experimenting," but my family didn't know that my time was coming so soon. Hell, neither did I.

I told everyone that I took full responsibility for all the wrong I had done and that I really wanted to change my ways, but my mother wasn't convinced. So she did the only thing she knew that would give me a scare, that would force me to totally change my ways. Child Protective Services.

She told me to pack my bags because she couldn't handle me anymore. The only thing on my mind was, "There's no way I'm going to foster care." So I put as many clothes in my backpack as I could -- as fast as I could -- and got on the first bus to my best friend's house. My friend totally understood.

After one week of being reported as a runaway, I told myself, "You can't run forever." I caved in and went to school the next day. Within 10 minutes of being on campus, I was picked up by the police. Straight to foster care I went for another week. I was told that my mother wanted nothing to do with me.

I knew what I was in for, so I did the thing I thought would get me out of that place: I hid my cell phone for a week and made secret calls to as many people as I could. Everyone I thought would be there for me didn't really care. My last resort was my aunt, who I didn't really want to call because of what I thought she'd think of me.

Two days after the call I didn't want to make, I was out of foster care and in a home I truly thought I would never have. My mom and dad love me, I know they do, but they are two people who believe drugs and alcohol are their first priority, not their children. Oddly enough, I thank them for that, because now I know I have a chance to be someone my family will be satisfied with.

My aunt is taking guardianship of me and is providing a home for me that doesn't consist of drugs and alcohol, but one that consists of love and rules. Rules -- not my favorite things, but they're something every teen needs to be able to become the person they've always dreamed of becoming.

I thank my aunt for giving me rules follow. Without those rules, who knows where I would have ended up? Thanks for putting my life and goals back on track. And thank you, Mom and Dad, for letting me spread my wings, but I found out I am not yet ready to spread them.

-Ashley Colomy is a junior at Castro Valley High School. Columns by area teens appear in this space on Mondays.


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